Snorkel club faces bleak future
SNORKELING: After 30 years of successful community coaching, one of Ipswich's longest running sports club lies helplessly at the brink of closure today. To the disappointment of its members and supporters, the future of Ipswich Snorkel Club is now seriously in doubt.
By Debbie Watson
AFTER 30 years of successful community coaching, one of Ipswich's longest running sports club lies helplessly at the brink of closure today.
To the disappointment of its members and supporters, the future of Ipswich Snorkel Club is now seriously in doubt.
It has just three months to turn the tide on its fortunes – trying desperately to boost existing membership numbers before lack of finances cause it to fold.
Troubled by the very real prospect of closure, club chairman Bob Cawston was anxious to share his story through The Evening Star's new pool-based column.
"It's just such a shame, but we are having to face the facts – we may well have to fold in the next few months," he said.
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"The club has been running successfully for a long time, but unfortunately in recent years we have had more and more of a battle on our hands in a bid to attract new members."
The struggling club, which meets every week at Fore Street Swimming Pool, is now in the strange position of having almost as many instructors as it does members.
Bob believes the club needs a minimum of 13 eager snorkellers to make the group pay for itself – at the moment it has just six.
"We've got six full members at the moment and when you compare that with the fact that we've already got three main coaches and two instructors it's a bit of a worrying situation," he admitted.
"Until now, we have always been able to make the activity pay. We've not charged members a particularly high fee so we've just covered the cost of the pool hire.
"We didn't even have to advertise because there was always a waiting list to keep us going, but with just six on the books it's almost impossible to keep going."
He added: "We all feel disappointed because up until a year ago we had something like 20 members and were going strong. Now we're having to dip into the club funds for the first time just to survive.
"We're even sending posters out to local schools in the hope that we will get at least a few more members.
"Ideally, we need the numbers up to a minimum of 13 and we need to do that within the next two months. That way we will be able to go on securing the pool when the next fee instalment is due."
The snorkel club – which focuses on teaching both snorkelling and fin technique – is not the only one to have struggled for its survival.
Deben Swimming Pool offered a similar club some years ago but, according to Bob, that venture was forced to close through a comparable lack of interest.
"Unfortunately, snorkelling is one of those things where the membership duration can be relatively limited.
"After a while, people have learnt all the skills and want to move on. That's where we suffer, if there is no new interest to rely on.
"It's a desperate situation and a real shame for all the coaches who put in so much effort on a voluntary basis."
Ipswich Snorkel Club has always been keen to show its support for the community's charities, having completed several Christmas Day round the pier swims with its members.
Now, sadly, it looks like such events may end up being a thing of the past if the community cannot repay the favour and throw the club a lifeline.
"There is a part of me which is still holding out hope for a success story," added Bob.
"I just have to be realistic at the same time and I know that if anything is going to change it's going to have to happen soon."