Surprises in pool

WHEN you coach young swimmers for a combined 44 years, you are bound to come across a few surprises.

Just ask Grafton Swim Academy coaches Lesley Crouch and Gay Cooper.

“(Champion ironman) Hugh Dougherty is one that I can think of straight away,” Cooper said yesterday.

“He was a real little devil when he first came to swimming classes,” she said.

“He just didn’t want to get in the water.

“He was a strong-willed little bloke, but I think that’s what you need to be a champion.”

In addition to Dougherty, the pair has given athletes such as Nathan Meyer and Josh Donohoe their start in the water.

However, it’s not all breaking in champions and teaching youngsters the basics.

“Teaching disabled kids is a really rewarding part of what we do,” Crouch said.

“It depends on the level of disability, but some who have more of a mental disability than a physical one can get a lot out of it.

“I had a blind girl who I taught to dive in the water.

“She was one of the most courageous girls I have seen. She was just brilliant.”

Cooper has been teaching the Grafton area’s youngsters to swim for 26 years and Crouch for 18 years, ever since she moved from Sydney.

Unfortunately for the duo, who have enjoyed coaching together for that time, Crouch is to leave the area soon to move to the Dapto area.

She is the grandmother of netball star Verity Simmons and her sister Marley, who works with the Australian Institute of Sport.

“We’re moving there so we can be close to the family,” she said.

Crouch thinks she might pull the plug on her swim coaching career, bar passing on a few tips to some grandchildren, but Cooper is keen to keep going as long as possible.

“I think I still have a lot to contribute and I still enjoy it,” she said.

“It’s a challenge and it certainly never gets boring.”



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