Bill Sweetenham Awarded Life Membership of Swimming Australia
Bill Sweetenham, coach and coach mentor, has been awarded Life Membership of Swimming Australia.
Recognition comes at a turning of the tide in the governance of global swimming seven years after Sweetenham proposed to FINA leaders that they submit to a reform process. His request was first published by SwimVortex in an open letter to FINA. He was ignored, as were the members of the World Swimming Coaches Association who backed him, but now, the reform process has begun, along with the test of what “cultural shift” and “independence” look like in practice beyond the words written as recommendations by a Reform Group assigned to the task by the latest president of the global regulator, Husain al-Musallam.
Our Reform series so far:
- FINA Reform Part 1 – Is Swimming Coming Up For Air After Decades Of Stagnation In A Murky Pool?– in which we consider the pressing and historic issue of anti-doping, the importance of reconciliation and independence as the global regulator accepts the need for an Integrity Unitdivorce from the politics and day-to-day running of FINA.
- FINA Reform Part 2 – The Road To Good Governance & The Climate Change Required
- Related: What Swimming Can Learn From The Athletics Integrity Unit: Ex-WADA Boss David Howman On The Meaning Of Independence & More
- FINA Reform Part 3 – Marketing Aquatics Made Simpler: Better Battles In Cleaner Waters
As Swimming Australia notes today, Sweetenham is a 5 time Olympic Head Coach, 8 time Commonwealth Games Coach, 9 time World Championship Coach and has coached 27 long course medallists at major international meets.
He has also served as mentor to athletes and their coaches and continues to do so to this day. His successes include driving a cultural shift in Great Britain during the first eight years of this century, his work highly significant to the progress British swimmers and coaches have made over the past two decades.
In announcing the award to Sweetenham, Swimming Australia President, Kieren Perkins, Olympic 1500m freestyle champion in 1992 and 1996, said:
“Bill’s success in the pool and influence in the coaching ranks of international swimming is undeniable and he is a deserving recipient of Life Membership.His desire to improve the way we coach our swimmers has been critical to our sports long term success, as has his coaching performance at the highest level of our sport.”Kieren Perkins – image, Bill Sweetenham, by Wayne Goldsmith
Of late, Sweetenham has penned insightful pieces for SOS, including this on the coach and athlete partnership with Dr Bruce Lawrie and here, on the way to Tokyo 2020ne, where he asks Does The Athlete Understand The Difference Between ‘I Cannot Be Beaten’ & “I Will Win”?
Swimming Australia Dolphins Head Coach, Rohan Taylor, who lead Australia’s most successful Olympic campaign in the pool ever at Tokyo 2020ne. noted today:
“Bill has had an immense influence on my career. I first met Bill when I was a swimmer in 1985 and we have built a relationship from there. He has seen my transition from athlete to coach and I have learned so much from him over the years.
“He has shaped my philosophy and leadership style and continues to mentor me in my role now. I value his feedback and all he has to offer. He has done so much for me and I can’t thank him enough.”Rohan Taylor – image, Bill Sweetenham, by Wayne Goldsmith
The statement from Swimming Australia:
Bill Sweetenham AM Awarded Life Membership
Swimming Australia is delighted to announce that Bill Sweetenham AM has been awarded Life Membership after last week’s Annual General Meeting.
Sweetenham has had a long and storied career coaching in Australian swimming that has transcended the world swimming stage like no other.
Originally from Mount Isa, Queensland, where he was an aspiring coach, Bill was appointed as the first Queensland Director of Coaching in the 1970’s, working with the likes of Stephen Holland, Tracey Wickham and Michelle Ford.
He was appointed as the inaugural Women’s Head Coach of the AIS in the 1980’s and was made Head Coach of the AIS from 1985 to 1991.
As Head Coach for Australia at the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, Sweetenham oversaw the emergence of the Australian swim team. He also led the 1982 and 1986 Australian team at the Commonwealth Games.
Sweetenham has also been Head Coach of the British, Hong Kong and Argentinian Swimming teams and continues to provide mentoring and inspiration to coaches both in Australia and Internationally with his innovative thinking around the science of coaching swimming.
In 1989 Sweetenham was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and in 2018 was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Swimming Australia President, Kieren Perkins, said Sweetenham’s Life Membership is a just reward for his contribution.
“Bill’s success in the pool and influence in the coaching ranks of international swimming is undeniable and he is a deserving recipient of Life Membership.
“His desire to improve the way we coach our swimmers has been critical to our sports long term success, as has his coaching performance at the highest level of our sport.”
Swimming Australia Dolphins Head Coach, Rohan Taylor, credits Sweetenham with building his career.
“Bill has had an immense influence on my career.
“I first met Bill when I was a swimmer in 1985 and we have built a relationship from there. He has seen my transition from athlete to coach and I have learned so much from him over the years.
“He has shaped my philosophy and leadership style and continues to mentor me in my role now. I value his feedback and all he has to offer. He has done so much for me and I can’t thank him enough.”
Sweetenham is a 5 time Olympic Head Coach, 8 time Commonwealth Games Coach, 9 time World Championship Coach and has coached 27 long course medallists at major international meets.
End of statement.
A Tribute From Goldsmith After A Day Of Observation Beyond decades Of Observation
In penning his thoughts on Sweetenham in recent years, Wayne Goldsmith was present one day when Sweetenham was working with Argentinian swimmers and coaches. After observing what went down, he wrote:
Been on deck with Eddie Reese in Texas.
Walked up and down the pool-side with Gennadi Touretski while he was coaching Popov.
Been to a lot of pools and worked with many, many brilliant, innovative, talented, driven, passionate coaches.
Of all the coaches I’ve ever worked with, I’ve learnt the most from this guy.
Bill Sweetenham has been doing some coaching with a few of Argentina’s leading swimmers and yesterday morning I got the chance to spend a few hours on deck with a real Master.
I’ve known Bill for about 30 years. He’s been a mentor, a teacher, a guide and a good friend for over half my life.
And I am still learning from him. This is what I learnt yesterday:
- The days of writing simple, generic workouts and sets like 10 x 50 on 1:30 are over!
You need to be precise, detailed, deliberate and purposeful with each and every individual athlete you coach.
- It’s about coaching!
Everyone is focused on sports science or heart rates or lactate or under-water video. All these things have their place but when it comes down to it – it’s all about coaching – about connecting with the hearts and minds of your athletes and inspiring them to do extraordinary things.
- Workouts need to be connected – and linked – so that learning and improvement is progressive and the athlete grows from session to session with purpose and towards the achievement of a future goal.
- It’s not about telling and yelling!
Too many coaches think that being “hard” is somehow connected with the volume of their voice or how many laps they can force the athletes to do. Being “hard” – in a positive sense – means setting high standards in technique, skills, precision of workout execution and swimming load and then inspiring the athletes to willingly maintain or even exceed those standards BY CHOICE.
- This generation athlete responds very well to being included in the coaching process.
Again – too many people misinterpret this as a “soft” approach. Nothing could be further from the truth. Providing athletes with the opportunity to really learn – to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and to accept responsibility, accountability and ownership for their own standards is about as powerful a tool as there is in coaching.
I often get asked if Bill’s still “got it”?
I can tell you in all honesty as someone who’s know him for a long time and worked with him just about everywhere….he’s a better, smarter and more effective coach now than he’s ever been!