Cotterell Feels That Australian Swimmers Need to be Tougher

A few weeks ago Brian King‘s name appeared in the press, he is the man now training Sun Yang in Australia.

King, a former assistant Miami Swimming, is now being investigated for how he has treated swimmers throughout his career. In a recent article in the the Daily Telegraph it details some of these events.

He was said to have one swimmer out of the pool on all fours and barking, because in practice he was training like a dog.

“I did not witness it but a parent came straight to me; Brian King had pulled a kid out of the pool and said he was ‘training like a dog,” said Shannon McDonald, the past president of the swim team.

“He made him go and stand at the end of the pool on all fours and said; ‘bark like a dog you are training like a dog’,” she said.

“It is disgusting. That (complaint) went in writing to Denis. He just rubbished it and in some cases he said, ‘I have spoken to Brian about that and he won’t do it again’.”

“The committee did give Brian a letter of warning and attached the ASCTA code of conduct, saying it was unacceptable.”

He also had children do a 1000 fly for punishment.

Denis Cotterell who is the Head Coach of Miami Swimming feels that Australian Children need to toughen up.

“The toughness is so depleted it is not funny,” Cotterell told the Telegraph.

“We have a diminishing pool of people who are naturally tough.

“Done the right way, and I believe we do it the right way, in terms of shaping a character, we can develop a swimmer into a champion.

“The good coaches and clubs provide challenges for these kids and promote challenges in training so that the kids in going after these challenges gain confidence. Our job is to set the challenges and acknowledge the effort it takes to achieve them.

“This is the toughening process.”

“They become tough by training tough and they need to be tough to race tough.”

Many people feel that King’s actions crossed a line and began to make these attacks personal and is now being investigated by both Swimming Australia and the Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association. Cotterell still maintains that King has done nothing wrong-

“I used to do that all the time,” Cotterell said. “The thing is the kid didn’t do the 1000, you pull them up after, 200, 300, 400m. You gave them 1000m — you have them think about them and then stop it.

“It’s used as an example for consequences — for being rude. It takes character to be a champion and they are not getting that from their parents and in schools it’s neutered, a lot of teachers are neutered by bureaucrats. It’s a development we take very seriously.”

Many of these actions were brought up to Cotterell who in an article published today explained that he felt that the allegations were over exaggerated. Cotterell labelled the majority of complaints levelled by “precious” parents at King when he was at Miami as “absolute rubbish”

Cotterell has coached a long list of champions including Grant Hackett, Daniel Kowalski and Giaan Rooney.

He also mentored Chinese prodigy Sun Yang, who won gold in the 400m and 1500m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics.

Cotterell currently coaches 10 Chinese swimmers in his squad at Miami, and noted they never miss a session.


In This Story

Leave a Reply

23 Comment threads
66 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
34 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Now is the perfect time for SAL to educate all swimming coaches as to the correct way to coach children. Just because it is the way it has been done in the past does not make it the right way nor the way acceptable in 2015.

Not Tough Enough?

I wonder if this comment that “the toughness is so depleted it is not funny” is aimed at all the young swimmers coming through the ranks. If so, it is disappointing to hear a top Australian coach speak so negatively about our young Australian swimmers. Is this a fair reflection on Australian swimming? Do all the kids coming through the ranks need to have the toughness of an Olympic champion? This toughness is one quality that makes a champion, but not all kids can be champions. In reality this is an unfair expectation to level at a 10-12 year kid who is starting out in the sport.

