Coach Of The Year 2019 Sean Williams
Posted on Sunday 19th April, 2020

MSQ 2019 Coach of the Year

Sean Williams, one of our MSQ Directors of Coaching, has taken out the coaching award for 2019. 

Masters Swimming Queensland is proud to announce that Sean Williams has been voted as the MSQ 2019 Coach of the Year. Thank you for the time and encouragement you willingly give MSQ swimmers across the State. Congratulations from all of us!

They say a coach can change a meet but a great coach can change lives.  That is true about Sean Williams.  Swimming with Sean is challenging and rewarding but it is wrapped up with some fun for good measure.

In May 2018 Sean was appointed the coach of the UQ Masters Swimming Club.  

Sean coaches 14 sessions per week with the earliest session starting at 4:30am. In those squads there are all levels of swimmers including competitive masters’ swimmers, Fin Fit swimmers, recreational swimmers, triathletes, open water swimmers and students from the University of Queensland.  Nobody knows how he does it but the squad numbers can range from 10 to 60 swimmers in any session.  The words “Set Go” instil fear because you know he will have his trusty stop watch out looking at that timed set.

Sean is only too happy to discuss your goals not only for the short term but long term.  He plans his sessions for the major meets during the year and tries to accommodate every swimmer for their particular needs for that meet.

In 2019 he took on the role of Coaching Director at MSQ.  During his time as Coaching Director he conducted swimming clinics, attended the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games to be the “on site” coach for everyone and he has also implemented a coaching team.  At meets, not only is he there for his UQ swimmers, but you can often find him having a chat to everyone about their swims or sitting in the middle of a group of swimmers having a laugh about life in general.

Since starting at UQ, UQ’s standing within the masters’ ranks has improved.  Although you can sometimes hear grumblings after a hard session (which is normal for any swimming squad), every swimmer enjoys the hard work and their performances, whether they are in a pool, triathlon or ocean swim, are evidence of the work not only the swimmer puts in, but the number of training sessions that Sean conducts and how they are structured.

In November 2018 (some six months after Sean started at UQ) 23 swimmers attended the Pan Pacific Masters Games.  For quite a few swimmers this was their first Pan Pacs.  He knew the right words to say to every swimmer at Pan Pacs to calm their nerves so they could achieve their best performance.  At that meet UQ swam in 149 races, came away with 42 gold, 26 silver, 29 bronze, 18 PPMG records, 8 Queensland records and 2 Australian records.

Four months later, 13 swimmers attended the National Championships in Adelaide.  UQ came 4th overall even though there were bigger teams who attended the Nationals.  UQ also won the 160-199 age group relay trophy.

At the Queensland Championships UQ put in another stellar performance with 32 swimmers attending and coming second by 87 points.

Coach Sean on pool deck at the UQ Sport Aquatic Centre.
UQ Aquatic Centre morning squads

I know that I speak on behalf of UQ Masters Swimming Club when I say:

It is one thing to be a coach

Another thing to be a mentor

But a completely different thing to be a leader

We are all proud to be led by a coach, mentor and leader like Sean.

Sean congratulating Glenn on his swim.
Deep in thought! (GBRMG19 – Cairns)

An Interview with Sean

How did you first become involved with swimming?

I was a junior swimmer for Across the Waves swimming club in Bundaberg Queensland. Starting learn to swim at a small privately owned swim school K&K swimming I progressed through to junior and regional levels of racing. I was coached under the late Allan Turner and progressed to State and National level age group and open meets. Although I performed well in the pool, it was my first and only coach that gave me an opportunity to pursue coaching to keep me out of trouble when I was 15 years old – assisting with junior swimmers.

What do you love about swimming Coaching?

It is the relationships that are built between coach and athlete. The opportunity to impact a swimmers’ life in and out of the pool. Medals, records and teams are great recognitions of the hard work that swimmers and coaches do together – but they are a bonus. That hard work solidifies life-long friendships that can continue well past the laps and yelling on pool deck.

When did you first join Masters Swimming Coaching?

