Jock Campbell award SLSA Coach of the Year

6th November 2017

In 2003 our great Australian Cricket Team was awarded the huge honour of the World Team of the Year at the prestigeous Loreous Awards. I was the Strength & Conditioning Coach at the time and I was very proud of our team. To me this Coach of the Year award has eclipsed that one, and that’s not taking anything away from the team award. Let me tell you why.

To win a coaches award means you have to have committed athletes that train with you and believe in what you’re doing. It also means that people in the right places value what you are doing in and with your sport, which I value a great deal.

Firstly to my athletes, thanks for your attitude, teamwork and dedication. I love seeing the way you all train, race and support each other. You do everything I ask and more. An example, in the Wanda Xtreme 6 race last month, Ali Najem won and then immediately turned around and said I promised Lara I’d go back and run her to the finish line. So instead of getting interviewed and photographed as the winner he ran back to get his team-mate. Likewise, Lara has been doing the same at training with one of her team-mates that’s been struggling. This is a regular in our training and racing and makes me so proud. Because of this type of attitude we get great results in races and competition.

From our nippers, senior club athletes and to our masters, it’s fantastic having them all train together, support each other, sledge each other if anyone’s heads getting too big, which means as mine is quite large at the moment and I’m probably due for some of this constructive encouragement. 

All my Surf Life Saving competition athletes are amateur, but many of them training like professionals which is what makes me so proud of them.

Winning this award puts distance running competition in Surf Life Saving on the map, and that what we are doing at Wanda SLSC is valued by the Surf Life Saving hierarchy.

The 2km Beach Run used to be an event only held at the World Titles as far as I knew. I’d heard about it and thought it would be a great race. I was coaching sprinters at the time in SLS and convinced one of my Touch Footy girls, Dearne Cooper, who ran well in the sand, to compete the 2006 World Titles in Lorne Victoria.  Dee was able to win, and she outshone my sprinters who came second in the beach relay and Zane Campbell who was running for Australia.

But it was the men’s race where 3 blokes all took different lines to the finish and started sprinting for the line 300m out. You couldn’t tell who was in front, and no one relented until they got to the line, where they all collapsed in a heap. This race hooked me. I loved it. It takes everything you have in training and racing to do well in and soft sand is one of the toughest surfaces to run on.

The first race we put on in the Wanda Carnival 10 years back where we had around 8 runners in it had humble beginnings. To now where at the world Titles in France in 2014 there were 260 registered for the open men’s, with 150 actually competing and having heats of the event.  It’s amazing where the sport is going. We have built our squad at Wanda to over 30 runners just in the 2km and won 12 2km Gold Medals at Nationals, and 6 World titles.

Thanks to all the parents that I ask to bring their kids to training all throughout the year, rushing them too and from school and all over Australia to races and carnivals.And to all my masters that bring their kids to training and even on the podium, it is a real family affair and just a great time of our lives.

I came into Surf Life Saving quite late. I was around 27 (1995) and had just finished playing 10 years of Sydney Grade cricket. I didn't really feel like I belonged as a surf life saver until I had done my first real rescue where we saved some lives. As an athlete I didn't think I really belonged until I won my first Aussie title, and that was only masters a few years ago. As a coach, I started straight away as I already coached a few of the ironmen and women for their weights and running for the uncle toby's series. I have to thank Simone and Nathan Cotter who I coached when they were stars for encouraging me to join,  who together with watching Trevor Hendy and Guy Andrews, who glide across the sand when they ran on TV, for igniting my passion in the sport. These awards this year has really made me feel like I belong and that what we are doing is worthwhile. I never got into this to sport get awards or recognition, but it has been really nice and a great feeling to win this award.

Thanks to my great club Wanda SLSC for nominating me for the Sydney award; thanks to Sydney Branch for supporting all that we’re trying to achieve in Surf Running; thanks to SLS NSW for always trying to help and help me improve; thanks to SLS Australia for continuing to drive the sport to new levels and to ILS for leading the way and pushing our sport and more events throughout the World. Of course thanks to Mel Campbell for just letting me go hard with Surf Life Saving Sports without question at the expense of other work and for jumping in for the ride in winning 3 World Titles herself last year. Thanks to our great long-term sponsors of SKINS Compression Garments, Crust Cronulla, Adidas Eyewear and T-Bone Media who believe in what we’re doing as well.

The best thing we’ve done in this sport, which I eluded to before is saving lives. After a training session late one afternoon in 2014, Ali (who couldn’t swim 2 years before), myself, Jae Withers (16 at the time and having just completed her Bronze) and Mitch Palmer rescued 3 kids being swept out to see in a solid rip. It’s the first time I’ve had to do a rescue where I thought those kids would have drowned without our help. We all worked as a team and all our years of training clicked into action. If we hadn’t been training for our sport that night, with no one else around, those kids were in real trouble.

This is a big reason why I love this sport so much and am proud of my team and proud that together we have won this coaches award.

Look out 2018 - we’re coming.