Grantham Swim Club came to the end of its most significant era in history with head coach Maciej Rakowski stepping down after 11 years at the helm.
The coronavirus pandemic meant the worst possible conclusion to his final season in charge at Lincolnshire’s top swimming club – with the pool at Grantham Meres Leisure Centre closed since March and Government guidelines prohibiting a suitable send-off with swimmers and parents.
“It certainly wasn’t the goodbye any of us wanted or Maciej deserved,” said Grantham chairman Nick Farkas.
“Maciej was the driving force of GSC for 11 years, taking the swimmers he coached on a fantastic journey they will never forget. Our new head coach will certainly have a hard act to follow.
“Maciej turned Grantham into the county’s best performing club, despite a lack of pool time – winning the Lincolnshire County Championships four times in the last five years and seeing swimmers crowned regional, national and British champions.
“His unique presence poolside during open meets was also legendary around the East Midlands!
“The club is incredibly grateful for his talent, drive and commitment. We wish him and his family all the very best in the next chapter of his life back in Poland and we hope to say goodbye properly when restrictions are lifted and he is back in Lincolnshire for a visit.”
Speaking through the club’s Facebook page Maciej said: “The Covid situation forced me to leave the club without saying bye to anyone, but I would like to say thank you to everyone who made this time so special and valuable for me and my family.
“The swimmers I coached were the reason I stayed so long in Grantham. You deserved the best coaching and training environment and as soon as it was created you showed your potential.
“I will always remember when our club was winning Counties, when our swimmers were winning medals at Midlands or Nationals, fighting against swimmers from bigger swimming programmes.What a journey we have made.”
New Grantham head coach James Stannard took the reins on September 1, coinciding with the long-awaited re-opening of the swimming pool at the Meres Leisure Centre.
James has moved to GSC from his part-time position as director of swimming at Calverton and Bingham Swimming Club, but has previously led programmes at City of Derby, Derventio and City of Manchester, coaching swimmers to national success and beyond.
He started his career as a swimmer at Lincolnshire club Boston and fell in love with coaching while completing a sports degree at university in Sheffield.
While appreciating the challenge of swimmers returning to the pool after almost six months’ enforced break because of the pandemic, James is confident he can capitalise on what he sees as a unique opportunity and ultimately develop Maciej’s success at Grantham.
“I’m just excited to be back coaching and have the chance to put something really special in place here. I’ve always been aware of Grantham and kept an eye on swimming in Lincolnshire so when I heard Maciej was leaving it seemed the ideal time to return to coaching full time.
“We won’t be allowed to run or attend any meets for some time now because of coronavirus so there’s no external pressures. That gives me time to put a programme in place that will keep swimmers engaged and also strengthen my relationship and communication with them and their parents.
“Maciej put so many good things in place here so I need to take them and build on them. It’s going to be a really exciting challenge.”
Chairman Nick is confident James is the right coach to take Grantham forward.
He said: “We’ve got a great team of coaches in place and James is definitely the person we need to take the club to even better times. It’s fantastic to see the swimmers back training again after so long out of the water and we are all raring to go!”