Hi Jeremy, this week you are our focus for the Spotlight On series. Today I’m hoping we can shine a light on our SWAS Athletics/Functional Movement Coach and learn a little bit about the man behind the starting blocks!
So Jeremy, you were born and raised in New Zealand, but have been in Australia for quite a few years now, what brought you to Australia?
Seems like such a long time ago now – 15 years in fact! A few things contributed to the move at the time as my coach retired and the athletics career had stalled. While I was also working full time I had some family living in Melbourne and was keen for something new and thought why not! I was also excited about the training opportunities to join a high performing athletics squad in Melbourne and see if I could get back to running fast… A couple of achillies and torn calves later put that back to bed.
How long have you been based in Warrnambool?
We moved down at the start of 2017. Before moving here I didn’t really know much about Warrnambool, aside from coming down once for Fun4Kids. My wife (Amy) is from Dunkeld and we thought giving our kids a regional upbringing, similar to our own, would be a good thing.
How long have you been involved in SWAS?
I have been involved as a Coach for almost 2 years and as a Board member for 1 year.
You also have your own squad, after school program and coach at the Warrnambool Little Athletics Club, what is it that made you want to coach?
I just love athletics and relished the opportunities the sport gave me. While I had been doing coaching on and off for about 10 years, there appeared to be a strong demand and need for coaching. This was the catalyst to fully commit after years of wanting to and make something more formal happen. It was also an opportunity to make a difference for regional kids and a personal challenge to put athletics back on the Warrnambool agenda.
Recently you were appointed to the athletics Victoria Target Talent Squad as an Assistant Coach, giving you the chance to mentor some of our states best sprinters.
What is it about that program that made you want to be a part of it and what do you personally hope to gain from the experience?
The opportunity to be formally part of the high performance track and field environment in Victoria was an opportunity I could not pass up. Being in Warrnambool you can be very isolated, so learning from and developing relationships with other coaches can only help me improve my coaching. Not only that, working with some of the upcoming stars of tomorrow is a great learning environment and can help sharpen my communication skills to see what works and what might not with a broader group of athletes.
You work locally at Wannon Water, how do you manage to juggle Work, SWAS, AVTTP, coaching your squad and family life, you must need to be super organised! Can you give us any hints and tips for handling the pressure of the combination of work/sport/life?
Ha yes it is very full on! I think one of the most critical things is that you have to be passionate and love what you do. Even though it can get busy, if you enjoy what you are doing then it certainly does not feel like work and you tend to be more energised and effective. I am also lucky that Wannon Water have a range of flexible work practices that support employees contribution to our local community so that takes the pressure off.
Surrounding yourself with people who uplift and support you but who can also say,” hey, slow down, I think you need a break, or “you’re focusing too much in one area”, is important too. Keeps you grounded so you don’t get to consumed by any one area….which certainly can happen.
You were an very accomplished Athlete at a young age, can you give us a brief rundown of what your own personal Athletics’s Career looked like?
I sort of fell into sprinting at 14 after running at the school sports and unknowingly broke a 30-year old record. I suddenly found myself competing at regionals and then South Islands where I finished 4th in the 200m. Following that I started training and fell in love with the sport and won the NZ Junior Boys 200m title in 1996 and from there I started competing regularly. I was also playing representative soccer through to the end of school before specialising in sprinting at the age of 17. Some of the major achievements included a 3rd and 2nd in the Senior Men’s 200m in the early 2000s as well as Oceania silver medals in the 200m and 400m. I must admit that as a New Zealander, it was great to also win the Senior Mens 4x100m relay at Australian nationals with our local Otago team. Some other great experiences included Arafura Games (1999), Oceanias (2000 and 2002), World University Games in Beijing (2001) and an IAAF Grand Prix meet in Japan for the NZ 4x400m relay (2003).
Every athlete faces disappointment at some stage of their careers, can you tell us about yours and what you did to work through it/ get past it to become the person you are today?
I tore my hamstring in Beijing warming up for competition at the biggest event of my life. I have never been more disappointed after being lucky enough to have spent a month travelling through Canada with the NZ and Australian World champs team in preparation. After recovering from that I then got quite sick, and the next season I found myself playing catch up and continually getting injured. Consequently I never recovered and retired at the end of 2004 at 24yrs. It took a long time to let go of some of the decisions I made that led to me having to retire but it sharpened my resolve and commitment to help others achieve their aspirations so good has come from it.
