I went right back to coaching with my local club and teaching with Stockport Metro. Getting back to training was hard work, my body had been through a lot and living in another country and culture for a year has a bigger impact than you would think. Gradually I swam more, ran more and coached more. I’d gone full circle. Over the following 12 months I was told to stop taking the medication given to me by the Doctor in China and that there was nothing wrong but I knew something wasn’t quite right. I was still seen by a cardiologist for my blood pressure. I pestered for a 24-hour ECG, I knew something was wrong! The results were a bit of a shock, I had a heart block. My heart was pausing for up to 20 seconds through the night.
I was booked in to have a pacemaker fitted within two weeks but was able to go home and take it easy. Exactly two weeks after this appointment I was admitted to hospital with my heart pausing for over 20 seconds at a time and the longest being 35 seconds. My resting heart rate was 22 beats a minute. The pacemaker surgery was a major success, I didn’t know what a regular heart rate felt like and was convinced I was having a heart attack because my heart rate was a mighty 70 beats per minute, what felt like 200 beats a minute to me!
Again, skipping on a year, I qualified as a primary school PE teacher, was the coordinator of my local swimming club “non competitive2 section where I was in charge of the children completing tier challenge badges.
Everything was going to plan. I was coaching, teaching, swimming and running again. Coaching and teaching are often seen as separate skill sets or jobs but having combined these in schools and swimming I feel the blend between the two is too complex to separate and something we shouldn’t try to separate, it’s what makes teachers coaches, and coaches teachers.
This was where the pivotal moment was to define my life. Teaching a maths lesson and not being able to feel my left side or recognise my own left hand holding the pen in front of me. Something was wrong. It was like electric shocks from the left side of my head to my toes. I was sent to hospital and within 6 weeks was diagnosed with epilepsy, you might as well have hit me with a truck!
- I am a coach.
- I am a swimmer
- I am a teacher
- I am successful
- I have a car and a house
- I am an epileptic, a sentence that even now I have serious issues with!
To Give It Up, or to Give It My All, That Is the Question
I gave up, I can hand on heart say that moment I gave up. My health snowballed out of control, simple partial seizures built to complex and grand mal seizures to the point my life was at risk on a number of occasions. Remove the top five bullet points I have listed and that was what I was left with.
As a coach, I want you to ask yourself, what/who am I? the next person you see ask them the same question. Without using your name, what/who are you?
My mum at home, “I’m a mother”, at work “I’m a teaching assistant”
My sister at work, “I’m a teacher”, at home “well, I’m not really sure”. She is actually an exceptional musician!
My coach, “I’m your coach!”. What he may or may not realise is that he is much, much more.
What defines us as coaches? What gives us the instinct to reply with our position in sport?
My identity changed in a 5 second statement by a neurologist, but looking back my identity as a coach has not always been my immediate response or ideal however looking back at my life since my first coaching position it has been like a slowly burning ember in a fire, just waiting for the next spark or small amount of heat to keep it burning.
Part 3 coming soon…
Bio: I have been swimming since I was 3 years old, training with a competitive club since I was 5 and first raced at the age of 6. I am passionate about swimming and it has been the focus of most of my life. Having gained my Level 1 and 2 teaching certificates I studied at the University of Gloucestershire from which I hold a BSc in Sports Science and Coaching. I have coached mainstream and disability squads with both Gloucester City Swimming Club and Stockport Metro prior to and during my time at University. After I finished my BSc I spent a year coaching swimming at the Shanghai REGO International School I returned to competitive swimming in October 2015 where I now train within the Masters program under Harry Needs at Stockport Metro swimming Club. I compete in masters events across the country and am aiming t5o compete in next year’s World Championships in Budapest. As of September 2016 I will be studying for an MSc in Sport, Physical Activity and Mental Health. My ambition is to able to write and publish works in this area of sport particularly with a swimming focus of parents, coaches and swimmers alike.