ISS Swimming program just keeps getting better....



Competitive swimming training alongside a demanding academic curriculum take, not only huge dedication, but also physical and mental strength from our young athletes, some of whom train up to a dozen times per week.

We are always congratulated as a small school in a far flung place for being able to provide such a high level of competitive swimming to a great number of our students. Our swim team’s early beginnings was developed before our 25m facility was built and the young team showed great resourcefulness to achieve its goals back in 2014 using various other pools on the island.


Our success comes down to our dedicated staff and a can-do attitude from our students. Some of our most successful swimmers have been swimming fewer than 2 years.

Since then, and the team’s “rebranding” as the Samui Sharks, it has developed into a great team under the watchful eye of Mark Withers, a dedicated teacher and mentor for the past 3 years. This year is no exception and Mr Withers has already planned the whole year’s schedule for his swimmers setting goals for competitions at home and away.

Students have to show their ongoing commitment to earn their place in the squad. Try-outs were held in early September giving every member of the school from year 3 and up the opportunity to join the team. Students are also assessed in their weekly swimming lessons and talent is spotted and developed at this stage. The tryouts allowed Mr Withers to gauge the ability of the swimmers and create the best possible training plan for each swimmer according to their needs.

Training for the Sharks takes place 4 mornings a week at 7am as well as 3 after-school sessions. Training is structured based on the ability and the age of each swimmer. Morning sessions are intense and very physical, whereas extra-curricular sessions are designed to develop technique and stroke improvement in our budding swimmers.

Swimmers are chosen to represent the school once they are ready for competition on a fitness and technical level usually, when they reach year 3 although some younger swimmers may be considered if they are technically able.

Five swimming trips already scheduled,

and we're only just beginning

The Sharks are preparing themselves for the busy schedule of the year, events away and at home. Mr Withers is excited to have secured a team slot in the BISP Flying Fish invitational which sees many international schools from across the region take part.

The team is also hoping to improve on its 3rd place title of 2018 at the TOSL event in Thanypura, Phuket. This event is held over 3 competitions, with final individual and team place rankings, being determined in June 2019.

We recently attended the 1st session with great results across the team: Click here to read the report from Mr Withers.

Spoiler alert: 7 school records were broken in this event, where 29 Sharks competed -- 5 of them competing for the first time.

We are also actively participating in Koh Samui swimming competitions

The team is greatly looking ahead to the challenge of competing against Oonrak school in November and a similar event later in the academic year. Local competitions are excellent training for our developmental squad and the chance for progression swimmers to shine.

Our many in-house school events are always well-received by students and parents alike. We will host our annual events including: the Senior School Tria-ton 2019 -- a challenging event, for seniors only, testing their stamina and skills; the Swimathon 2019 in Primary -- a fundraising event focusing on environmental causes and finally the inter-house Swimming Gala 2019.

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Events such as these support our accomplished swimmers’ to achieve their goals but also involves all our other students in their endeavour to try new things.

All this would not be possible without the

hard work of our Swimming coach and the Stingrays' support

Mr Mark Withers, a Swim England (ASA) Level 2 Swimming Teacher, approaches his varied coaching commitments at all levels with professionalism and dedication. Within a day’s teaching he will be taking the early morning swim squad through their paces, followed by a 4 year old beginners’ class focusing on basic water skills and then teaching a mixed-ability year 8 class the challenges of endurance and technique, finally supporting a mixed-ability progression extra-curricular group of students how to achieve their goals in the pool. His day will only be complete once he has squeezed in a couple of hours of private tuition at the end of each day. Such knowledge and dedication have proved the success of the ISS swimming programme seeing it flourish over the years.

