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Robin Cottle, Reporter
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Gary Rogers has been head coach at Romford Town Swimming Club for almost 19 years – and he has no plans to give up just yet.
He’s seen scores of young hopefuls pass through the pool at Abbs Cross Lane, Hornchurch, including disabled swimmer Amy Marren, who was one of the nominees for BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2013.
The 56-year-old explained he is still going strong purely for the love of the sport.
“I love everything about coaching and I’ll keep doing it as long as they want me and as long as I keep enjoying it, which I still am after all these years,” said Gary.
“No day is the same and at least one kid says something which puts a smile on my face every day.
“The 4.30am starts don’t get any easier as you get older, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Gary is a former swimmer himself, having competed for Redbridge on the county circuit for more than a decade.
He got into the coaching side of things when his children – first Erin and Kimberley, and then the younger Joshua, took an interest in the sport.
The coach admits he misses competing, but simply doesn’t have the time with his coaching commitments as well as his work for an accountancy firm.
He said: “I do miss competing, it was always an unbelievable thrill.
“Romford has an excellent masters programme but I just don’t have the time.
“There are 10 training sessions a week – five mornings and five evenings five days a week – and I go to competitions probably every other weekend.
“It’s very intense.”
Gary, of Harold Park, Harold Wood, reserved special praise for his protegé Amy Marren.
The 15-year-old won four gold medals and two silvers at the IPC World Championhips in Montreal last August, and her coach is expecting big things of her in 2014.
“The focus this year is the European Championships, where she should get some medals,” said Gary.
“There’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as well but we need to see what Amy will be able to compete in for that competition.
“I’m immensely proud of her, she trains so hard. She deserves all the success she’s had.
“Amy’s still a typical teenager, which is exciting because it means she’s still got a lot to learn – and she really wants to learn.”
The father-of-three initially started out coaching at the club on a voluntary basis before the role became full-time.
So what does it take for someone to be successful in swimming? Commitment, says Gary, because there can be no half measures.
“It becomes like a lifestyle,” he explains.
“You have to really want to do it because it’s so full-on, not just for the young swimmers but also for the parents who are taking them to training and competitions.
“You can’t do it half-heartedly because there are a lot of sacrifices. There needs to be 100 per cent commitment.”
One of Gary’s children, 30-year-old Kimberley, swam in national competitions, so it seems that in the Rogers family, swimming excellence really did run in the genes.
For more information on joining Romford Town Swimming Club, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.romfordtownsc.com.