“My job is to make the coaches even more professional.”
The Singapore Swimming Association’s new national head coach and performance director Stephen Widmer did not beat around the bush at his formal introduction in a media conference on Monday (10 July).
The Australian has more than 24 years of coaching experience and was most recently the head coach of the Queensland state with Swimming Australia. He has worked with Olympic medal-winning Australian swimmers such as Libby Trickett and Leisel Jones.
Since starting his tenure a week ago, he has had the opportunity to observe at least five different programmes. While he has been impressed with what he has seen so far, Widmer believes that Singapore swimming has the ability to achieve much more – part of the reason that he took on the job.
“Singapore has plenty of swimming and coaching talents,” the 50-year-old said.
“Did I believe there can be more? From what I saw in the water… professionally, I believe there’s going to be much more.
“I do understand there will be challenges. But we have to find solutions, and we have to make it happen. If the doors open a small gap, we have to push our way through it. Coaches and swimmers have to understand that.”
To achieve that, Widmer explained that his first priority here is to improve the level of professionalism of the coaches here in Singapore.
“I’m here to shift the coaches to another level,” Widmer said.
“I want to work with them, to engage with them, to engage with the team… I don’t want the coaches to take it as ‘I’m not good enough’. This is not an attack on them, this is professionalism. If we don’t move forward, we will be passed backwards. If we stay still, people will start to pass us.
“I want to translate my knowledge into the Singaporean sporting culture. I understand I have to ask, I have to listen, I have to question, but I have to starting shifting mindset and to influence change in behaviour.
“It is about working through coaches and specialists to improve athletes performances. I understand that I’m from overseas, but my passion is to influence the coaching culture of the locals here.”
However, he also understood that it will take time for the changes to be implemented.
“Education can’t just happen when I show up at the pool… obviously it takes much more time to change things,” Widmer stated.
Widmer also believes that these are exciting times for Singapore swimming. Pointing to the team of 30 swimmers going to SEA Games, Widmer said that the young team “bodes well for the future”.
Comparing the swimmers to those he coached in Australia, Widmer felt that the Singaporeans have a better “feel for the water”.
“There’s a lot of talent in the water. They are skillful, they travel smooth through water, and that excites me. They look better than most of the Australian swimmers,” Widmer said.
Yet for all of the potential in Singapore swimming, Widmer refused to put on record where he thinks the level Singapore swimming can eventually reach.
That is because he feels that potential is something that is very subjective.
“Some people achieve incredible things and reach their potential when they reach the SEA Games team, because their talent Is just limited… for me, it’s not just about winning a medal at the world championships, it’s about achieving your true potential,” said Widmer.