Posted on Monday 6th May, 2019

Coach of the Year 2018 – Jan Croft

Congratulations to Jan Croft for being awarded our MSQ Coach of the Year for 2018! President, Shane Knight was proud to present her with this award at the recent State Championships at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre in April.

Jan Croft began coaching in 1962 at 19 years of age when Don Talbot asked her to become his Assistant Coach. Jan had been a member of Don’s squad who were training towards the 1962 Commonwealth Games, and whilst she did not gain selection to the games, she was the 1961 and 1962 800m female freestyle Australian champion.

Don must have realised Jan’s coaching potential some 50 years ago when he invited her to join his coaching team because since then Jan has established Learn to Swim Schools in Sydney and Brisbane and has also coached in Cairns before settling on the Sunshine Coast in 1996 where she became actively involved in coaching triathletes.

In 2005 Jan commenced coaching at the Noosa Aquatic Centre and in 2006 was invited to become the QNA Club Coach, a role she has held since then. She is genuinely passionate about Masters swimming but has always been inclusive of swimmers from clubs across Australia and internationally. Whilst Jan actively supports and encourages the QNA swimmers, she seems happiest when she is sharing her knowledge with all swimmers she meets.

Throughout her coaching career, Jan has always been an avid reader of every swimming coaching book she could find. More recently though and certainly in the past year, she applauds the internet for web sites like “Go Swim” and “Effortless Swimming” which provide her with a daily dose of coaching tips, articles and features. 

Late last year, Jan attended a Karlyn Pipes Weekend Coaching Clinic and benefited greatly from a two hour private session with Karlyn prior to the weekend workshop. Karlyn holds 43 world masters records and with that personal achievement to back up her coaching methods, Jan often introduces and references Karlyn’s drills and tips acquired at her clinic.

She is also a regular attendee at swim clinics run by John Rogers at the Noosa Aquatic Centre. John has a number of past and present World Champions in his squads and Jan enjoys adapting his coaching tips and techniques to suit her masters swimmers.

Some of the QNA swimmers are also triathletes and Jan has run two courses in the past twelve months to assist with techniques relating to the swimming leg of triathlons.

In addition, in May this year Jan is co-ordinating as well as presenting at an inaugural weekend swim camp for QNA members.

Over the past 14 years she has also been the driving force behind the “Come and Try” days offered by QNA which has seen the club grow in size and popularity as a result of her support and input at these sessions.

Jan is not only the QNA Head Coach, but she is also a very successful competitor at local, state and international competitions. This firsthand knowledge of competitive swimming has shown her the benefits of drills and good old-fashioned hard work. She works tirelessly on technique with all swimmers, no matter what lane or ability and using her humorous personality, she encourages every swimmer to give their very best at both squad and competitions.

She actively encourages members to try open water swims to strengthen their swimming experience and has travelled with club members to World Masters Competitions in Perth, Montreal and New Zealand. If she’s not away with a team at a State, National or International meet, Jan’s always checking on their on-line results and enjoys sharing their successes with other QNA members at weekly club meetings. She consistently provides positive and professional coaching advice after each swimmer’s competition.

Jan also actively supports the QNA Endurance 1000 program and leads by example, encouraging every swimmer to participate fully in the program, as she herself does. QNA has held the National Endurance 1000 points tally for the past eight years and members attest that this is a direct result of her enthusiasm and support of this program.

Jan genuinely loves swimming and her coaching truly reflects her passion. She’s supportive of all swimmers and takes great pride in seeing, and sometimes pushing, swimmers to move successfully up lanes as their ability and speed improves. In sunshine and rain too, she paces the pool deck presiding over her squad, constantly stopping individuals to talk about stoke improvement.

At squad she regularly reminds swimmers about the etiquette of lap swimming which is something most new and sometimes even experienced swimmers need to hear. It would be hard to find a day when she’s coaching, that her beaming smile is not evident on pool deck. Her professional, positive, friendly and encouraging personality is reflected in both her coaching and swimming ability.

She is a regular attendee at the after swim and social gatherings held by the club and makes sure new members are welcomed and included at all these gathering. Jan always contributes coaching tips to the monthly club newsletter and often speaks at club meetings about upcoming events and competitions.

As a swimmer, Jan is extremely humble about her own successes but as a coach she is the first to mention another swimmer’s success – and this is not just about record breakers. Her enthusiasm for swimmers breaking personal goals is something she loves to share with all.

QNA swimmers and those from other MSA clubs have this to say about Jan’s ability to improve their performance and fitness:

Carol Spencer-Gardner (VMV Marlins)

Trevor and I come to Noosa once or twice a year and always attend as many sessions with Jan and the Noosa Masters as we can.

We really love Jan’s sessions and are truly amazed how well she copes with the number of swimmers and varying degrees of ability so effortlessly.

Jan gives each and every person in her squad individual attention in some way during a session whether it be a little suggestion, a well done or stroke correction. Her sessions are varied and interesting.

The slowest and newest swimmer gets the same benefit as the more experienced and long time swimmers. The fact that we are from interstate (members of Malvern Marlins) makes no difference to Jan and we always feel so welcome.

Jan shows genuine interest in her people and whilst attending 2018 Pan Pacs as both a competitor and club coach had the time to enquire about how I was swimming and offered advice on how to handle specific events. 

Jan is a warm and friendly person with a wealth of knowledge and experience.  She encourages you to believe in yourself and have a go. 

Roslyn Mclean (Doncaster Dolphins)

I would like to put forward, what a great coach Jan Croft is. I come to Noosa every year and enjoy my training with Jan. She is dedicated to our times, stroke correction and overall improving our fitness . I think she is an excellent coach.

