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WTC's Interview with Edward Sinclair

Edward Sinclair is a double Olympian, swan at World and European Championships and a former European & British record holder. He now runs Maximum Performances, coaching across the age groups, regularly holding swim clinics and is Head Coach at the Teddington Swimming Club.



Which Training Camp - Why did you become a swimming coach?

Ed Sinclair - As an athlete, I represented Great Britain at several World and European championships at junior and senior level. I have also competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Games. But then needed a year out of the sport because I suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome from overtraining. After my recovery, I started training again and was fortunate enough to be part of the GB team again at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and taking the year out inspired me to pursue a career in coaching to pass on my knowledge and experiences. I didn’t want this experience happening to anyone else.

WTC – Where did you start coaching?

ES – I began back at Millfield School, where I’d been a pupil, as assistant coach. Good coaching opportunities don’t come along very often and in 2005 this one presented itself. I might have spun out my competitive career for another couple of years, but this was a chance not to be missed, as the Head Coach was Doug Campbell. Doug is a great planner, a great professional and has coached many Olympic Swimmers. The prospect of working with and learning from him was exciting. During this period, I was able to gain all my National Swim coaching badges. Doug also asked me to take over all the land training for the swimmers so I gained lot of knowledge in this area, too. I have done a lot of research into land training, talking with Auburn University and other training centres in the USA to keep up-to-date with the latest sport science trends.


WTC – What is your coaching philosophy?

ES – I believe in long term athlete development and setting the right pathway. You can’t put athletes into boxes to produce a quick fix. You have to treat each swimmer as an individual.

I believe that swimmers should be self-motivated and should have a good balance in their life. To help that balance I believe that the swimmer, their parents, their school, their coach should be involved in the decision making process.

Swimming is about repetition. Swimmers usually take more than 3,000 strokes per session with some children swimming 3 – 5 sessions per week. So it is important that good fundamentals are ingrained, especially at younger age where a lot of mentoring and moulding goes on. I believe that less is more; swimmers should focus on training quality technique rather than chasing the metres. A lot of fitness can be also gained through activities other than swimming.

WTC – Why did you start Maximum Performances Ltd?

ES – I started Maximum Performances Ltd in 2008, with my friend and fellow swimmer, Matt Kidd, who is also a Double Olympian. We deliver swimming courses to swimmers and triathletes across a range of age groups and abilities. Our aim has always been to give back to the sport, share our knowledge and experiences and inspire the next generation of athletes. When I was younger I was coached by another Olympian Paul Howe who won an Olympic bronze medal at the age of 16 and this experience motivated me to aim for Olympic.

WTC – What are the aims of the Maximum Performances swim courses?

ES – We look after swimmers and triathletes from 9 years of age through to senior elite level and the swim courses will be either one day or multi-day (usually 3-5 days) training camps. Some courses have a high level of technical focus whilst others are more tactical and fitness based.

We encourage the swimmers to try different approaches, trying to get them to think more for themselves, and place a strong emphasis on explaining why we do certain things in swimming. We don’t dictate one method, we give them options to explore and try out, so they can find out what works best for them. We give them a log book so they can write down, in their own words, what was addressed during the course and this also helps them to develop ownership of their training. Working with the athletes, helping them to get better, is what motivates us.

The new generation has access to Google, YouTube etc., and all they need to do is type in “high elbow” and they can see what it means. But the flip side is, can they put the processes in place to achieve that high elbow? They all want to swim 23 seconds, they know all the answers but it’s getting them to understand the processes and that is where we can help.

Youngsters are not yet developed enough physically to swim like Michael Phelps; as a child you can’t dive in and have the stability of the international swimmers. Some parents ask if we can stop this or that and I say yes, but not instantly, because it’s all about building things up, improving the technique, gaining the strength, which all take time and patience.

WTC – How does that sit with the swimmer’s club coaches?

ES – We’re not confrontational, nor do we believe that we have the one and only way forward. We believe in sharing knowledge and learning from each other. Because of my competition background I know a lot of other swimming coaches. I like meeting with them, talking with them about their athletes, noticing a change in their swimmers and asking the coach what they’ve done to achieve that.

Seeing the same swimmer day in, day out you may start to miss something. When I was a swimmer, my regular coach had missed a detail that was picked up by a visiting coach. His advice made a substantial difference to my performance. My regular coach had become so familiar with my style, we’d simply not noticed what was right under our noses.


WTC – Do you think swimmers should specialise from an early age?

ES – You can’t really tell at a young age who will be good at what event; some swimmers, for example, start as distance swimmers and end up as sprinters. I believe the younger swimmers need to practice all the strokes as this develops more muscle groups, helps with proprioception, motor skills and improves their overall technique. If you don’t work on the other strokes it can eventually hold you back in your best event.


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Categories: All topics, Interviews, Swimming

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