What do you feel is the best advice you can give someone who is just starting out in athletics?
Definitely patience (which I lacked!). Ultimately the outcome will look after itself if you stick to the process. Listen to your coach and put yourself in an environment where you can thrive. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Only worry about what you can do and focus on what you can control. Step change or massive improvements can happen in an instant when you least expecting it (and often do). Finally (and most importantly) enjoy it! That’s what will bring you success however you define it.
You work with both Able Bodied and Para Athletes, what do you see as the biggest benefits of inclusion in sport?
You can’t be what you can’t see, so it’s great to have a more inclusive focus on para athletes. It provides inspiration and something to aspire to for those who may not think there are opportunities for them. I have also found that the determination and dedication shown by para athletes in spite of their challenges is a huge inspiration to all athletes. Coaching para athletes has helped me to grow as a person where I have probably learned more from them than they have from me!
You are still extremely fit, are there any plans for a comeback to athletics? I’m lead to believe that you can still give your younger squad quite a run for their money on the Aths track?
Ha, I would not go as far to say “extremely” fit, but coaching the kids have inspired me to get back into a little bit of training. Staying fit also helps me to demonstrate the techniques and skills required as verbal cues are sometimes difficult with younger athletes. I also attempt to try new things for myself before bringing them into the coaching environment, just to see how they might feel and how we can use them. I did put the spikes on for the first time in 12 years a couple of weeks back and survived, so you never know! I would love to have at least one last competitive race before I die but coming back to priorities, I don’t have too much time to train for myself so we will see what happens.
Can you tell us what you think the most important benefits of the SWAS Program are?
The access to coaching and education is of course critical for our upcoming sportspeople but my view is that it is broader than that. As a regional aspiring athlete, SWAS provides recognition and support that you have been identified as having what it takes to succeed. This does wonders for confidence, and being part of a high performance framework that is beyond an athlete’s normal sporting environment opens new perspectives, ideas and sharpens commitment and focus. It’s a pathway that provides experiences that set up the athlete for their future aspirations.
What do you enjoy most about Coaching the SWAS Athletes?
I enjoy the opportunity to be able to also coach non track and field athletes and introduce functional speed and power considerations that can translate and improve performance in each of their own sports, whether it be agility, footwork, coordination or balance. For many of the SWAS athletes the concepts are brand new, so working through how to do them can be fun as when athletes attempt to use their bodies in different ways, the organised chaos always results in plenty of laughs. It’s great to be able to take the SWAS athletes into this world and hopefully they enjoy it too.
Where would you like to see athletics in Warrnambool and Surrounds in say, 5 years?
Since I started coaching here in Warrnambool I have found suitable places to train are few and far between. Athletics at a senior level is somewhat non-existent and there is almost a complete drop off after Little Athletics. It would be great if we could get a seniors competition up and running as we do have great talent here, and I would argue proportionately more than the larger centres. We just need coaches and improved infrastructure to help nurture this talent and it will pay back in dividends not just in athletics but all sports. I would love to see an upgraded track, some form of indoor lane access for our winter months or suitable grass facilities that are safe and accessible for our athletes.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
In a coaching sense, my biggest inspiration does not necessarily come from one person, I get inspired and motivated when I see kids, athletes, coaches or recreational athletes committed and giving their all in their pursuits. I really admire that. The icing on the cake is seeing the excitement and joy in their faces when they do a personal best or learn and apply something new. That gives me motivation and inspires me to keep improving and be a better coach.
Where in Warrnambool and the Surrounding districts would someone go to find out more about Athletics?
Warrnambool Little Athletics Club is probably your first bet. Alternatively Athletics Victoria or SWAS can point people in the right direction. I am always happy to help out as I have an informal role with Athletics Victoria as a Coaching Hub leader where part of the responsibility is to help grow coaches in the region.
Lastly, Do you have anyone you would like to thank or make special mention of today?
My family (Amy, Isla and Isaac) for putting up with what can be a pretty hectic schedule and SWAS and Athletics Victoria for opportunities to coach. I would also just like to recognize and thank the coaches that invested in me, specifically Trevor Bent my first coach who passed away a couple of years ago (coach for 6yrs) and Kevin Hickman (coach for 3yrs). I did not quite appreciate what you did at the time but are forever grateful for your dedication and support that provided me with such opportunities and life experiences.
Thank you so much for being a part of our Spotlight On Series! We can’t wait to see how your athletes (and you) go in the coming year. We hope it is a very successful season.