I'm an ex-international swimmer from Great Britain and was a finalist at the 1993 World University Games. I represented the University of Arkansas to a top twenty finish at the NCAA Division 1 Championships during four years of education in Fayetteville where I gained a double major in Economics and Spanish.
Following the Olympic Trials of 1996 (and my inability to make the team - again!) I changed my career track completely and joined the British Royal Navy as a pilot. After graduating as an officer and completing basic instruction and flight academics I left the Navy as a Lieutenant due to defense cutbacks and aircrew downsizing.
I coached in the UK during 1996 in Sheffield and since arriving in Canada in 1999 have coached Masters swimmers for the last ten years at both Pointe-Claire and now at the Westmount YMCA. I have also kept competing in provincial and national Masters championships and am a 'millionaire' in the Million Metre Challenge!
My lifetime best performances:
50fr: 23.7 (LC), 22.8 (SC)
100fr: 50.4 (LC relay), 48.9 (SC)
200fr: 1:55.0 (LC), 1:49.5 (SC)
Years in Swimming: 33
Favourite Stroke: Freestyle
Least Favourite Stroke: None
Favourite Set: 15x200 on 3min, 1Fr, 2IM, 3Fr, 4IM, 5FR - last one all out! (if anything left). If I can handle this set, I'm fit for anything!
Favourite Training Toy: Fins
Best Dryland Exercise: Chin-ups
Favourite Post-Meet Meal: Filet Mignon, good wine, cheese board
Signature Coaching Phrase: Good Job!
Biggest Misconception About Swim Coaches: They are overpaid.
How did you first get involved with coaching?
To pay my way for a training camp in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.
What is your coaching philosophy?
Make sure the swimmer leaves the pool with a smile on their face!
You share coaching duties with several others in your club - how does that work?
We all have a complimentary coaching style allowing for continuation of practice themes, while keeping an individual focus.
Apart from coaching you also managed to be the fastest Masters swimmer in Quebec last year! When do you find time for your own workouts?
We offer a couple of coaching times during the morning three times per week, so I can usually find time to coach one practice and swim the next. An average of 3 practices per week is good for a strong 50.
Tell us a bit about your training regimen during the years when you were preparing for Olympic trials - what did it take to race at that level? What was a typical day like?
500 abs per day! Back in the day we definitely over-trained aerobically, and under-trained anaerobically far too often. I would do two hours in the morning three days per week and two hours each afternoon five days per week. Saturday morning was a three-hour practice. We also did land work three days per week before afternoon practice. The average weekly distance covered (for me as a sprinter) was 40,000m. The hardest I ever trained was the camp in Lanzarote where I did 77,000m during the thirteen practices of the week. I was so destroyed that by the last days I could not lift my hands to hold on to the wall between reps, but would loll on my chin against the side of the pool! I swam lifetime bests following a twelve-week taper afterwards however, so there must be something to be said for the muscle annihilation!
What do you enjoy most about swimming today?
To be honest I love the journey from being out of shape (which now only takes three weeks off) to getting to full speed (which takes three months) and being able to glide effortlessly through the water.
What are the qualities of a "successful" swim club?
Dedicated swimmers, good coaches, fair administration, and great team spirit!
The majority of Masters swimmers don't compete - do you have swimmers in your club that will be racing for the first time this season, and if so, what made them decide to give competition a try?
In our club we are very relaxed and anyone can choose not to compete if they don't want to. But we structure practices to include a non-threatening form of test sets to build confidence and ability, so that anyone is capable of competing. Our team spirit and atmosphere also engenders participation. Also, when you point out that we train for months to improve technique and endurance and create the feel for the water?I liken this to learning the recipe to bake a cake. Competition is just the means of showing off these new skills. When explained to new swimmers that it would be a shame to spend the time to learn to bake the cake only to not make it for everyone, people see that competition really isn't that intimidating. Sometimes we burn the cake, but next time will get it right!
What's different about preparing Masters swimmers for competition compared with how you were coached as an elite athlete?
I had to perform and beat certain people simply because my scholarship funding depended on it and I was oblivious to any outside distractions that were detrimental to this. Masters swimmers compete because they want to. They lead complex lifestyles with many outside influences, be they family, work or other pursuits, which take up much of their time and effort away from the pool. It is important to realize that the Masters swimmer has made the commitment to forego these other interests to spend time in the pool, so every minute of the practice is important. The Masters swimmer must feel that the hour (or so) they gave up to be at the pool has been productive, otherwise they will not return. For specific competitions we try to encourage the team goal as well as individual ones and set up relays with the best chance of breaking records. We talk successes, congratulating members of their improvements and remind swimmers of their long-term goals and their strides towards attainment.
The Westmount Y is a big club - as a coach, how do you create a personalized experience for your swimmers?
Write a practice that challenges everyone; be there for each lane's important focus set; say everyone's name at least once during the practice; congratulate everyone in on the hard work they just completed and give them the rest of the night off!
How do you keep your swimmers motivated throughout the season?
Lead by example; always make things challenging, yet achievable; vary focus by periodizing cycles and always explain the reasons why we're doing a particular drill/set with engineering logic to back it up.
Tell us about Westmount Y's "swim around the world" endeavor, and how it changed the club.
It galvanized the team into a closer, cohesive, more communicative, and caring team with a 'go out on a limb for a team mate' attitude.
What makes you happy, as a coach?
Sensing the endorphin rush swimmers have when getting out of the pool at the end of practice and coming back next time for more!
What do you think of the recent FINA suit ruling?
For elite swimmers I think it's a good thing to get back to 'real' swimming. The suits were definitely performance enhancing and allowed one to short-cut core strength and body position. For Masters (and as a swimmer) I don't really care if suits are worn or not. I love competing and if someone in my age group beats me, my ego will force me to train harder to try to avenge the defeat whether they were wearing a suit or not. As a coach, if suits will keep people (and possibly attract new swimmers) in swimming and active longer then they are a good thing.
What is your own personal philosophy or credo?
Always leave the pool with a smile on your face!
Who inspires you?
Anyone willing to put in just as much or more today than they did yesterday!