Nino Severino: Champion by name, Champion by nature - Dave has done so much for Ipswich sport
In his latest column, Nino Severino meets a coaching hero of his - Ipswich swimming legend Dave Champion.
I’ve spent a huge amount of my life in sports coaching, and as I was coming through the ranks, there was one coach who was really creating a name for himself on a global level whom I always hoped one day to meet.
Unfortunately for me, over 20 years of coaching, and all my time on the World Tennis Tour, that meeting never took place.
But, I’m very pleased to say, as Director of The Hub at the University of Suffolk, two weeks ago I experienced the honour of meeting this man – Ipswich swimming legend Dave Champion.
When I was told that the Hub was going to have the opportunity to work with a coach of Dave’s level, I was not only personally excited, but very pleased for all the sports science and coaching students that would have the opportunity to communicate with him.
Dave has been the head coach at Teamipswich Swimming since 1988, when it was known as Ipswich Swimming Club, and it’s safe to say that the club has come a very long way over the 30 years he has been at the helm,
Dave asked The Hub to present across a number of components including nutrition and psychology, which of course both Dr Gavin Devereux (head of sports science and coaching) and I were pleased to arrange.
Dave organised for all the invites to be sent out to his swimmers, he told us that the attendance should be good, and he was absolutely correct – in fact, in all my time as a presenter of this type of event, I have never experienced an audience so big from one club.
For me, this was a reflection of the respect this man enjoys. I suppose if Dave Champion asked you to attend an event, you’re going to think it’s a good idea!
And there is a very big reason everyone who attended took his advice, it’s simply because very few coaches in Britain can boast the level of success Dave has experienced.
Some of the most ‘famous’ athletes that have been coached by Dave, in Ipswich, include Karen Pickering MBE, Zoe Cray, Neal Studd, Brett Lummis, Lewis Coleman and Rebecca Sherwin, all of whom have represented Great Britain on the international stage.
He’s been involved in four Olympic Games, numerous World and European Championships, and has actually been the head coach of Great Britain on multiple occasions.
All my readers must be getting very bored of me saying this, but I’m going to squeeze it out one more time! Ipswich has so much to be proud of, and without a shadow of a doubt, Dave Champion is a major jewel in our sporting crown.
After meeting, I asked Dave if he was happy for me to attend one of his training sessions and within a few days, I was watching him deliver his craft at Ipswich Crown Pools.
We had some very good conversation in between the training, and Dave told me: “Swimming is an extraordinary sport that can be likened to riding a dragon, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, but you’re always moving that’s for sure.
“For the swimmers it requires dedication and commitment, equally so for the parents. They train at 5.15am, five mornings a week, with evenings after school as well, long days with wet hair are par for the course, but so is a massive sense of achievement.”
I often talk about the value of sport for young people, not only physically and mentally, but also from a life experience point of view.
Dave and I discussed this and he agreed, saying: “We’ve had some amazing athletes represent us and go on to become great people. I’m a firm believer that the primary role of any coach is to make great people.
“Honest, hardworking, respectful young people with a great work ethic and a healthy outlook on life. It’s no wonder that swimmers are highly prized employees with their time management skills, focus and goal-oriented lifestyles, our swimmers become great citizens, that’s undeniable. “We have lots of parents at the club who used to swim for us here, and all our coaches are ex-swimmers from our club, it can’t be a coincidence that all our coaches are internally appointed.”
This was music to my ears, and for me, as good a validation as I could ever receive for my thinking on this subject.
It was also fantastic to see the very talented Zoe Cray is Dave’s assistant head coach – she is a masters World Record holder and still current European Record holder, and is without doubt a massive inspiration to the young swimmers coming through the ranks.
I can say – and I am sure many of you would agree – that Ipswich sport, and the swimmers who have been guided by Dave, have much to thank him for!