Olympian dives head first into junior coaching role

LEARNING FROM THE BEST: Former Olympian Craig Stevens was at Orange Aquatic Centre on Saturday to pass on his knowledge to the region's best and brightest swimmers. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

LEARNING FROM THE BEST: Former Olympian Craig Stevens was at Orange Aquatic Centre on Saturday to pass on his knowledge to the region's best and brightest swimmers. Photo: MATT FINDLAY

FORMER Olympian Craig Stevens was on hand at Orange Aquatic Centre last weekend for Swimming NSW’s inaugural Mountains and Plains Development Days.

Orange Aquatic Centre hosted two development days on Saturday and Sunday after Swimming NSW restructured junior development to include all swimmers in one of four groups - elite (national swimmers), B squad (country and state swimmers), C squad (swimmers aged nine to 12) and D squad (aged eight and below).

Stevens watched over Mountains and Plains’ D squad swimmers on Saturday, and said visiting country areas is one of the most satisfying parts of his job.

“I was working in an office and wasn’t enjoying it,” he laughed.

“Coaching is very motivating, and it’s great to be able to work with juniors and see them progress, especially out here where they don’t get as many opportunities.”

Stevens, an Olympic and Commonwealth Games medalist, said the program is aimed at exposing rural areas to the highest level of coaching.

“The idea is to get as many Sydney based coaches out into country areas,” he said.

“It’s about bringing kids from the same area together, doing some testing and then in six or 12 months down the track doing the same thing again, to keep them involved in swimming and motivated and maybe give them some chances they might not otherwise get.

“Results are graphed, and put in a database and sent to Swimming NSW. It’s a way to keep swimming growing at a grassroots level.”

JETS Swim Club carnival project coordinator Douglas Beggs heaped praise on the program.

“It’s a chance for us, the also-rans of swimming, to mix it with the best Sydney athletes,” Beggs said.

“The kids get the chance to be coached by Sydney coaches, and learn from them about how to go about it.

“Our coaches also get exposed to the best coaches in the state.”

Mountains and Plains’ C squad was put through its paces on Sunday, while the B squad camp will be held on July 19 and 20 at Orange Aquatic Centre.

The elite squad development day is in August, at Knox Grammar School in Sydney.

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