A top level inquiry has been launched into claims that the senior coach at Reading Swimming Club has emotionally abused youngsters during training. Australian Steve Hill, the club’s chief coach is set to appear before an Amateur Swimming Association disciplinary tribunal on November 28 to answer the allegations.
Two complaints being examined by the ASA involve Mr. Hill’s training methods and alleged bullying which if proved would amount to emotional abuse as set out in the ruling body’s rules.
One of the alleged incidents at Readings Central Pool in Bedford Road cites Mr. Hill holding a tenager underwater against her will in a bid to make her swim faster. Another girl was allegedly forced to swim three 800m circuits non-stop after failing to meet her target.
Andy Surplice, who lives in Wokingham and who’s 12-year-old son is a former club member said “we have been pressing for this hearing.” The complaints are supported by almost 20 letters from concerned parents, swimmers and other coaches and are being linked with a huge fall in the club’s membership- from 400 to 220 swimmers over the last four years. Former Reading swim coach Elaine Yarranton, who now lives in California has written to the ASA supporting the complaints against Mr. Hill. ASA chief Executive David Sparks examined complaints made against Mr. Hill last year and left the matter in the hands of Reading Swimming Club. He said “This is an unusual case but I was satisfied at the time that he shouldn’t be sacked.”
Mr. Sparkes added “I’m not convinced that he’s a bad coach, but if he is I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong and he should go.” Reading Swimming Club’s Gayle Rossiter explained that Mr. Hill would not comment on the allegations until after the hearing. She said “the club is very concerned at the allegations of this nature and we are sure that the hearing will prove whether they are correct or not…We dont want to discuss what steps we have taken over the matter until after the hearing.” She added “losing a large number of swimmers is not a problem that is peculiar to Reading Swimming Club. It’s happening all over the country”