ABOUT TONY PEARCE
As a young swimmer from Gorringe Swordfish Swimming Club (now known as Merton Swordfish SC) in South West London, Tony joined the Croydon Amphibians where he competed at national level at both swimming and water polo. As a Senior swimmer he swam for London Otter Swimming Club, progressing to play water polo for Hammersmith (West London) Penguins at national league level. As a Masters swimmer, Tony was one of the founder members of the Spencer Swim Team, a legendary club that pioneered Masters swimming in Great Britain. Tony has successfully coached at Age Group, Open, Seniors and Masters Age Group levels for some 30 years. During this time he has taught swimming and water polo in a number of London schools including 18 years at St Paul’s Boys’ School in South West London, producing swimmers and water polo players to international level. A full ASA Coach and ASA Senior Tutor, Tony studied PE and Sports Science at the University of Loughborough. At Crystal Palace NSC he became Head Performance Coach of the Centre for Excellence Swim Squad and again produced swimmers to international level.
Tony was strongly influenced by the incomparable (late) John Verrier, GB Olympic Coach and later ASA Education Officer. Time training and competing in California under legendary US Swim Coach Dick Jochums also had a strong influence on him. He highly recommends P.H. Mullen’s book, Gold in the Water, to those interested in the sport. Tony is a member of USMS (Southern Pacific) and the Mission Viejo Nadadores Masters Swim Club.
As Swimming Coach of St Paul’s Boys’ School, he founded the very fashionable St Paul’s Barnes, now Barnes Swimming Club, where he is Head Coach for the Seniors and Masters Squad. Tony has received acclaim both as a writer and a cartoonist for his Masters swimming and how to survive it! articles. “As a Masters swimming coach, what do I actually do? At this stage in my life I have got it down to one thing: I encourage people. It is really as simple as that because what Masters swimmers are doing is swimming to fit their own image. Masters swimming is not a fashion, it’s a feeling. It’s where the soul drives the body. That’s right - no limits!”
It was 30 years ago. At that time I was a distance freestyle swimmer from London who had always wanted to be a swim coach. I had just finished a swimming coaching course but I felt I needed to know more before I started. So, after saving all my money, I travelled to California to visit the famous Long Beach Swim Club. That was when I first met the Head Coach Dick Jochums. At that time he had a swimmer by the name of Tim Shaw who was dominating world distance freestyle.
When I saw Dick Jochums coach, I knew this was…it. To me, his was the ultimate statement of coaching. Simple: no dressing, all substance, no compromise. Dick Jochums really made me feel that this was as good as it could get. To my mind, even to this day, no one is better.
I had visited other coaches but what really made an impression on me was Dick’s originality and unpredictability. His outlook was that we never stop learning. I remember that when I started coaching for real I tried to replicate this approach to coaching. I felt somehow that he was watching and this made me very self-conscious, but in a positive and constructive way.
Over the years there were times when I would question my direction. All I needed, though, was to listen to the latest of the Dick Jochums ASCA Conference audio tapes and his wisdom would guide me.
I also came to appreciate that while it was important to constantly work to improve one’s own coaching, it was even more important to learn to coach in your own way. This meant not only developing a deep understanding of the fundamentals of swimming coaching but, more importantly, to develop a strong philosophy behind one’s coaching.
Dick has produced great swimmers through his ‘system’ and has always had a strong belief that what he was doing was right. Some might perceive this as a form of arrogance, but I see this as integrity. I strongly suspect that even he doesn’t know what drives him relentlessly. This is because, in my opinion, he is a romantic. It seems to me that his coaching reflects the best ideals of Greek philosophy. Perhaps this is unfashionable in an environment where the difference between a diet supplement and a performance-enhancing drug has become clouded. But for me this is what makes him the great coach he is.
Looking back now, I realise that he was absolutely instrumental in helping me form my identity, not only as a coach but also as a person. I have often wondered what it would have been like to have been swimming and coaching with him.
Then, a little while ago, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I have - for the last 30 years!