As a parent of two sports sons, I know just how important a coach is in the life of a child. They are the experts in their particular sports fields. They guide, teach, advise, and correct our children in their passion for a sport. Many times these coaches fade and blend into the background as the focus goes onto the achievements of an athlete who does well in his or her sports.
But with this new series called “Meet the Coaches” I want to bring our coaches back into the front line. I want to say: coaches you matter, you make a difference and you are sent by God to guide and lead our children in their sports paths. I want to thank and celebrate our coaches for their long, hard hours and passion in teaching and training our children not only in sports skills but also in important life skills.
Today I am talking to Coach Hendrik van der Merwe. A great Olympian, true athlete, and a man who does not shy away from long hours and hard work. One who personally knows the “grind”, with a deep passion and dedication to see his young athletes that he coaches progress to the top.
Read on to find out more about this special coach!
Your nick name is Coach Legs – tell me a little bit about that?
The nickname Legs comes from one of my very first swimming tours. At a SA Schools Champs to Durban I made friends with two girls on the swim team, they gave me the nickname of Legs. Ever since the name just stuck, with family, friends and colleagues. I guess it is because people are comfortable with me, due to the fact that I am always making jokes about my disability. There is no time in life to look down on yourself.
How did you get involved in swim coaching?
Swimming is my life, I was forced to give up my own swimming career, because bills need to be paid and I do not get the time during the day anymore to train like a professional, of course me being me, I do not like doing things half. None the less I love my job as a Coach. I get to be involved in the sport still, the swim team gets to inspire one another, I get to produce quality swimmers, and I absolutely live for that indescribable goose bumps feeling that sport gives one, it is simply amazing. Swimming is a way of life and one will never survive in this sport unless you as an individual is driven by passion.
How long have you been coaching?
I have been coaching now for + – 3years.
What do you think are the top 1 or 2 characteristics of a good coach?
It will be difficult to name only two characteristics although two very important characteristics would be: Sharing a common love with your swimmers, and for you and the team to have the same visions moving forward.
What is your favorite part about coaching?
Showing the swimmers that they are capable of so much more. Creating stronger more confident swimmers. What we apply in the pool can also be applied in our day to day lives.
At this moment – what are you working on with your swim team?
Currently we are just working towards a successful year, although most of it being achieving more goals and improvements in training. After all, if one wants to race passionately, one must train passionately.
If you have to sum it up shortly, what is your number one aim as a coach for now and for the future?
Producing Olympic Athletes, and becoming one of the world’s greatest.
Are your all work and no play with your swim squad?
I am all about hard work, but it is important to play hard as well. Then again content vs context means everything.
If you could change a rule in swimming, what would it be?
Allowing more dolphin kicks on the breaststroke start.
Besides your professional work as a coach – what do you have a passion for?
I have a passion for keeping fit, and I have a strong liking to the pit bull dog breed.
Name the best moment of your coaching career so far?
Every day of coaching will have a minimum of one or two good moments.
Tell me about what you like to do to relax?
After a long week of coaching and working out, I do absolutely nothing and just plain enjoy being lazy.
You are an Olympian who participated in the 2012 London Paralympics Games. When you swam for you country, what did it feel like?
Swimming for my country gave me a good feeling and sense of achievement. It was a very proud moment for me competing in various IPC world championship events.
What word of motivation do you have for young athletes?
Train as perfect as possible, focus on doing the small things right. Always have long term success in mind when working towards a goal. Without passion nothing is attainable.
What is your favourite motivational quote?
”If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice. Perseverance, Gratitude, Blessed life.
Watch him on YouTube – https://www.youtube.