I had always coached Masters athletes during my time as a Head Coach at Ferny Hills Swimming club, however I moved my coaching focus from elite age group swimming to Masters in 2018. I had recently been through a personal illness and decided on a change. I wanted to still be involved with swimming and swimming coaching but was of the mindset that I needed to coach athletes that were not as demanding as age groupers. Boy, was I wrong…. I was astounded at the level of competiveness within Queensland and Australian Masters athletes. The talent and dedication was second to none among mature age swimmers and there was an opportunity to really develop a high-performance swimming culture to accompany the social and community network already within MSQ. The challenges were similar but new at the same time – and always just as rewarding.

Most memorable swimming moment?

There are too many to list just one. I have enjoyed success across a number of platforms of swimming…. State Age and Nationals, Inter School competitions, and now presently with the University of Queensland Masters swimming team. Narrowing any one moment down to being the most memorable is too hard. However the moments that bring me the most joy within myself as a swimming coach are seeing the development and plans come together and work. Watching an athlete achieve goals, helping to develop coaches and guide them with ideas that generate success for their teams and athletes, being a member of a team and imparting a small touch on the overall outcome. I believe it is always more memorable when you can share in triumphs with people and teams.

Favourite events?

Without a doubt sprint events. Fine tuning the smallest of details to find that extra 1%. Getting it all right to find that .01 of second improvement or messing up one small intricate part of the race and having to try and do it all again next time. The excitement that comes with that pressure is what makes swimmers swim and coaches tick.

How often do you coach, and where?

I coach every day of the week (excluding Sundays). I invest the bulk of my time into the UQ Masters swimming club every morning from 4.30 until 10.00 (give or take). This training ranges from 16-year state and national level swimmers that compete and train in a new diverse environment, through to university swimmers balancing swimming goals with study, and onto elite masters’ athletes and triathletes. I try to make the squads as inclusive and engaging as possible so that any swimmer regardless of talent or goals can work at a level that challenges them… And myself as the team coach.

The afternoons I share between coaching the Mt St Michaels’ girls swimming team and All Star Aquatics junior swimming club with my Co-Coach Jonathon Ellis. I also conduct private swimming coaching with multi class athletes. This allows me to still be involved with age group swimming whilst coaching masters as well.

What motivates and inspires you?

I find that swimmers in general motivate me to be better at what I do. Seeing the effort, dedication and sacrifice that athletes make to better themselves motivates me to be the best I can be, and to be there on pool deck as much as possible. The next big swim is always around the corner – some of these will be successful, some won’t. But seeing athletes come back for more regardless of results is what keeps me wanting to contribute the best I can as well.

In regard to coaches that have inspired me, Brendan and Tony Keogh helped me develop a lot of my own coaching philosophies. Brendan has always been someone I have respected as a team leader. David Heyden, the head coach at the University of Queensland is someone I enjoy working with on a peer level developing ideas and strategies for the UQ team, and Jonathon Ellis is a coach that motivates me to strive to get better and better at the business side of it all. The opportunities I have to work with such a wide variety of coaches from so many aspects within swimming is a blessing.

Have you had setbacks to overcome?

Of course – everyone does. But setbacks are opportunities to learn and improve, to evolve and get better. My coaching has been a roller-coaster ride… up and down. But like all good rides once you’re down the bottom it’s just another chance to get back on and have another go.

Favourite things? Likes and dislikes?

Outside of coaching – I really enjoy archery and fishing…. Collecting comics and brewing beer. I love spending time with my wife and son at home when I get the chance. Dislikes, waking up early and work that I should have done yesterday.

What upcoming events are you targeting for your team?

The Pan Pacific Masters Games in November is key event for the University of Queensland. It will lead into the Great Barrier Reef Games in 2021 and hopefully onward to the World Masters Games after that. For the age group swimmers I coach, the state and nationals are always a priority – however its helping those swimmers achieve a balance in life so that they stay involved with swimming long term.

Other interesting/little-known facts about you?

Can touch my nose with my tongue….. ;p

Philosophy on life? Favourite saying?

Hahaha, I have a tonne of sayings and motivational quotes ranging from pirate ships to Santa Clause – I base my coaching on that sometimes more than the technical aspects I know about swimming. But probably my most common go to is “Let’s Rock N Roll” and “Yewwwwww!

What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a Masters swimmer?

Go for it! Give it a go. Swimming is lifelong – in and out of the pool. You don’t need to be the best, just the best you can be – the results will work themselves out.

Coaching at the FinSwimming Nationals

Many thanks to Kylie Cox and Team UQ for submitting Sean’s nomination.