Melanie Marshall Named 2019 High Performance Coach Across All Sports In Britain

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Melanie Marshall, mentor to Adam Peaty, has been named UK Performance Coach Of The Year All Sports - Photo Courtesy: UK Coaching

Melanie Marshall, mentor to World-title winners Adam Peaty and Luke Greenbank this year, has been named High Performance Coach of the Year across all sports in Britain.

The UK Coaching Awards also recognised the work oDanielle Brayson in swimming, as Talent Development Coach of the Year during the ceremony at the Tower Hotel in London.

Former international and podium placer for Britain and England, Marshall recently topped the billboard as coach of the year at the 2019 British Swimming Awards for a fourth time since 2014.

Recognition of Marshall’s work stands in stark contrast to the questionable omission of Peaty from the shortlist of those up for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award selected by a panel of ‘experts’. Peaty was left off the list despite having amassed more global prizes and having shown more leadership than the majority of those who did make the list, regardless of whether you consider fact or opinion.

The omission of Peaty has led to a wave of criticism on social media not only of the BBC and its panel of expertise but British Swimming. Parents of leading swimmers, including Peaty’s mother Caroline, are among those who have asked the federation to step up its own performance when it comes to engagement with the media and the art of selling swimming beyond its traditional niche and fandom at a time when the sport is slipping down the ranks of television and press coverage.

Best known for her work with Peaty, the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion who wrote another line in history this year with a third straight double victory over 50 and 100m at the World Championships in Gwangju, Marshall has more strings to her bow.

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They’ve climbed mountains together – Mel Marshall and her charge Adam Peaty on high at a different camp earlier in the year – Photo Courtesy: Mel Marshall and Adam Peaty

After their success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Marshall moved, Peaty in tow, from the City of Derby Swimming Club to head the team at the Loughborough National Performance Centre.

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Luke Greenbank and Adam Peaty cheer Duncan Scott home to medley relay gold with James Guy at the World Championships in Gwangju – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Greenbank has been among her charges since. He made his senior breakthrough this year, claiming bronze in the 200m backstroke at the World Championships and sharing historic gold with Britain 4x100m medley relay mates Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott as they took the World title over the United States in Gwangju back in July.

In Glasgow at the European Short-Course Championships this week, Greenbank snatched bronze in the 200m backstroke on the first day of racing and yesterday set a second personal best in two days for a place in the 100m final today.

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Luke Greenbank – Photo Courtesy: LEN

At Tollcross in Glasgow today, Greenbank paid plaudits to Marshall when he told Swimming World’s Liz Byrnes:

“Mel is an absolutely amazing coach: she has done some fantastic work with me. It’s great to have someone who you work with every day who is so upbeat and so motivating.

“She has certainly helped me come a long way from where I was, working with her for the last three years: coming away with two medals from the World Championships was absolutely incredible and she has helped me fulfil my potential better than I ever thought I could.

“I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Mel – without you I wouldn’t be here.”

When Peaty was awarded Swimmer of the Year last month, he recalled the amazing medley moment:

“It’s probably one of those moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life in terms of the minute details. When Duncan dived in we were behind America and Russia, who both have world class swimmers, so for him to come back on that last 25m was extremely exciting. I started jumping up and down with 25m to go and it got closer and closer and then he chewed them up in the last five metres – I’ve never seen anything like it!”

No British swimmer has ever retained an Olympic swimming title in a four-year Olympic cycle (Henry Taylor won the  1500m free at the ‘1906 intercalated Games’ and then again at London 1908). Given that and other issues, what is ‘success’ at Tokyo 2020, Swimming World asked Peaty. He replied:

“Success to me is getting the best possible performance in Tokyo. Im very aware that winning olympic gold is extremely hard but winning it again is 100x harder. I feel like me and Mel have the almost perfect formulae to deal with any hurdles along the way but it really comes down to me being me on that day and just letting it happen; I don’t get caught up in all the dancing around the Olympic Games, I guess deep down I always know what I can do at the right time.”

Marshall has had an influence on Peaty since he was 11 – and from the time he was 14, she was guiding him towards daily habits he would master on his way to his masterpieces of pathfinding breaststroke.

Marshall The Mentor Mindset

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Mel Marshall in praise of her Pride in the London Roar Pro Team – Courtesy: Eurosport freeze-frame

Peaty has benefitted from Marshall’s experience as an elite athlete and the learning curve she has harnessed herself to since ever since she took up coaching as her racing days drew to an end.

