Mel Marshall On Coaching Adam Peaty and Preparing Athletes For the Biggest Platform of all

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Melanie Marshall - Photo Courtesy: Action Woman Twitter

Mel Marshall says that creating independent athletes is paramount for a coach if they are to succeed on the biggest stage of all.

Marshall has coached Adam Peaty to Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth gold with the Briton having taken the 100m breaststroke into new waters.

The double Olympian is also coach to Luke Greenbank who took 200m backstroke bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju where he went on to swim the lead-off as Great Britain won the men’s 4x100m medley relay.

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Photo Courtesy: Mel Marshall and Adam Peaty

For Marshall the work done in the weeks, months and years before an event will mean that an athlete is physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead.

In a film for Team England, Marshall said:

“I think the one thing that needs to be remembered is, with any multi-sport event, there’s the preparation coach and there’s the arena coach, and I think if you’re doing a good job as a coach – a preparation coach – then your athletes should arrive at these events responsible, independent, confident and capable.

“I think if you  mollycoddle athletes and if you prepare the road for the athletes, rather than prepare the athlete for the road, they will get very lost very quickly and things will get very stressful in that environment.

“So it’s about making independent athletes, and then when you turn into arena coach mode, when you’re actually in the environment with the athlete it’s your job to quieten down the noise and flatten the waves, it’s your job to bring it back to what it’s about.

“There can be 5,000 people watching, 10,000 people watching, a large amount of social media following, your mum and dad in the crowd, but it’s about bringing it back down to the small things, which is your event.

“The court is the same size, the pool is the same size, you’ve been doing it since you were 10 years of age, and really making sure that athletes know that it’s the same job, that it’s the same business that they’ve been doing every single day since they were a young kid.”

Mel Marshall has the most painful of experiences to draw on. She led the 200 free world rankings in 2004 but intense training following the British trials had left her feeling drained and ill-prepared and optimism had turned to dread going into the Athens Games where she finished 16th.

In an article to mark International Women’s Day, Mel Marshall told Swimming World:

“I just didn’t feel I was ready, I felt quite frightened about it. I felt like training hadn’t gone as well as I had liked it to go.

“I just felt overwhelmed. I was aware that in the arena I would be in, I couldn’t arrive in that place where I hadn’t had the perfect preparation.

“I just wanted it to be over.”

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Melanie Marshall with her charge Adam Peaty at 2015 World Championships, celebrating a debut World title – Photo Courtesy: Melanie Marshall/Twitter

Marshall won world, European and Commonwealth medals – including six at Melbourne 2006 – before retiring following the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

She then became head coach at the City of Derby club where a 14-year-old Peaty came along one day with his friend Kyle.

Although Marshall was quite unimpressed with Peaty’s freestyle, she immediately knew he was special when she saw his breaststroke and the wheels were set in motion.

He made his senior international long-course debut at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he won gold in the 100m breaststroke and with England’s medley relay as well as 50m silver.

Since then the pair have been on an odyssey that has seen Peaty become the first man to not only swim inside 58secs but also break the 57-sec barrier when he touched in 56.88 at the 2019 World Championships.

Peaty – who last week became a father when partner Eiri Munro gave birth to George-Anderson – would have been the overwhelming favourite at Tokyo 2020 and only the second swimmer to retain the 100m title after four-time Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima.

Now he will have to wait until July 2021 when the rescheduled Games are due to go ahead.

On what it takes to coach a champion, Mel Marshall said:

“I think as a coach you need to be ahead of the game, five steps ahead of the athlete all the time. You need to be five steps ahead of what’s happening around the world.

“You need to be five steps ahead of managing yourself, and managing your time, and making sure that you are able to deliver your best effort, and best performance as a coach every single day.

“And I think it’s about discipline and I think it’s about consistency so if you have 16, 32, 48 weeks of excellent consistency as a coach, then the results will come to you.

“And I think it’s really important that when you’re preparing to be a champion or you’re preparing to get the best out of yourself that you get the best out of yourself every day and you’re honest with that.”


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