Swim Ireland continue recruitment as "world class" performance programme takes shape

Steven Beckerleg speaks to Newstalk.com about joining Swim Ireland and working with Jon Rudd

Swimming, Swim Ireland

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Jon Rudd's appointment as Swim Ireland's new National Performance Director (NPD) last year signalled the organisation's intention of being among the best in the world.

Only a small team of swimmers - including one diver - travelled to Rio last year for the Olympic Games, but it hasn't swayed Swim Ireland's ambition.

This week, another two coaches have been added to the performance staff and will begin training youth and senior teams in Abbottstown.

Bethany Carson and Steven Beckerleg have both been added as assistant coaches, alongside a yet to be named National Head Coach.

Speaking to Newstalk.com this week, Beckerleg admits he was impressed by the framework laid out for the years ahead.

"Jon is trying to build a world class programme here," he said. "He’s starting to get his pieces into place.

"There’s probably only one more cog to the wheel and that’ll be a head coach.

"In terms of facilities, they’re second to none. It’s up there with Great Britain, United States and Australia. If not better. There’s a lot of room for progress and I think it’s going to be quick progress."

Beckerleg joins Swim Ireland having worked alongside Rudd at Plymouth Leander for three years. He was involved in training Olympians Ruta Meilutyte, Ben Proud and Antony James on a daily basis. 

Action gets underway at the 2017 Irish Open Swimming Championships in Abbottstown last month. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Not just on a coaching level has the 27-year-old worked with Rudd. As an accomplished swimmer in his youth, Beckerleg won medals at the European Youth Olympics, World Schools and European Schools Championships under Rudd's tutelage.

"I knew Jon was leaving to become the NPD in Ireland and I thought it was going to be a great opportunity for him. He left Plymouth Leander, which was his baby.

"Looking at the way he works, I know he’s very methodical and very structured. When the job came up I knew I was going to apply."

Retirement

Beckerleg's decision to give up his own career came at the age of 23. Injuries hampered his career - most notably a serious wrist injury that ruled him out of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I had a hernia when I was away on a training camp in New Zealand and Australia, but it was the wrist injury that really caused the problem. I was out for a year and a half."

A return for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 set him up to for another tilt at the Olympics in London.

"I missed out on qualification for the Games by 0.2 of a second. That finished me." 

This experience, he says, has benefited his coaching career because he has been able to relate to swimmers working through injuries and disappointments.

"Every athlete will experience setbacks. I fully understand how they feel and how hard it is to get back. Making sure the swimmer is in the right frame of mind is imperative.

"There’s no point in just training up and down if the swimmer isn't right mentally. It’s good to have an understanding of how they are feeling on a day-to-day basis."

Beckerleg admits that coaching wasn't his vocation, but the chance to work with Rudd again was too good to pass up.

"I stumbled into Jon’s office one day before the Olympics [in 2012] just to say hello. He convinced me to come back and start coaching.

"I wouldn’t say I was 'built' for coaching. I get on well with people quite easily. The coaching is mostly down to Jon. He’s been my coach for 18 years and worked with him as a coach for three years.

"It was an opportunity I couldn’t really miss in my personal career. I’d been at Plymouth for 20-odd years so that was difficult. It is like leaving a family.

"But they all understood. In order for me to progress and fulfill my ambitions, where I see myself being, I needed to take this step forward."

Beckerleg and Carson get to work this month and await the appointment of a National Head Coach. The first test to see if any of this "quick progress" will be made will come at the European Junior Swimming Championships this June and July in Israel.