The 2013 FINA World Championships was the first time that the Danish national team operated under a new coaching structure and leadership. In April Nick Juba was hired as the Head Coach of the National Team while Shannon Rollason took the position of Head Coach of the National Training Centre in January; under their watch the team’s results have been excellent.
The team collected 4 medals (one gold and three silver), set nine new national records and Rikke Moeller-Pedersen set a new world record in the women’s 200 breaststroke.
SwimSwam caught up with Rollason to get his impressions on his first few months in Denmark, the team’s successes in Barcelona and the preparation of the National Training Centre athletes, which include Rikke Moeller-Pedersen, Jeanette Ottesen Gray and Pernille Blume.
Before taking the role in Denmark Rollason, who is Australian, had been part of the Australian coaching staff at the last three Olympics, held the position of Head Coach at the Australian Institute of Sport and had never coached outside of Australia. So why leave now? “(It was) the opportunity in Europe for my family,” explained Rollason. “(As well as) for my career development overseas.”
“From a coach/management point of view we kept things relaxed and fun.”
“Professionally it has been good to interact more regularly with high performance coaches from the top European nations.”
Before this year in Denmark the National Team Head Coach and the Head Coach of the National Training Centre were one in the same; the two jobs have now been separated and it has been a positive move for everyone involved. It was under this structure that Rollason accepted the National Training Centre job and he has been very happy to have the ability to give his group of swimmers his full attention, “It’s good again to focus my time on just pool deck coach, opposed to my Head Coach role at the AIS where I was playing two roles; managing three squads, one of which was my own, and all the trimmings that go with being a Head Coach.”
Barcelona was the first time that Rollason has been on deck at a major international competition with the Danish team which was a much different experience than being part of the Australian staff, “It allowed me to see the World Championships and the teams involved from a different perspective. I had a lot more time, or so it seemed.”
“I’ve been on Australian teams since 1995 and you are always busy.”
Rollason was extremely pleased with the team’s results and felt there were a few different things that contributed to that success at the competition, “The key was a small team, working as a small team focusing on the individual needs of the swimmers,” said Rollason.
“From a coach/management point of view we kept things relaxed and fun; this contributed to 90% personal bests with nine new national records. If you can get swimmers performing at their best at the major meets you open up your chances of having a successful meet.”
Two Danish athletes that had the great success at the World Championships were Rikke Moeller-Pedersen and Jeanette Ottesen Gray, both of whom are coached by Rollason. Moeller-Pedersen broke the world record in the 200 breaststroke posting a time of 2:19.11 in the semi-finals and went on to collect silver in the same event while Ottesen Gray won the 50 butterfly.
Rollason’s outlook since he has started coaching the two women has been simple, “Quite relaxed,” commented Rollason when describing his approach. “Aiming to get the swimmers to enjoy what they do daily.”
“(I have) just tried to be open, approachable and listen. I think it has gone quite well so far, I am just trying to treat them like people in their mid 20′s.”
When discussing both Moeller-Pedersen and Ottesen Gray’s preparation and development the main changes he has made in their programs have been increasing their training intensity, changing their mental approach to racing and adjusting technical aspects of their strokes.
When working with the two women he makes sure that they are involved in the process when adjusting their technique, “I listen to what they have to say, give them feedback and get them to see what we are doing in training, the reasons behind it and then taking it to the race.”
Rollason was impressed by both athletes throughout their preparation for Barcelona and shared two examples of training sets:
6 x 100 on long rest holding 1:11′s even split
6 x 30 butterfly holding low 25 second pace on 2:30
If the first several months are an indication of the influence Rollason can have on the athletes at the National Training Centre the future of swimming in Denmark looks bright.