Diving came along when I was 12 years old and was a very different experience for me. I found myself challenged in new ways and became addicted to a fascinating and difficult sport even though I struggled at being good at it.
Even as an aspiring sportsman, I knew that coaching was going to be my way forward. I started to coach diving at the age of 17 after seeing a good friend set up one of the UK’s first professional diving training programmes in the north of the country.
I packed everything I owned, left my family and friends and literally landed on the head coach’s doorstep and asked to be involved.
I never looked back and the Head Coach, Andy Banks started mentoring me on my journey in coaching. He felt that I needed to return to education and I found myself at Leeds Metropolitan University studying sports science. Whilst in Leeds, I stumbled across an opportunity to start my own programme and embarked on an incredible journey which would span across five Olympic Games and ultimately some incredible results in Rio.
So many experiences stand out along the way, including developing a diving centre that dominated the British Diving scene for over a decade.
At the Olympic Games in Rio, I experienced the euphoria of seeing two of my athletes win Olympic medals. This felt like an end of an era in my coaching, so I searched out a new challenge and was lucky enough to be offered my current role with Diving Australia.
Now I am based in Brisbane and am working with Maddison Keeney, Dominic Bedggood and Georgia Sheehan. This is just what I needed and I cannot wait to stand alongside them and the rest of Team Australia as we prepare to do battle on the Gold Coast.
The Commonwealth Games Diving Team has a unique feel for me because of the people in it. Currently the team is headed up by returning Australian legend, Stephen Foley who is the General Manager for Performance Pathways.
Steve was my boss back in the UK for eight years and provided me with enough opportunities to both fail and succeed to get me where I am today.
In 1996 I was in the city of Montreal at a Fina Grand Prix event where I met both Chava Sobrino and Michel Larouche.
Chava was based in Sydney and Michel in Montreal at the time and they became very important as I developed over the next 20 odd years.
The inspiration gained from watching them succeed first hand on the world stage really helped me mould my coaching style that I exhibit today.
With the support from a panel of GB coaches back in the UK, I had a new level of confidence that helped me succeed with some of the best divers in the world.
In a few weeks’ time I will stand on the poolside with Steve, Chava, Michel and Andy Banks as we back Australia’s elite at the Commonwealth Games. This will be a very memorable occasion to have so many of my mentors and friends all together in one team.
My philosophy has been endlessly evolving during my coaching and continues to do so.
I currently set out to take people on a journey of empowerment within sport, helping them to take responsibility for their development inside a world class training environment.
People, Empowerment and Environment are my three key ingredients to success. I will constantly reflect on my efforts to make sure I am reminded that I am dealing with real people, with real emotions and their need to be communicated too effectively if I am to get the best out of them.
I also hope to promote their accountability and responsibility in their training and performance behaviours so that they are the key driver in their team as they strive to be better.
Lastly, I do all I can to make sure the daily training environment is upholding world class standards to the best of my ability against our competition.
- Work Hard
These continually shape who I am as a coach and more importantly remind me every day why I do what I do. My most important value here is Passion. I still have the same fire in my stomach to be a better coach as I had when I started out at the ripe old age of 17. This has never ever stopped.
Time and experience though has changed me in many ways.
I have a family of my own now with fiancée Tandi and twin daughters Lydia and Lexie who constantly help me put my job and my coaching into perspective.
As we all know, it is not what we do on the good days that counts; it is the bad days, the rough periods and the tough decisions that define us as we plod along helping our athletes. This can be emotionally draining at times.
This exposes another key point in coaching.
We must look after ourselves in this profession
It can be a stressful and lonely world as an elite coach and the high-pressure occasions can sometimes get the better of us.
In my experience my personal fitness, continued professional development, my downtime, communication with my family and avenues to ‘rant’ have been key strategies to look after myself and in turn better support my divers during competition.
The Australian Diving Team is a mix of experience and new comers. The usual suspects Melissa Wu, Maddi Keeney and Annabelle Smith will definitely be ones to watch to back up their previous Commonwealth and Olympic rostrum success.
I am also keen to see what our up and coming junior talent has to offer as Commonwealth debutants Matthew Carter and Anna Rose Keating take to the stage. Matthew is a springboard diver based in Adelaide and has already shown his quality on the junior international circuit and gets an opportunity to go up against some fantastic opposition on the Gold Coast.
Anna Rose, from Melbourne will also be in action alongside Britney O’Brien (Sydney) in the Women’s 10m synchro event with the hardest programme in the competition including a back three and a half somersaults in the tuck position.
Australia’s diving future looks to be in good hands.
Stiff competition will be present in the pool from Canada, England, Scotland, Malaysia and Jamaica including a host of Commonwealth, World and Olympic medallist’s. Bring it on!
If you are starting out in coaching I would advise the following;
1. EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Surround yourself with experience. Mentors in and out of your sport will be essential if you are to grow with your athletes and stay one step ahead of their development. Be passionate about your learning.
2. UNDERSTANDING YOUR ATHLETES: Get to know your athletes as much as you can. Your ability to understand them will assist you as you navigate them through the ups and downs of being really good at a sport.
3. FUN; Enjoy what you do. Coaching is a privilege and we should make sure we don’t under estimate the impact we have on young people. Teach them to enjoy their journeys in sport so that they can look back and truly understand the value sport has to offer.
4. REFLECTION: Continuously reflect. Keep recognising what you are good at, learn from your mistakes and always, always identify what is needed to get better tomorrow.
Powerful Stories, Tips and Amazing Insight
Ready, Set, Go! Everything you need to know to start coaching from the legends in the field. As well as the Business and Life coaches, our launch edition features David Parkin (AFL), Lisa Alexander (Netball Australia), Adam Commens (Hockey Australia), Simon Cusack (Swimming Australia), Sean Douglas (FFA) and many more!