UK Sport runs an elite mentoring program in which elite coaches form many sports share knowledge in a cross-fertilisation of ideas, methods, approaches, mindsets and more.

Marshall, head coach to London Roar and heading into the first Final Match of the International Swimming League in Las Vegas on December 20-21, provided insight into the value of that program when this author asked her earlier this year to talk about the challenges that success brings.

She recalled the moment Gareth Southgate, the England football manager and part of the mentoring group Marshall works with, said to her that “success has enemies”. Marshall explained:

“The hardest thing to deal with for us is opinions. There is a real pressure to be perfect all the time – but we’re not. We make mistakes. The scrutiny we come under for that is something that all sports stars come under: people assume because you have success and because people have money somehow they deserve to lose that gold or whatever.”

Southgate knows it x1000 and more in the realm of a professional sport where much greater financial rewards and recognition also come with many a downside, including having his players face racist taunts from the stands, constant criticism for “failing” and much else from the many who have “more opinion than knowledge and understanding”.

Southgate told Marshall that handling such things came down to “maintaining your integrity and not fighting with people who are envious of the position you’re in”. Said Marshall:

“Their opinion is often not based on fact, its something formed on the feelings they have about the things they don’t have in their own world.”

Don’t have in their own world. That can include an unusual and specific kind and level of dedication, hard work and habits for long stretches of the year that monks and saints might recognise better than the average man on the omnibus.

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Former Britain teammates James Gibson and Mel Marshall, coaches of Energy Standard and London Roar

UK Sport’s elite coach program is designed to ensure coach leaders are on the cutting edge of their game. Said Marshall:

“You need to be up to scratch: the UK Sport program was fabulous for me because just spending time with Paula Dunn from British Athletics (another on the course with Marshall and Southgate) and others in similar positions. 

Marshall likens the mission of any trying to get to where no athlete has been before as the sporting equivalent of “… one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” in the sense that behind the showcase moment, the celebrations and fun, the history in the making, there’s extraordinary levels of commitment and dedication. She adds:

“Heaps of challenge. Yes, it’s great fun but you’re telling me that the first time they sent someone to the moon it wasn’t bloody hard work? Absolutely it was. We’re trying to do the same thing: do something no-one ever did before – and we haven’t got the same budget of NASA, if you know what I mean.The biggest challenge is just making sure we save the emotion for when it matters: you have to channel everything that’s made you cross or something you’ve been passionate about and save that emotion and energy and then harness it and fire it out when it matters.

As part of her mentoring learning curve, Marshall got to interview some of the biggest leaders in coaching and performance sport, including former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Rugby guru Eddie Jones, head of UK Sport Baroness Sue Campbell, rowing great turned leader Katherine Grainger and Marshall’s former team leader Bill Sweetenham, a man who revolutionised British Swimming between 2000 and 2007 in a way still being felt to this day.

To understand where Peaty fits in the stratosphere of British sports greats in a league of their own, think Lewis Hamilton, Sir Steve Redgrave, a Ferguson-led Manchester United. The status of swimming in that league may let him down but not through any fast of his own.

Sir Alex cut an impressive figure as one of 24 leaders interviewed by Marshall as part of a UK Sports mentoring project. Her mission was to learn more about “how we make the impossible possible”.

Raw material is a good starting point. Peaty’s power rests, says Marshall, in his ability to “work harder, stay longer, give more and go beyond like no other athlete I’ve known … that’s what singles him out.”

Even when the seven miles a day in water a day with gym and weights on top gets too much and Peaty needs time out from routine, Marshall finds “lots of different things for him to do.

“Last winter, I went running with him, the physiologist went cycling with him…”. There’s much more to it than that, she says, recalling with pride:

“This is not just from a point of view of swimming but also in the last 11 years we’ve cycled across Africa together (in aid of a charity for women and vulnerable children in Lusaka that embraces sport as a way of building lives), we’ve put beds into orphanages with our own hands, we’ve done 50 hours of sport program, been petrol-bombed together as a part of ‘Character test’ and camped in the middle of the woods as unit.”

“Life’s about experiences and we grow through experiences and my job as a coach is to help him mature in a rounded way,” she says. “If I don’t help him in his life and help him to grow as a person, that’s not what I do coaching for… my job is to produce results but also to help to develop rounded people. That’s very, very important to me.”

