Swimming Gold Coast recently embarked on a new era of swimming development by taking a select group of 24 swimmers (12 Girls & 12 Boys) to the 2023 Victorian Age Short Course Championships. This was the first trip away for many, many years within the region, with the goal to enhance the experiences of and provide unique learning opportunities for our local swimmers.
The criteria was designed to give an opportunity to the best SGC swimmers, aged between 14yrs and 17yrs yet to make a Queensland or Australian touring team: and the quality was exceptional. The aim, to provide a learning experience for this group of swimmers that assisted with their transition to the next level in their competitive swimming journey. Through participation in a touring team, that was development based - not performance based - the experience was designed to enable them to learn from their experiences, their mistakes, from different coaches and be surrounded by swimmers from various clubs all in a different environment, without the usual club and family support structures.
The swimmers had to fend for themselves by choosing, buying and cooking their own food, monitoring their own sleep all whilst living in a team environment. Swimmers had to catch public transport to the pool, decide when to take breaks, prepare for their events through their own independent warm-ups and discuss their plans, race strategies etc., with a coach that was not their regular or familiar club coach. Whilst under the watchful eye of SGC team management, the swimmers were largely given autonomy to fend for themselves, in a safe environment in order to learn what did and didn't work for them and what they could take away from the experience that will assist their swimming in the future. Given some of the choices, including somewhat poor food options and lack of sleep, all of the swimmers experienced some ups and downs and learnt a significant amount about themselves and what works and doesn't work for them!!!
Starting Day 1 with a 4.45am meeting at the Gold Coast Airport, the tone was set for swimmers to be a little tired for the duration of the event. However, the enthusiasm and excitement levels were high. Landing in Melbourne, with a brisk morning temperature, we boarded our bus to head to the accommodation - the Crest on Barkly. Luckily, we were able to move straight into our rooms, but had no time to waste as there was a training session at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre to get to. After a 40min walk through the beautiful Albert Park (and many complaints that swimmers don't walk and their legs would never recover) we made the very impressive venue and proceeded to undertake a 90min swim familiarisation session with the pool and the facility. After catching the tram back, there was shopping to be done - and let's just say there were some interesting food choices, especially given we didn't have microwaves in our rooms (Coaches did, which I'm sure they regretted after night 2!!!) The evening was topped off by a team dinner at Leo's Spagetti Bar in St Kilda which provided a great atmosphere and an incredible amount of wonderful food for the team. Upon arriving back to the accommodation, excitement was still high, resulting in a lack of sleep for most swimmers, however given the aim of the trip was to let the swimmers make their own choices so they could understand the personal impact, and broader impact on their teammates, team managers monitored the situation to ensure an appropriate level of respect was provided to the team as well as other members of the hotel.
Competition at the Victorian Age SC Champs is like nothing any of the team had ever seen previously - the competition was run on both sides of the dividing boom, with boys competing on one side and girls on the other. It was quite a spectacle. Again, something different that the swimmers needed to adapt to.
Over the following three days, every single swimmer representing SGC did a remarkable job overcoming the foreign environment, the lack of sleep, the altered food intake, the separation from family and club mates, their own internal fears, doubts and disappointment to gel as a team, form new friendships with each other and highlight their own ability to fight for what they want to achieve out of this swimming journey. As this was a development event, not a performance event, swimmers were guided more about the process, about challenging themselves to overcome any obstacles they were facing, their own internal thoughts before and after their events and given the opportunity to reflect on where they were, why they were there and how much we (the region) believed in them.
This was a development team, there were no expectations placed on the swimmers other than to adapt to the surroundings created by themselves and their teammates and to give themselves every opportunity to make themselves proud of their effort, rather than their result. Given their most recent target meet was the QLD SC Championships, only 3 weeks earlier, none of the swimmers were tapered for this event and were in full training. This combined with the enormity of the trip away, each and every swimmer outdid themselves and should feel incredibly proud. 200 swims were recorded over the weekend, with a phenomenal 104 Pb's, an incredible indication of the resiliance and attitude of this team. More impressively, there were 66 finals made, with 49 swims recording faster final times. Every single swimmer on the team recorded a minimum of a top ten finish, at a state level meet - phenomenal. The highlight, as always, were the relays, where every single swimmer pulled out incredible swims for their team. The comradery, the collective attitude and the team spirit were spine-tingling!
Overall, this development experience far exceeded the expectations set out by the SGC Management Committee when it was first conceptualised earlier this year. We would like to thank each and every swimmer that took part (list below) as well as their families for supporting this adventure. Also, to the incredible coaches that led the team - Cheryl Baty, Laura Matthews, Ken Sabotic and Brett Shanks. These four coaches did an incredible job with the team both inside and outside of the pool and your contribution to the event has been incredible. For myself (Warren) and Sharon, as team managers we had the pleasure of getting to know each swimmer just that little bit more and providing some, hopefully, worldly advice that will assist the swimmers throughout their individual pathway. It was our privilage to be a small part of this incredible team and experience. The team conducted themselves extremely professionally and are a credit to themselves and their families.
Finally, none of this would have taken place without the incredible efforts of Michelle Schafer organising all aspects of this trip. Her commitment to swimming on the Gold Coast and this event are unparallelled and Michelle deserves an enormous thank you from every participant as well as every member of Swimming Gold Coast.
Girls - Anabelle Aulert, Matilda Grimson, Holly Hembling, Sasha Henrison, Zahri Jarrett, Lacy Kamprad, Tribeca Liu, Alice Monaghan, Bianca Rayward, Haylee Reid, Ashlee Schafer, Ryne Spence.
Boys - Julian Angus, Kody Byrne, Oscar Eddy, Leny Grigor, Lachlan Hackett, Luca Knezevic, Matthew Lowe, Cooper Lynch, Ethan MacDonald, Ishaan Mehra, Archie Mulkerrins, Jimmy Wang
Coaches - Cheryl Baty, Laura Matthews, Ken Sabotic, Breet Shanks
Team Managers - Sharon Wicking & Warren Dopson