One of the most recognizable coaches in Australia, Denis Cotterell, has been missing from the pool decks down under, as the 67-year-old is in the midst of a planned post-Rio break. Cotterell, who has guided such stellar athletes in the past as Grant Hackett and Michael Klim, leads Miami Swimming Club, which most recently included an elite squad touting such names as Tommy Fraser-Holmes, Dan Smith and Swedish star Michelle Coleman. The group operated under Australia’s High Performance Centre program. However, the Olympic-caliber squad has now dissolved, with remaining members TFH moving to Bond Swimming Club and Smith kicking off the next quadrennial at St. Peters Western.
As a testament to the dedication for which duty calls in the upper echelons of Australian coaching, Coach Cotterell says he hasn’t had even one week’s holiday in all of the 40 years’ career. As such, he made the decision 6 years ago to take a 6-month ‘sabbatical’ immediately after the 2016 Olympic Games. The storied leader who entered Sports Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2014 plans to return to Miami in mid-January, carrying out the remainder of the season. The question remains as to what Cotterell’s plan will then be moving forward.
It’s very likely Cotterell will continue to work with groups of Chinese swimmers, as he has done in the past. Not only has he hosted several different Chinese training groups throughout his time at Miami, Cotterell had a major hand in the success of Sun Yang at the 2012 Olympic Games. Cotterell helped coach the Chinese athlete, who earned gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Although Cotterell calls recent reports claiming a formal contract has been signed between himself and Chinese swimming to the tune of $1 million as ‘rubbish’, he is looking to potentially have some working relationship with the nation’s swimmers. The reason? Working hours may be more conducive to the coach’s life outside of the pool, one which involves a personal relationship.
Cotterell tells The Gold Coast Bulletin, “I’m trying to look at options that would maybe satisfy my desire to help people and be a coach and help Australians but not screw my relationship by working hours that don’t allow a relationship.”
Cotterell summarized his situation in that, “I want to find a compromise to help a relationship survive. That’s the guts of it. I mightn’t be doing the early hours, I might be finding more suitable hours to still be able to sustain a normal relationship with my partner and her work, that’s all. “If that could be arranged, that’d be the perfect world.’’
“I’ve not averse to coaching Australians but it’s just that to do that, the hours are more difficult in a relationships.
“The Chinese are willing to start from 7-9am and then do earlier sessions for 2-4pm — that would save my relationship.’’
But comments have pointed to the fact that a decision to work with the Chinese isn’t based solely on working hours, but there is a monetary incentive component as well. Cotterell denies accepting the recently reported $1 million contract for a coaching gig, however, he does see the nation’s generosity as a means of sustenance.
Cotterell is quoted as having said earlier this year, “I might move to China full-time one day. Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I consider taking my skills to a place where they are valued. I have given my life to Australian swimming but, at the end of the day, my knowledge and my skills are worth more somewhere else.”
Without the elevated High Performance funding, Cotterell says his salary sees an enormous reduction. “To be honest, if I don’t have some Chinese involvement, I’m on peanuts,’’ said Cotterell.
The fact that Miami’s elite squad has disbanded, along with the fact that Cotterell has a history with Chinese swimmers who are more agreeable to the coach’s desired schedule, there would be little surprise if Cotterell did reach an agreement with China. But, at this point, no such arrangement has been publicly confirmed, so the world waits to discover what the legendary coach’s next move will be.