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Swimming coaches hail course as ‘fantastic opportunity’ that will benefit athletes

Swimming coaches have hailed UK Coaching’s ‘unique’ Performance Foundation Coach Support Programme as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ that will ‘benefit’ their athletes.

Seven coaches from across England – Chris Littler (City of Birmingham), Greg King-Limb (Mount Kelly), Kevin Schofield (City of Leeds), Lewis Dunford (Guildford City), Matthew Smithurst (Loughborough University), Rachel Aldington (Millfield School) and Roberto Pavoni (Plymouth Leander) – were all chosen in January to receive one-to-one support over 18 months.

A total of 47 coaches from 17 sports are taking part in the UK Coaching programme with the swimming coaches working with their counterparts from sports including athletics, boxing and gymnastics.

Now, three of the swimming coaches have shared their experiences of the ‘unique’ course so far.

Specific to my personal needs

Mount Kelly’s assistant director of swimming Greg King-Limb said his UK Coaching mentor had helped him return to poolside after lockdown with a fresh mindset.

He added: “Taking part in the UK Coaching Performance Foundations programme has been another great opportunity in my coaching career for a multitude of different reasons.

“The last six months have been challenging for us all, but the support of the swimmers, coaches and staff at Mount Kelly alongside my UK Coaching Mentor, Alan Rapley, has provided the time and space to process my emotions ensured I returned to poolside with a fresh and open mindset ready for the season ahead.

“As part of the programme, we are required to develop our own Individual Development Plan. The creation of this document has helped to provide clarity and timescale to the specific areas that I would like to develop throughout the programme and I am looking forward to developing this plan further over  alongside Alan and Swim England Coach Development Manager, Lindsay Trimmings.

“This process in itself is rare and unique in the swimming world, where coaches are always focused on helping others perform to the very highest level, but can sometimes neglect their own needs and personal development.

“The UK Coaching Performance Foundations programme has undoubtedly provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my current coaching practice and prioritise my own learning which in turn will benefit the athletes I coach not only now but also in the future.
“Having access to all the UK Coaching resources and webinars during lockdown was a great way to stay engaged and explore different areas of coaching across a range of sports.

“Furthermore, the Community of Practice sessions have provided a great platform to discuss coaching thoughts, ideas, feelings and frustrations with coaches from a variety of sports, enabling me to better understand the similarities and challenges faced by coaches in sports outside the aquatic sector.

“All coaching programmes have a benefit in our development but the reason I am enjoying the UK Coaching Performance Foundations programme is because it is very specific to my personal needs.

“It can be tailored around my coaching role at Mount Kelly to ensure I am gaining the very most from the programme to ultimately make me a better coach and person.”

It has helped me give back to my coaching team

Lewis Dunford, the national performance squad specialist coach at Guildford City Swimming Club, said the course had helped him improve his coaching knowledge.

He said: “I have found the course enjoyable and very rewarding so far.

“Initially, I have had the opportunity to attend a UK Sport Workshop at Saracens Rugby Club. At this workshop I listened to some key-note speakers speak about their experiences in their specialist fields and on various topics of Sporting Performance.

“During lockdown, UK Sport put on numerous online webinars covering a wide range of topics for us to access. These talks have included experts on the topics as well as International sportsmen and sportswomen offering their advice to the coaches in attendance.

“We have monthly Zoom meetings to discuss personal areas of interests or areas of coaching we find challenging.

“These meetings provide a good opportunity to speak to other high-performance coaches and bounce ideas off each other and have also allowed me to expand my network, providing me with a chance to improve my coaching knowledge.

“I have been allocated a mentor who has helped me with my personal development and challenged me on my coaching and I have one-to-one meetings once a fortnight to update them on any developments with my coaching or any new areas of coaching that I want to explore.

“My mentor and I have come up with an Individual Development Plan which will help to monitor my progress as a coach over the remainder of the course.

“Overall, this course has benefitted my coaching by highlighting my areas of strength and areas of weakness.

“This has then allowed me to personally invest some time in improving those aspects of my coaching.

“This awareness has now allowed me to improve my coaching on a day-to-day basis and better inform me on how to deal with different situations.

“The resources available to me have also allowed me to continue my development away from the programme and back in the working environment, helping me to give back to the coaching team and continuing their professional development.”

Programme challenges you

Matt Smithurst is the assistant performance swimming coach at Loughborough University.

He said: “For me, the whole programme is simply a fantastic opportunity to learn.

“We discuss relevant topics with each other during our Community of Practice sessions and talk through problems we are facing with our athletes.

“Everyone comes from different sports around the country and has different ideas which in turn helps you to form ‘outside the box’ solutions to problems you face.

“I find the expert sessions we have every tow or three weeks very interesting. Some experts are current/past coaches others, some are experts in specific areas like psychology.

“It’s refreshing and reassuring to hear ‘expert’ coaches have faced similar problems on their way to success.

“The programme challenges you by making you search within yourself for reasons why you do what you do and what you want to get out of the programme.

“Whilst we are all invited to the same talks, everybody’s UK Coaching Performance Foundations programme experience is unique – we are encouraged to make it what we want it to be from our mentors.

“I’m looking forward to the remaining time I have on the programme.”