Crawley Swimming Club's Will is a national coaching hero

A Sussex swimming coach has won a national coaching hero award, after organising his own online sessions including Q&As with Olympians, coaches and other industry experts to help alleviate the isolation felt throughout the pandemic.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 2:21 pm
Crawley’s Will Philpot received a UK Coaching Hero award from HRH The Princess Royal for his work in keeping his community active throughout the pandemic. Picture: George Wood

From nearly 500 public nominations, Crawley Swimming Club's Will Philpot is one of 25 coaches across the UK to be crowned a winner at the UK Coaching Hero Awards.

The coaches, who were voted by the public for their innovations and achievements to keep people moving during the coronavirus lockdowns, each received a memento from UK Coaching’s Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal to mark the considerable difference they made to people’s mental and physical well-being.

To help swimmers cope with the stress and isolation of the pandemic, Will organised programmes designed to keep his participants active and engaged.

These included live workouts, cardio challenges, and even fun activities such as quizzes, cooking challenges, nutritional and ‘well being focused’ Zoom calls.

Will also pulled out the stops to provide Q&A sessions with swimming legends such as Chad Le Clos, James Guy, Hannah Miley, James Gibson, Teri McKeever, Ian Armiger and more – ensuring no time wasted for his swimmers despite a challenging time.

Will said: “When I found out I’d be receiving the UK Coaching Hero Award I was honestly stunned. I had to re-read the email about 4 or 5 times to make sure I hadn’t misread it!

"I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to be receiving this award. Coaching really means a lot to me.

“Being a swimming coach and having all the pools shut for most of the pandemic has been really challenging. I wanted our members to feel like we are looking out for our members.

"We went into the pandemic whilst I had a six-month-old baby so on a personal note, that was challenging on its own.

“For me, I have the best job in the world. I get to coach a sport that has given me so much personally, and I get to teach life lessons through sport to a group of people.

"A coach who is driven and passionate can be felt and seen from a mile away. Those coaches are the ones who have the biggest impact on people.

“Mental health is something that’s very important to me and something we as a club are working hard to ensure every member has access to the support they need. This pandemic has highlighted the need for extra focus on mental health and I am proud to be able to have an impact.

"But I know more can be done through teams and organisations working together and sharing resources for the athletes’ benefit.

“My personal coaching journey has been strange. My grandfather was a national standard coach, my parents both coached internationally with my dad having athletes at three Olympics so I have been around coaching and my sport all my life.

"The hardest thing for me has been finding my own path. Using the experiences and connections I’ve made to help me understand who I am as a coach and how I work best.

"My journey has highlighted my faults and areas I need to develop and as the sport evolves, I will have more to learn. That’s the beauty of being a coach, there’s always something new to learn.”

UK Coaching director of coaching Emma Atkins said: “Many congratulations to Will and all our winners. We applaud your efforts and the role you played in your communities, boosting morale and lifting people’s moods in a completely alienating time.

“Helping people to use sport and physical activity positively through challenging times is a privilege and one which carries huge responsibilities, and you took your duties seriously, using your initiative to create solutions to the embargo on most sport and physical activity – looking always to what was possible – thank you.”

UK Coaching opened nominations to its UK Coaching Hero awards initiative in 2020 after the first major UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown.

The charitable organisation wanted to acknowledge the efforts of coaches, who in difficult circumstances persevered and re-thought coaching techniques to deliver legal digital and one-to-one training, utilising sport and physical activity to keep people connected.

If you are interested in coaching or to progress your coaching career, visit ukcoaching.org.