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Walsall Swimming Teacher Receives Top Fellowship

A swimming teacher from Walsall, who has been teaching for more than a half century, has received STA’s highest membership honour.

Elizabeth Atthey, aged 72 years, has been teaching swimming for 53 years and in honour of this achievement, STA has awarded her with Fellow Membership status and free life membership.

I’ve dedicated all my adult life to teaching swimming and although sometimes it can be hard now I’m getting a little older, it’s still the best job ever.

Elizabeth has dedicated almost all of her life to swimming. Her father first taught her to swim when she was 5 years old, and her first swimming teachers were ex-Olympian Edna Hughes, George Wainwright and Reg Laxton, who also coached Olympic gold medallist Judy Grinham. At the age of 11, Elizabeth became the Walsall schools backstroke champion, and credits the support she received from channel swimmer Bill Pickering, who was also the manager at Bloxwich swimming pool.

For me, swimming is a sport that everyone can and should enjoy, regardless of age or ability.

At the age of 15, Elizabeth started teaching and has never looked back. She was mentored by a lady called Margaret Coyne, who she thanks for helping her become the teacher she is today. Over the years, she has taught in several pools across Walsall and Sandwell, and today teaches in a school just a few minutes away from STA’s head office, with Denise Smallman, another long-term teacher of over 40 years. She is now teaching the grandchildren of many of her former pupils.

Elizabeth has fond memories of many of the pupils she has taught over the years, and one that stands out is a gentleman who first learned to swim at 75 years old. When asked what the best thing is about being a swimming teacher, she said it is hard to pinpoint, but it has to be when a learner achieves their first 5 metre badge.

Swimming teachers will be able to tell you funny stories from over the years, and Elizabeth is no exception. At the end of one lesson many years ago, she once asked each member of a class to bring a rubber ring to the next lesson; the following week, all the children came to their lesson with their rubber rings except one, who must have misinterpreted and turned up with an elastic band.

When asked about makes her proud to be a swimming teacher, Elizabeth said that it’s knowing you are giving someone the skills that one day might save their life and those of others.

On receiving her Fellow Membership award, Elizabeth said: I’m truly honoured to be recognised by STA; I’ve dedicated all my adult life to teaching swimming and although sometimes it can be hard now I’m getting a little older, it’s still the best job ever. For me, swimming is a sport that everyone can and should enjoy, regardless of age or ability.

STA’s Leanne Dougliss, who went to visit Elizabeth at her home to present the award, added: Meeting Elizabeth and listening to all of the incredible stories she tells, and seeing the passion she has for swimming teaching has been brilliant. She’s an inspiration and I’m honoured to present Elizabeth with a Fellow Membership on behalf of STA—she joins an exclusive club of Fellow members.

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Elizabeth, also known as ‘Betty’, is married to Nicholas Atthey who played professional football for Walsall Football Club and is a proud mum to Jenny and Paul, and grandma to Isabella Grace.
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