The University of St Mark & St John is celebrating with the news that world-class diving coach Andy Banks will be staying in Plymouth, thanks to a funding package put together by the City Council in partnership with University of St Mark & St John, Plymouth College and Everyone Active.
Banks, who is the only British diving coach to have coached an Olympic medal-winning diver at London 2012, announced earlier this summer that he was considering a funding offer from Canadian Diving. This would have meant leaving Plymouth in February 2015, when his current contract with British Diving comes to an end.
The shock news prompted hundreds to sign a petition to keep him in the city and Council Leader Tudor Evans pledged that the Council would exert its influence “to ensure that Andy stays where he belongs”.
Councillor Evans said: “There is no way we want to lose Andy Banks! He is a world-class coach who attracts world-class talent to Plymouth and he has nurtured some of diving’s biggest and best names.
“He is a Plymouth treasure and we should not give him up without a fight. Losing Andy from diving in the UK would be an absolutely tragedy for the sport, and a blow for the city.”
Andy has spearheaded the development and growth of the one of the largest learn-to-dive programmes in the country and coached world class divers Tom Daley, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow. Under his direction the Plymouth Life Centre has attracted international Olympic training teams, along with national elite diving competitions.
In recognition of his unique talents and significant contribution to the sport – and to Plymouth – the Council stepped in to co-ordinate a funding package in partnership with the University of St Mark & St John, Plymouth College and Everyone Active (who operate the Plymouth Life Centre on behalf of the Council) to retain Andy’s services in the city.
University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cara Aitchison, said: “Andy Banks has a global reputation for his success in coaching divers to achieve world class performances. He is responsible for having put Plymouth on the map for elite diving, just as Jon Rudd has for swimming. Both coaches have been central in enabling us to recruit and retain elite sport scholars who have gone on to become British and Commonwealth champions this year.
“As a university we have developed a strong reputation as a national centre for elite aquatics. Among our current students are British Diving Champions Robyn Birch and Rhea Gayle, European Diving Champion Megan Sylvester, 2008 Olympic bronze medallist in 10k open water swimming Cassie Patten, British Masters Champion Aaron Rickhauss and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ben Proud.
“Our elite aquatics programme is underpinned by taught programmes in sport coaching and by advanced facilities for sport and exercise science, sports therapy and strength and conditioning training. We couldn’t possibly stand by and watch the talent that is Andy Banks leave the country. Indeed he’d just recently agreed to accept an honorary degree from the University of St Mark and St John. So just as people nowadays provide funds to save precious artworks from leaving the country we had to dive in to play our part in ‘Saving Mr Banks’.
“I’m delighted that the university will now be working even more closely with Plymouth City Council, Plymouth College and Sport and Leisure Management Ltd.”
Deputy Council Leader Peter Smith said: “We are absolutely delighted that Andy has decided to stay in the city. This is excellent news for our current elite divers and our crop of elite juniors. Coaches of Andy’s calibre are very rare. We are also thankful to our partners in the city who have responded so quickly to support Andy.”
Under the partnership agreement Andy will continue to lead high performance coaching at the Plymouth Life Centre until March 2017. He will also provide master classes for students on sports coaching and sport and exercise science programmes at the University of St Mark and St John, where he will help to provide support for athletes and inform research. His role will also include identifying talent and supporting other diving coaches, as well as continuing to act as an ambassador for Plymouth by promoting sport and the city on the international stage.
Sarah Dunn, Deputy Head at Plymouth College said: "Plymouth College is delighted to be part of this partnership initiative. Andy Banks is a crucial asset to both British Diving and Plymouth aquatics. To secure his highest level coaching will help to keep this city in the forefront of diving, both nationally and internationally. The young divers we have here at Plymouth College as part of Andy's squad are superb ambassadors for their sport, the school and Plymouth as a whole. We are thrilled to have Andy back on board."
David Greenwood, Contract Manager for Everyone Active said: “Since we started working with Andy in 2012 he has been instrumental in both the success of our elite divers and the thriving of the learn-to-dive programme at the Plymouth Life Centre. We are delighted that we have been able to be part of the solution that has kept Andy in Plymouth, so that he can help us to inspire the children of Plymouth to take up diving and hopefully win some more home-grown medals in future.”
Andy Banks said: “I am truly overwhelmed by this support from Everyone Active, [University of St Mark & St John], Plymouth College and of course Plymouth City Council. Without their help I would be saying goodbye to divers I have coached for 15 years, as well as a number of young up-and-comers, so I am really grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue this work in Plymouth at the fabulous Life Centre.
“I have always said that Plymouth is ‘big enough to count but small enough to care’ and this has to be a great example of that. The package that has been put together will enable me to look after our top divers in the build-up to Rio and other major events, so it’s a very big thank-you from me and from them!”
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