A BSAC scuba diving club in Lancashire has a successful approach to training young people, which is helping maintain members and raise awareness of the sport in the local area.

Phoenix currently has 30 members, with 10 of these below the age of 18. 

Phoenix North West Sub-Aqua Club celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022 and has always had younger students at the club, often with a parent also undergoing training. However, often their membership drops off as exam years and then university come into play, although some stay with the club. 

Phoenix SAC in the pool

Chair Brian Dix said: 

We see them mature and become confident both as people and divers. Currently we have one member who is just waiting for his 18th birthday to start instructor training and another who has already said they want to go down the same route once they have more experience and reach the required qualification level.

Maintaining instructor levels

As a club Phoenix is keen to encourage all ages, genders and abilities to join and to widen the number of people who enjoy diving and pass that on to a larger section of the local area.

The club’s ethos has always encouraged members of all ages to follow the path towards instructor training; having taken help from the club’s instructors initially, it is important to give back when they can and enthuse future divers to keep the club going. It has been difficult at times to keep training within the club as more experienced members and instructors have aged and retired or left the sport for other reasons. 

Recently the cost of living crisis has led to some adults leaving after their Ocean Diver course is complete, mainly due to extra work commitments and the cost of purchasing their own drysuit or other equipment.

Phoenix SAC at Capernwray

Overview of club training

The club uses Nye Bevan swimming pool, Skelmersdale as the base for pool and theory training, and go to Eccleston Delph or Capenwray for sheltered water. There is a compressor off site to fill cylinders at low cost. Pool sessions take place from 8-9pm on Wednesdays, so finish not too late when there’s school next day. 

The pool is good for training because it has a section at the deep end which goes down to 3.4m, so trainees can experience equalising and buoyancy issues before they go out into dive sites. 

Brian added:  

We were lucky enough to get a grant from Sport England some years ago, which means we are able to lend all trainees full scuba kit during their Ocean Diver training, though we do suggest they buy mask and fins that fit them individually.  Once they are committed to continuing, they are expected to invest in the more pricy elements of scuba gear.

Phoenix SAC training

Promoting the club

The club has made good use of the BSAC website, social media and word of mouth to attract new members, and despite not targeting younger divers particularly has still had a good uptake both at Ocean Diver and the newer Discovery Diver grade for 10-12 year olds. Phoenix has offered try dives and snorkelling sessions to local Scout and Guide groups at a small cost to try to encourage new young people to join and to raise some funds for the club.

Some funds were used to buy smaller BCDs and 10-L cylinders so the younger trainees can carry less weight in their early training. 

Phoenix SAC in the pool

How training differs for young people

The training approach differs for young divers: theory is taken more slowly and is done with BSAC materials but interspersed with video clips from club trips to give visual examples of what divers can see underwater. Additional sessions and even one-to-one coaching are used where needed - particularly when learning to use dive tables.

Phoenix SAC training

To remain flexible additional catch-up sessions are offered to fit in with other demands on youngsters and their parents. One family has three children training and another two waiting in the wings!

Phoenix SAC training

Niamh Gribbon, one of the parents said: 

The kids love diving, they’re always keen to come down to the club; they are encouraged to be responsible for their own kit and Buddy checks (with oversight) and it makes them feel really grown up and responsible. We trust the instructors implicitly, both in the pool and in open water. It’s the one time we have no control over things they do and we’re not worried when we see them disappear under the water! The instructors always explain what they’re going to do before they start and we’re confident that they’re in safe hands.

Paul Wilkes says his son’s confidence has come on in leaps and bounds:

He’s tried lots of hobbies but diving is the only one he’s stuck at. The instructors are very friendly and understanding and John loves the community and the fun they have when they’re not training. He enjoys learning with his peers and he loves the days when they go out to Capernwray. The family are always made welcome wherever we go.

Instructor approach for young people

Pool training is generally done in pairs, one instructor to two students, but again one-to-one has been used where students have additional needs. 

Sheltered water training has been done on a one student to two adults ratio, ie one instructor, one student and one experienced diver/assistant instructor to ensure safety cover for the instructor. This needs a whole club effort both in the water and out, helping to kit up and marshal dives. Open water training has only been done in the warmer weather so far as the youngsters seem to feel the cold more and have to hire drysuits etc.  

Phoenix SAC training

Brian added: 

Parents are always expected on site where students are under 16. We also have two safeguarding officers, one male and one female, police checked via BSAC’s scheme at no cost to the club.

It’s great having so many young people – if anything now, we would love to recruit some adult divers to help us with passing on skills and experience to our young recruits!



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Young people in BSAC

Young people in BSAC

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