Brian Hoepper (QNA)

After years of solo swimming, I joined Jan’s Masters squad in Noosa. Jan’s coaching approach was a very effective blend of encouragement, expertise and expectation. For me it worked wonders, transforming my stamina and style and enabling me to become a consistent medallist at inter-club, state and (occasionally!) national swim meets, as well as a ‘top points’ participant in the annual Vorgee Endurance 1000 competition.

Linda Hogg (QNA)

I have no swimming background and only learned to swim through the Qld State Schools program where all Year 5 students were taken to the local public pool and taught the basics.

Almost 50 years later I retired from the workforce in 2014 and moved to the Noosa District and joined my first Noosa Masters Swim Squad.  Jan was head coach and put me through my paces. “Swim 100m” was the instruction, which I managed with aplomb.  I was given the tick of approval and started out in lane zero.  Definitely living the dream.

Jan has guided me over the last five years from complete novice to competing at National titles.  I will never be in medal contention, but Jan has helped me set time goals and technique challenges and has always encouraged me to “keep it real”.  I progressed through lane 1 to lane 2 and spent quite some time trying to improve my stroke.  When I discovered an adult stroke correction class being run by another local coach Jan encouraged me to participate and would often check in before squad as to what we had been focusing on.  Many of those drills were then incorporated into our drill sessions.  Gotta love polo drill!  Lane two was my home for quite some time but I have now progressed to lane 3 and sometimes sneak into the back of lane 4.  I would not have believed this possible when I started out with Noosa Masters.  Most of this is due to the dedication of Jan Croft as head coach and her encouragement to be the best swimmer that you can be, and who is there for ALL our members.

Jan is the coach that also walks the talk.  To have her on deck at meets, both big and small, is to have someone there when you need them, calm and composed.  One of my most memorable moments is lining up behind the blocks to swim my first 50m fly and to have Jan swimming in the next lane.  She very calmly informed me that this swim was well within my capabilities and I definitely had the fitness.  Well she was correct and then proceeded to beat me by a body length.

The success of Noosa Masters Swimming Club is largely due to our coaching “staff” and Jan Croft as Head Coach leads from the front.

Lois Hill (QNA)

At competition level, Jan has a knack of being aware how each of her swimmers has swum, even when she is competing in the same meet. Over the last few meets Noosa has attended, Jan has shown great encouragement and support to our newer members on carnival day, with gentle advice on warming up, what to eat, race ‘critiques’, cool-downs etc.

Jacky Shields (QNA)

I consider Jan Croft to be a great coach.  Her techniques are up to date with the latest theories.  Her enthusiasm and ability to extract the very best out of every swimmer, regardless of their ability is terrific.  She oversees everyone in four full lanes at training and has eyes in the back of her head.  She does not miss much.  At swim meets she observes and notes all members swims and can recall their times.

My personal highlight was at the Nationals in Perth 2018, where I took 15 seconds off my PB in the 400m Free and 30 seconds off my PB in the 800m Free.  I largely attribute my results to Jan’s excellent coaching.

Robert Jolly (QNA)

My name is Rob Jolly and I have been a member of the Noosa Masters Swimming Club since 2013.  I am delighted to write about our coach, Jan Croft, who has been an inspiration to so many swimmers.

In my retirement and at the age of 64, I decided to join the club with the intention of improving my general fitness through a routine of regular exercise.  After a 50 year hiatus in competitive swimming, even the warm up at my first training session was a challenge.  However, with the encouragement, guidance, pertinent advice and stroke correction of the coach, Jan Croft, I could feel myself improving quickly.  I began to really enjoy the training sessions and to look forward to challenging myself.  Initially, I was not sufficiently confident to do either butterfly or backstroke, but Jan ensured that I developed my abilities to such an extent that medleys are now my favourite events!

With my burgeoning confidence, and with the encouragement of Jan, I set myself the goal of competing in the Queensland Master Swimming Championships.  This was to be the first of many.  I not only met that goal, but continued on to compete and win medals in State, National, British, French and USA Masters Championships – even achieving an 11th placing in the 200m freestyle in the 2017 World Masters in Budapest. This year I will compete overseas in New York and at the US Masters National Championships in Mission Viejo CA.  

Jan has a coaching style and personality that enables her to relate well to those in her care regardless of age or ability.  Her sense of humour is certainly as asset when dealing with people like me! 

It is to Jan Croft that I attribute my successes and my continuing enthusiasm for swimming.

Rosa Montague (PowerPoints Melbourne)

I first met Jan Croft when we competed against each other in 2002 at the World Masters Games in Melbourne.  Even then, she was generous with her encouragement!  Subsequently, I have visited Noosa on a number of occasions and had the pleasure of joining the Noosa Masters squad to swim.  At meets, she is encouraging at the pool and at social occasions afterwards.  I sometimes wish that I lived in Noosa and not in Melbourne!

Dr Gerry Little B.Sc., Ph.D., B.D.Sc. Hons 1. (Toowooomba Masters)

I have been a Masters swimmer for a little over a year now and have found being involved incredibly enjoyable.  However, even more important are the people I have meet during this time, those that I have competed against, those that have organised and run events, and one coach in particular.

The coach in question is Jan Croft, at Noosa.  I have attended quite a few training sessions with Noosa Masters, even though my first club is Toowoomba, as I visit the Sunshine Coast frequently.  Jan always has an interesting and varied program for each group of swimmers and their skill levels at the training sessions.  What amazed me was that Jan would pull aside individual swimmers and address a stroke correction all through the program, even with a ring in like myself.  I found this incredibly helpful as she was so encouraging.  The programs have obviously required thought and planning, indicating Jan has spent some time in their development.  Jan also is an amazing swimmer in her own right, which I think really enhances her ability to motivate and improve the swimmers she trains. 

Jan Croft (right) with Margaret Fittock (QMM) on pool deck at State Championships 2019