“There’s no doubting Jacco’s abilities as a coach but he was very open to suggestions from us given that he’s come from a different system. It was an excellent thing to do”. Such were the words conveyed by storied Australian swimming coach Alan Thompson, one of the legendary voices of Australian swimming’s past who attended a brainstorming session of sorts, organized by current Australian National Team Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.
News source “The Australian” reports that, in the pursuit of excellence at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Games, Verhaeren organized the recent session with several of Australia’s swimming masterminds to review the high performance training plans. The goal is to build on the country’s recent World Championships success, a competition at which Australia took home 7 gold medals.
The former Dutch National Head Coach Verhaeren is not taking any chances in his head coach role moving towards Rio. “There are many more coaches and athletes than I am used to dealing with, so I think it’s good to reach out to all those coaches because they all achieved quite significant success.”
Continued Verhaeren, “I knew the Netherlands system inside out but I don’t have that knowledge here so I wanted their advice. We talked about high performance pathways and how they look at coaches and coach education. We also talked about participation and creating a better competition schedule. It was very valuable.’’
Among the former high performance coaches in attendance at the session in Sydney included Forbes and Ursula Carlile, Bill Sweetenham, Alan Thompson, Laurie Lawrence and Doug Frost. Among their collective experience, the coaches have been involved in the cultivation of such talents as Shane Gould, John Davies, Tracey Wickham, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett. These swimming leaders have been involved in all levels of Australian swimming at one point, including at the Australian Institute of Sport, as well as in the role of Olympic coaching staff.
“All of those coaches in their time played a significant role in building what Australian swimming is. It was interesting to learn what worked for them as coaches and leaders and what didn’t, and to reflect on what we are doing now”, said Verhaeren of the plan review session.
Coach Thompson indicated that, “this was a great thing for Jacco to understand the history and the culture and the passion of the sport in Australia And it was great for us to be included and to feel valued”
In terms of the benefit of the meeting of the minds, Thompson said, “I always feel these brainstorming sessions are worthwhile. It might not be obvious immediately, but things filter through and can point you in a direction that leads to success.’’
“I think when you have good leadership in place it makes all the difference and swimming has that now with (CEO) Mark Anderson, (President) John Bertrand and Jacco,’’ continued Thompson
According to Verhaeren, “The management team had some serious debriefs with the leadership group and we have identified some small details about how we work together as a group and things we can do better for athlete recovery. The feeling after Kazan within the team was very positive so we want to keep the same structure for the Olympics.’’
The Australian high performance team will have another opportunity to gauge the progress of its training journey on the road to Rio, as on-fire athletes such as Emily Seebohm, Mitch Larkin and Bronte Campbell will all be competing at the Australian Short Course Championships next week.