In the South African swimming circles, Rocco Meiring, is a force to be reckoned with as he has elevated the careers of local swimmers and vouches to continue playing his part to develop the next generation.
As explained by Meiring, he stumbled into coaching by chance as a student when he would coach kids in his neighbourhood for extra money.
In 1992, after completion of his military service, Meiring went on to work full-time in coaching where he developed swimmers and coaches from stroke teaching to senior national level in Pretoria.
Five years later, he took up the position as National Coaching director at Swimming South Africa where he was tasked to improve the standard of the sport in the country.
His first successes came at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, this was followed by an exceptional 2002 Commonwealth Games, the World record and medal-haul at the 2004 Athens Olympics, the first locally produced National training centre swimmers that made finals at the 2005 World Championships and the record medal count at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Tuks Swimming Head Coach admits that he has been fortunate to work with outstanding swimmers over the years and is currently preparing with the next generation of stars which include Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams from the Olympic Trials in Gqeberha, Meiring shares his thoughts on what makes a successful swimmer and desire to continue improving himself as a coach.
Rocco, thank you so much for taking time out to chat to gsport! How are things going your side?
Hi Celine, I’m very nervous because we are in PE (Gqeberha) to start our Olympic Trials.
We can only imagine as this is a busy period! What has it been like having to train and prepare for the qualifiers during Covid-19 times?
The experience was obviously very unusual but my team I are lucky to be at the University of Pretoria where the TuksSport management did everything they could to facilitate maximum and optimal preparation and support for their athletes and coaches.
Swimming SA did a fantastic job in getting us started as early into the pandemic as possible and to provide their swimmers and coaches with training camp opportunities and competitions…So, we have more to be grateful for than to complain and my swimmers and I have no excuses if we don’t deliver good results.
Having as much coaching experience as you do, how has the pandemic challenged you and the way that you manage your swimmers?
The pandemic challenged my coaching skills immensely, especially my ability to change my technical planning and the way I had to keep my swimmers focused and motivated.
“I started my career in swim coaching by chance. I taught the kids in our neighborhood to swim for extra money when I was a student and opportunities opened up from there.” – Legendary South African swimming coach, Rocco Meiring
Over the years you have had the honour of coaching great swimmers and currently known for your work with Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett. How did your career in coaching begin?
I am very fortunate to coach Tatjana and Kaylene among a very strong and motivated group of swimmers!
I started my career in swim coaching by chance. I taught the kids in our neighborhood to swim for extra money when I was a student and opportunities opened up from there.
What have been some of the difficult moments that you have experienced as coach?
My most difficult experiences are with parents that interfere in many different ways and then destroy the potential careers or positive experiences their kids could have had in the sport. I can handle most of the other challenges that cross my path, but I cannot beat the destructive power of the “dinner table talk.”
We can only imagine the amount of goosebump moments that you have been privileged to be a part of over the years. What are some of your highlights?
My highlights are obviously Tatzi (Tatjana) making history at Commonwealth Games and World Championships as well as Kaylene making the finals at Worlds, against all expectations…but my highlights are also the faces of expression of joy any swimmer of mine has when they break through the barriers of what they actually believed they could achieve, be it in training or in competition.
When you get to work with swimmers for the first time, what advice do you share with them, especially the younger swimmers?
Be patient, cherish the opportunity you have to develop your talent, learn to deal with knocks you are going to experience along the way, celebrate your achievements and don’t compare yourself to others when everyone is still growing.
Stay in the game for the long haul, because nobody really cares if you were a junior champion or not.
In your opinion, what makes a successful swimmer?
Combination of genetics, love for the water, ability to step up when pressure racing is on and ability to train very diligently.
“We need our best coaches in the best facilities across SA and we need to continually train our next generation of coaches better by placing the most promising young coaches with the most experienced coaches for a couple of weeks every year.” – Meiring reveals changes that need to be implemented to improve swimming in South Africa.
We know that in every aspect of life there is always room for improvement. What still needs to be improved on when it comes to South African swimming from development structures to national level?
SA needs more and better maintained year-round swimming pools, we need more tidal pools on our coast that are 25m or 50m long and where local kids can learn to swim or train in. We need our best coaches in the best facilities across SA and we need to continually train our next generation of coaches better by placing the most promising young coaches with the most experienced coaches for a couple of weeks every year, until they are ready to go at it alone.
SwimSA needs more funding, and the top swimmers need financial support to stay in sport longer.
What are you still aiming to achieve in your career?
I want to know that I am continually improving as a coach and that my coaching offering to my swimmers stay on World standard until I retire. I believe that if I do what I ask of my swimmers (and more) the rest will be in God’s hands.
Photo 1 Caption: Tuks Swimming Head Coach, Rocco Meiring, is a force to be reckoned with as he has elevated the careers of local swimmers and vouches to continue playing his part to develop the next generation. Photo: TuksSport (Facebook)