SSA to appoint new national head coach to lead drive towards high performance

SSA to appoint new national head coach to lead drive towards high performance
The victorious 4x200m relay quartet of (from left) Danny Yeo, Pang Sheng Jun, Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen at the 2015 SEA Games. The SSA’s new high-performance masterplan is targeting to send relay teams to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
PHOTO: TNP file photo

Wanted: A national head coach and programme director who has experience coaching top swimmers and possesses the ability to mentor coaches.

The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) is looking to make such an appointment, as well as to roll out several initiatives in the next few months as it targets sending relay teams to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The association unveiled its high-performance masterplan yesterday - which also included components such as coaches' education and incentives for clubs to upgrade their capabilities.


SSA president Lee Kok Choy said the association has "several" candidates in mind, who come from "two or three continents".

The New Paper understands that one of them is Australian Stephan Widmer, who was in Singapore in January to conduct coaching clinics.

The 50-year-old Swiss-born Widmer has coached Olympic champions Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper.

The new head coach and programme director will head a team of three, which includes National Training Centre (NTC) head coach Gary Tan and technical director Sonya Porter.

The SSA is also looking to appoint an assistant coach to help two-time Olympian Tan with day-to-day NTC tasks.

"We are hoping to bring in someone who has a (overarching) view of what is needed, who has personally coached high-performance swimmers, who can work together with Sonya to expand on the high-performance plan, and who has a background in developing coaches," said Lee, in a group interview at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.

He added that the appointment of the head coach is needed because the SSA wants to raise the capabilities of the coaches through education, and the association wants to reach out to affiliate clubs to tailor programmes to improve the clubs' ability to churn out more quality swimmers.

The latter task is spearheaded by Porter, but is "labour-intensive", and thus requires additional manpower.

Lee said the NTC was an "ideal training environment", with elements such as sports science and medicine also included - but limited to fewer than 30 swimmers in an intake.

"We need about 200 senior swimmers training at such high intensity, such that we can compete in every event and have a chance of excellence (at the world level)," said Lee.

Affiliate clubs are thus looked upon to upgrade their capabilities, through avenues such as education on the importance of sports science.


The target, at least by 2020, is to produce relay quartets who can qualify for the Olympics, and for swimmers to look beyond just qualification for the quadrennial Games.

Lee added that the SSA will not force its programmes on the clubs, but instead work with them according to their own aspirations.

He said: "It's not that we are going there and just implanting a high-performance programme. We won't have the capability to do that.

"It's engagement, development, working on solutions together and not to the stage of offering to implant solutions."

Veteran coach David Lim said the masterplan is "OK", but wants to know more details.

"They want to help, but how? What is our role?" said the Swimfast Aquatic Club founder and consultant for Chinese Swimming Club.

"Also, at the end of the day, I want to know whether my bottom line would be affected."

SSA's masterplan

  • Introduction of a national syllabus for "Learn to Swim" coaching.
  • Introduction of a national swimming proficiency testing system to track and identify talent.
  • Appointment of a national head coach and programme director, who is responsible for the professional development of coaches at all levels.
  • Introduction of a three-layer Podium Performance Programme, which will categorise clubs according to the number of athletes on the new national roster; clubs on different layers get different benefits, such as grants for high-performance programmes and roundtable discussions.
  • Introduction of a voluntary Club Excellence Programme, where the SSA works with clubs on specific and tailored high-performance plans for their athletes.

This article was first published on March 8, 2017.
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