Coach diving into NZ offer
AFTER 15 years transforming tadpoles into national swimming champions, coaching queen Leanne Speechley will make a splash at the Kingscliff pool no more.
The Sydneysider who has made Kingscliff her home for the past decade-and-a-half has agreed to terms with New Zealand-based swim school AquaGym from January, 2010.
“It was a heart-wrenching decision,” Speechley said.
“It was the hardest decision of my life, because I’m so passionate about the Kingscliff club.
“What Greg (Salter) and I have created at Kingscliff is awesome and I will miss it terribly.
“When I told everyone at the club, I was actually speechless, which is a big surprise for me.
“I couldn’t speak; I went weak at the knees and you could hear a pin drop, then there were tears and shock.
“I didn’t realise the impact it was going to have, but we all felt the same way – it was a really emotional experience.”
A talented swimmer herself in her heyday, Speechley began coaching at a young age and soon caught the bug, one that would see her make the long trip up the coast to work with the best – former Australian Coach of the Year, Salter.
“I was enthusiastic and wanted to learn more,” she said.
“I met Greg at a meet in Sydney and was attracted to his style; it was admirable.
“I asked if he had any work going and he said that as it happened there was an assistant’s position coming up at Kingscliff, and well, up I came.”
Fifteen years on and Speechley has worked with some of the nation’s best, from assisting Salter with Chris Fydler, Josh Watson, Sophie Edington, Lara Davenport and Ethan Rolff, to training her own stars in Matthew and Andrew Abood, and Hayley White.
Now she hands the baton down.
“We’re (Salter and Speechley) very lucky with what we’ve produced here, from national, world and Olympic champions, to primary and secondary school stars,” Speechley said.
“The club is going really well and I leave knowing it is in good hands with Ethan (Rolff) and Lara (Davenport).
“They trained extensively under Greg and are both passionate about the club, so I’m confident they’re ready to step up.
“I will still be attached to the kids, and their programs and results, and will always be keeping an eye on how they are getting on.
“This is still my home, I still have my house here, and I want to be able to return in the future, so I’m leaving all doors open.”
While committed to the move, Speechley admits she still wasn’t sold on the idea and would rather have stayed in Kingscliff if she were able.
While she inevitably made the decision to move across the Tasman herself, she says Tweed Shire Council had a large part to play in her decision, ultimately forcing her to make a difficult choice and outraging several members of the club and local community along the way.
“There’s a little bit of uncertainty about the Tweed swimming pools at the moment,” she said. “The council hired someone to look into the pools and compile a report on them all.
“The uncertainty of Kingscliff and my future instigated everything to do with my move, and a lot ofpeople are unhappy.
“I tried to find out about thefuture of the Kingscliff pool and myself alike, and would have stayed if they could assure me of a positive future, but they did not have ananswer for me.
“In the end I don’t want to be out of a job and so had to look after my future and do what I thought best.”
The Tweed Daily News attempted to contact council yesterday on the matter but received no response.
As was the case with her move from Kingscliff, Speechley met her prospective employer while at amajor swim meet some months back. It was the opportunity to further advance her coachingcareer that attracted her to the offer.
“The idea has been brewing up for a few months now.
“It all began when I went toHobart with Hayley (White) and Andrew (Abood) and the Kiwi head coach asked me to apply for a job over there.
“I entertained the thought and eventually went through the process, as they really wanted me to take the job.
“In the end they offered me an exceptional deal and eventually I took it. It’s a new challenge and I’ll have a greater opportunity to get swimmers onto a national team and be closer to the international scene than I can get in Australia.”
The experienced trainer said AquaGym was very comparable to Kingscliff, and that was definitely another drawing point. “One of the great things about AquaGym is that it is very similar to Kingy in the whole vibe, feel and passion surrounding the club,” Speechley said.
“We’re hoping to become a sister club with Kingy and do some cool exchanges with my old kids.”
Speechley leaves for NZ on January 2, but won’t be alone for the first couple of weeks.
To avoid homsickness, and to advance his swimming of course, Speechley is taking star product Andrew Abood with her for the first two weeks. Abood will join Speechley’s new squad for a special training camp in Nelson, NZ, before returning to Australian shores and completing at an altitude training program in Thredbo with White ahead of the NSW State Open Championships in February.