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Surf Sport coaches play a crucial role in developing, inspiring and leading athletes to achieve their goals within Surf Life Saving. Each fortnight we'll be profiling some of the incredible coaches from around NSW and finding out their tips and tricks and what they enjoy most about being a Surf Sports coach.

Daniel Robberds, Mollymook SLSC

Coaching Discipline: Beach

Brief coaching background:

I started coaching the Juniors at Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC back when I was 18 as a way to give back to a club that had given so much to me. At that point I was still competing but a few years later, after a few footy injuries and the expansion of my training group, I decided to focus my attention on coaching my senior group full time.

I had athletes from all over the Illawarra in my group and this started to expand into the South Coast. After a successful few years at Helensburgh-Stanwell Park SLSC, my training group changed and so did my own views about my coaching future so I decided to move to Mollymook in 2017. Many of my athletes followed, however, my group has always remained open to all beachies across the Illawarra/South coast region.

I have been lucky enough to also have experience coaching Illawarra and South Coast interbranch teams and more recently, three years as the NSW Beach Coach.

How and why did you get started in coaching?

My friend Laura Humphries and I had experienced success as competitors at the 2005 Aussies and we had such immense support from our club, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park and its members that we thought it would be a good idea to give back in some way. We started a small training group twice a week and from then on, I just fell in love with it. After my first season, I knew I had found my calling, and this then actually led me to pursue a career in primary school teaching.

What has been your biggest coaching success?

I have been very fortunate to coach a number of talented athletes over the years who have achieved great success at NSW, Australian and World Championships and also represented their country.

To be honest, my biggest success is how my little group, which started way back in 2010 and dubbed the ‘Sandrats,’ is still going strong all these years later.

Athletes ranging from 12-25 years old have made their way through my group and many of them I have seen develop from local branch champions to multiple Australian Champions.

If I were to pick one coaching success though, it would be that of two of my current athletes Sam Zustovich and Brock Scrivener who have dominated the beach flags in the youth age groups over the past few years. I have coached them both since they were 11 years old, watched them grow into young men, experienced the highs and lows of sport and life with them and I am just so extremely proud of both of them.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your coaching career?

I have been very fortunate to have known some great coaches over the years whose knowledge and techniques I still call on today. Ray Fox and Glenn Beveridge are two coaches who definitely shaped my understanding of how to develop young beach athletes and their wise words over the years have been very much appreciated.

My biggest influence, however, has been my goal to provide a place for young people to feel both challenged and supported, a place to develop strong social connections with others and a place to participate in something that is not only beneficial to them, but also to families and their local community.

What sort of recovery methods do your athletes undertake?

I am very big on coaching each athlete specifically to what works for them. All athletes are different, and their bodies react to different training in different ways and this must be taken into consideration when programming sessions.

For day-to-day training, athletes are expected to warm down at the conclusion of each session, through a slow jog, walk and light stretching. There is always a day between each of my running sessions also to allow for the body to recover. As we get closer to the major carnivals, it is obviously important to adjust this even more to best suit your athlete’s preparation.

One thing that has been huge for my athletes that I have only come across the past few years is Pilates. If you have not made this a part of your training week, then do so immediately as it is something I wish I had started when I was younger.

How important is technique work in training for your athletes?

Technique is huge in the development of athletes and is often more important to spend time on for some athletes then trying to just run fast all the time.

One thing I have spent many years trying to perfect is the coaching of technique in beach flags. I have come across a number of turns in my group and rather than try and change them to what many dub the ‘ideal’ turn, I have looked at the mechanics of the turn and how each specific movement can be developed to achieve the best outcome for the athlete.

My beach sessions begin with 15-20 minutes of flag technique work – focused on push back, weight transferral and body positioning. This is the key to consistency. Get it all working perfectly, then come race time 90 percent of the job is done.

How do you go about keeping your athletes motivated?

I am huge on making my training sessions social and a place where athletes can relax, have a laugh and make strong friendships. If you leave my session without a sore stomach from laughing, then I haven’t done my job properly.

There is enough stress in the lives of young people with social pressures and school that training should be a place where they can release some of that tension – through working hard and laughing harder.

I constantly remind my group about the importance of having balance in their lives, surrounding themselves with positive and supportive people and to remember the importance of a surf club as a healthy lifestyle – both physically and socially!

What do you enjoy most about coaching?

There’s nothing better than seeing a young person be proud of themselves. I get to experience it as a teacher and then also as a coach and for me there’s nothing more rewarding.

Through coaching I am able to pass on my knowledge of something I have loved since I was a kid and watch the same passion develop in a new generation. I have loved getting to know the ins and outs of my athletes as children then as teenagers and now as adults and I have made some lifelong friendships along the way.

I believe that coaching has so many layers to it, from managing to supporting to mentoring. To be in this privileged position to mould and guide is so rewarding and something that has helped me in its own special way.

What are three pieces of advice you would pass on to aspiring coaches?

  1. Get to know them as people, not just athletes. Cliché I know, but without that established connection with you, they will never reach their full potential and there is nothing worse for a coach than knowing you haven’t done everything in your power to ensure they do.

  2. Be upfront and honest. If an athlete can’t hear it from you, who can they hear it from?

  3. Ownership. If they want success, they need to believe they deserve it and that they can earn it. That means sometimes experiencing failures. Everything comes down to what they do, each session, each race. Win or lose, they need to understand and own it all.

Wednesday 30 September 2020