Fred Bear

There are an awful lot of swim coaches who coach in Australia (and on the Gold Coast for that matter). Cotterell is a well respected and accomplished coach, his methods might be interpreted as “old fashioned” by some, but he keeps producing the goods. If you want your kids toughned up, then send them to Cotterell, if you want to have fun swimming with the other kids then send them elsewhere. But please, don’t try and tell a professional how to do his/her job. If Cotterell thinks a kid needs toughening up then he is most probably right. If you have a better way than his to toughen a kids up, if you have the swimming pedigree and results behind… Read more »


Fred Bear you’ve missed the point completely. Not one parent that was a victim of Brian King went and told Denis how to do his job, entered his “office” and talked him down. In fact, I doubt if Denis actually knew any of Brian King’s victims or their parents given their age. If you know the squads at Miami, you know that Denis only coaches elite swimmers, generally over the age of 16. He has very limited contact with the junior squad members. This is about Denis making these comments to cover his own butt in a very well documented investigation where he hired King without reference check and ignored the many, many complaints from the parents of his abuse… Read more »


Here is the link to the story in Australia’s Daily Telegraph … The comments below are based on first-hand knowledge … in my opinion, this type of thinking for AGE LEVEL swimmers needs to change. Firstly, it is relevant to point out that Denis Cotterell is single with no children. I wonder if his views might be different if he had his own child in a Pool being subjected to this type of treatment. I am finding it difficult to believe that he has a balanced view on this issue. Secondly, Denis is a Master Coach of ADULT, ELITE swimmers. Nobody can deny this. I certainly don’t and I would be very happy for my child to be coached… Read more »


Don’t kid yourselves, SAL don’t care one incy wincy tiny little bit. Their non-action reflects that.


DON’T KID YOURSELF – Not so sure about your comment as I have an interview with an independent investigator (outside of ASCTA and appointed by Swimming Australia) this Friday……tells me that the wheels are motion.

Gerry Epstein

Bravo well said !

Gerry Epstein

My comment relates to the post by First Hand Knowledge

Gerry Epstein

Bravo well said First hand knowledge !

Gina Rhinestone

You reference Romanian,programs . The USA has many romanian coaches including Brestyan who got Aly Raisman her 2012 gold & Alicia Sacramone before her. 2012 AA champ Chinese coach , 2008 aa champ Russian 2004 Russian coached. Australia took the China route importing coaches for national gymnastics & diving institutions plus East Germans for cycling . All following successes required a major shift in attitudes , rigour & time commitment . Regarding junior swimmers , the book is open . Junior meet times including Qld titles , are inferior to many of previous eras . Whether the focus has changed & the kids are going to somehow explode after 17 is in question . It is an issue for many… Read more »


“GINA”. The children BK emotionally abused has nothing to do with “non compatibility with Miami” (or Kingston). You ask, “Why did you not just find a better fit?” Do you ask that of all victims of abuse? It is therefore the victims’ fault, not BK’s? In another post you said you’re not interested in complaints, “blah, blah, blah, satnav your way to the nearest police station or shut up”. Whoopsie doo, “GINA’s” happy when State-age children (10-14 years old) medal, even if they are abused and bugger the SAL Member and Child Welfare policies. Let’s not forget one boy self-harmed and others are in counselling. Not interested in the integrity of swimming, “GINA”? BK booted from the USA, lying on… Read more »


Gina, you are not reading my comments correctly. My child’s Miami Coach is awsome as are her 2 deputies. Denis is awsome as a Coach of adult, elite swimmers.

Gina Rhinestone

i re read your post & nowhere does it state you are / were happy at Miami . I resent your nasty jibe at Denis because he does not have children . Forbes & UrsulaCarlisle did not have children & have devoted their lives to swimming . At 70 Ursula was on deck . Tens of thousands of kids have benefitted from their extreme dedication for over 60 years . For the record bill Sweetenham once told me if his then toddler grew up wanting to be a swimmer he would break their arms off. Plenty of coaches children suffer because their dad / mum devotes their life to other kids . Some of these kids even take up swimming… Read more »


Did Bill Sweetham tell you that when you worked as an Assistant Coach to the
Australian Junior Olympic Swimming Team in 1998? Bill Sweetham was National Youth Coach at the time?


Good old Gina stirring the pot! For the record, every child that left Miami found other clubs. Brian was the problem, not the club.


Great comment!


I’m a bigger fan of Cotterell than I was two minutes ago and I was already a huge admirer of him.

About Jeff Grace

Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

Read More »

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!