UK Coaching Awards 2019

More than three million people ‘coach’ across many diverse realms in the UK: the UK Coaching Awards celebrate and recognise those who contribute every day to enriching the lives of their pupils and others around them.

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Melanie Marshall with her charge Adam Peaty, in 2015 celebrating the first of six World breaststroke titles – Photo Courtesy: Melanie Marshall/Twitter

In 2014 after Peaty’s international breakthrough of Commonwealth and European crowns, Marshall, then at City of derby and now mentor at Loughborough’s National Centre for Swimming, was voted British Swimming’s first woman coach of the year. It would turn out to be the first of four straight victories.

Marshall says she travelled a valuable “learning curve” through a mentoring program run by UK Sport and then in her role supporting the next generation of coaches. She is also a finalist in England’s High Performance Coach of the Year award.

Speaking about her UK Coaching recognition, Marshall said: “It’s a real honour to be nominated for the UK Coaching Awards, but it is recognition of all the hard work which goes behind the scenes from the entire staff team at British Swimming.

“I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the most talented swimmers of our generation, and it is their commitment to achieving their best which inspires me to coach. I see how our athletes are inspiring young people to take up swimming and being involved in the England Talent Coaching programmes gives me an opportunity to see that first hand – it’s great seeing children get so excited about the sport, have fun and aim high.”

Recognition for Danielle Brayson

Brayson, the Performance Development Head Coach of the City of Glasgow’s Swim Team, lifted the Talent Development Coach of the Year award.

One of her standout moments of 2019 came through the rapid development of Louis Lawlor who, at the age of 17, won bronze while representing Great Britain at the 2019 World Para-Swimming Championships in London. Outside of the pool, Brayson has been a key support for Lawlor and his family, after his mum passed away earlier in the year.

Along her other highlights were helping Mark Ford and Katie Shanahan secure places on the Great Britain team for the European Youth Olympic Festival while volunteering with the Scottish National Youth Squad. Between them they returned with eight medals – four gold and four silver. Brayson said:

“So many great coaches have won awards like this before, so I feel really privileged to win something like this and be alongside them. I’m lucky enough to have worked with and coached so many great kids. Working with them and working with great people is what keeps me motivated and keeps me coaching.”

In other awards, Judy Murray, mother of tennis ace Andy, picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her 30-year tennis coaching career.

UK Coaching Awards 2019 – All Winners

12 prizes were awarded at the prestigious annual celebration of Great Coaching – the UK Coaching Awards, which was this year held at The Tower Hotel, London.

The awards honour #GreatCoaching from people and organisations, and demonstrates the role coaching plays in transforming lives and inspiring an active nation.

The Winners

Awards for Coaches

The Awards for Coaches are given to individual coaches who have excelled and shown outstanding commitment in a certain area, or to an individual and/or group over the last 12 months. Collectively, they are:

High Performance Coach of the Year – supported by UK Sport

  • Melanie Marshall (swimming)

Talent Development Coach of the Year – supported by UKPCA

  • Danielle Brayson (swimming)

Children and Young People’s Coach of the Year – supported by sportscotland

  • Sasha Moore (multi-sport)

Community Coach of the Year – supported by Spond

  • Andrew Beech (multi-sport)

Changing Lives Award – supported by Sport England

  • Ben Lampert (football)

Young Coach of the Year – supported by Sport Wales

  • James Galt (football/futsal)

Lifetime Achievement Award

Judy Murray OBE was announced as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award last month, and was formally recognised at the Awards for her achievements through a lifetime dedicated to coaching.

The Coaching Chain

The coaches of England Cricket World Cup winner Ben Stokes and Team GB Olympic sailing champion Hannah Mills were announced as the winners of The Coaching Chain award last month.

The coaches behind the success of Stokes are Jon Gibson, John Windows, Geoff Cook, Andy Flower and Trevor Bayliss, whilst Mills has been guided by Anne Barrett, Ollie Green, Alan Williams and Joe Glanfield.

Awards in Support of Coaches

The Awards in Support of Coaches recognise those who recruit, develop, educate, qualify, and/or deploy coaches effectively in the UK. Collectively, they are:

Coach Developer of the Year

  • Sue Ringrose (horseracing)

Transforming Coaching Award – supported by Believe Perform

  • Great Britain Hockey Coach Development Offer

Coaching for an Active Life Award

  • The Bulldogs (boxing)