Coach Mark - Head of ISS Sharks Swim Team


  • ASA level 1 certificate for teaching swimming

  • ASA level 2 certificate for teaching swimming

  • ASA level 1 certificate for teaching swimming to people with disabilities

  • ASA level 1 certificate water polo coach

  • British sub aqua club snorkeling instructor

  • Fitness Wales level 2 gym instructor

  • Fitness Wales level 3 gym instructor

  • Fitness Wales certificate for stability ball instruction

  • Active IQ level 2 certificate for adapting gym instruction for adolescents

  • Harlech College certificate for community food and nutrition skills

  • Level 2 NVQ in sport, recreation and allied occupations

  • TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language certification)

  • SGS pool lifeguard with the Thai life saving association

  • SGS emergency first responder

  • Youth MHFA England certificate (mental health first aid)

Alongside Mark the school has teamed up with 2 dedicated individuals who have become “part of the furniture” over the last 2 years and developed their own swimming programme with the support of the school. The benefit of our excellent facilities (25m pool) allows both Bianca and Chris to develop swimming to another level offering a range of training options to ISS students, parents and other children from across the island. If you would like to know more about their programme, visit Samui Stingrays Swim Club on Facebook.

Bianca Marnewick and Chris Viljoen originally from South Africa with competitive history in Open Water Swimming and High-Perfomance Competitive Swimming offer a comprehensive swimming programme at the school. They both have fantastic qualifications and years of experience. Here's a synopsis of their profiles:

Bianca - Head of Learn To Swim programmes for Samui Stingrays


  • BA degree with a double major in Psychology and Communications (especially on child psychology)

  • Learn To Swim South Africa qualification through Austswim

  • Livesaving Course

  • Experience in Cape Town teaching at various swim schools as well as outreach programs for community swim lessons

  • 2014 -2018 Teaching swim lessons in Samui

Chris - Head coach for competitive training of Samui Stingrays


  • Coaching qualifications

  • UK and Sustain level 1,2,3 And 4

  • Lifesaving course

  • 12 years professional swimming career

  • 2 x Olympic qualification.

  • 1 x common wealth games.

  • USA NCAA qualifier.

  • Assistant coach to University of Wisconsin Swimming and Diving.

  • Head coach Libra Sports academies Dubai

  • Head of aquatics Alpha Sports Solutions Dubai

  • Safety and course manager, Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

Recent lifeguard and CPR training at ISS!

Our dedicated poolside, peripatetic and other staff recently completed a 3-day intensive "SGS Lifeguard course" which certifies them as accredited lifesavers. The certificates were signed and authorised by qualified EFR (Emergency First Response) Instructor, Barrie Buck (EFRI - 373662).

The school’s strict safeguarding policies are being stringently adhered to with a range of staff from across the school receiving ongoing CPR, lifesaving and AED training and certification. Alongside our teaching staff who receive regular CPR training as well as ongoing CRB checks the school’s safeguarding procedures are in-line with UK standards and good teaching practices.

From Mr Withers: "During the half-term break, we learned CPR and life-saving techniques in the pool, how to operate an AED (automated external defibrillator), and general first aid. It was intensive as it was a 4-day course condensed into 3 days but very valuable."

The training has also developed the range of first aid responder options available on site including the purchase of a Defibrillator (AED) in the school's infirmary and a Spinal Board on poolside. Equipment, which we would hope never to have to use, but which will save lives in the event of it being required!

Why we value and promote

Swimming @ ISS

Proficiency in swimming has so many benefits including health but also safety. The Amateur Swimming Association of England (ASA) acting CEO, Ashley Beaveridge, said: "Swimming isn't just a leisure activity or a way for young people to keep healthy, it's a life-saving skill that every child has the right to learn.

ASA estimates (based on a survey of 900 primary schools in the UK) that 45% of seven- to 11-year-olds are unable to swim 25m (82ft) - the length of an average-sized pool - unaided (ie. requiring some means of floating device).

At ISS this figure for the same age group is just 4.16% who cannot OR 95.8% who CAN swim 25m unaided. This is a testament to the environment our students live in but also to the endless provision of swimming on offer within school hours.

A few of our swimmers have their sights set on the Olympics and one day we would not be surprised, given their dedication, if they made it!

#Swimming #Sports

141/21 Moo 6, Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84320 Thailand

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