Everyday Heroes: Penny Rother
Triathlon coach Penny Rother is a passionate advocate of coaching and a champion of women’s sport and fitness. Her own story is a fantastic example to working mothers everywhere that there is an exciting life to be lived beyond the full-time roles of being a mother and having a career. She has balanced her career as a doctor with bringing up two children while still making time to compete in cross-country for Scotland and triathlon for Great Britain.
When she competed in her first World Triathlon Championships in 2001, she was self-coached and finished fourth. She thought to herself, ‘I wonder what I could have done with a bit of coaching.’ She adds: ‘I was then coached by professional coach Fiona Lothian – who is now Head of Performance at Triathlon Scotland – for eight years, and I loved it. She was fantastic at balancing work and family life with training. It’s a great example of what you can do with a bit of smart thinking around coaching. I am now coached by Linda McLean, who is a Level 3 coach in Scotland, and I still get so much out of it. But I wanted to give something back and help busy mums make exercise a part of their life alongside their children.’
Penny says coaching her crop of predominantly middle-aged female triathletes, who are members of Edinburgh Road Club, gives her a wonderful sense of accomplishment. She must be doing something right as, last year, she was crowned Community Coach of the Year at the UK Coaching Awards, as well as British Triathlon’s Coach of the Year, recognising her achievements in widening access for working mums through her coaching.
Her first steps into coaching came six years ago when she went along to the Great Scottish Swim at Strathclyde Country Park with three friends. Between them, they had 11 children, and afterwards, Penny asked them if they had ever thought about doing triathlon. ‘They were just swimmers and said they had never cycled on the road and would be too scared. So I promised to teach them.’ Two women went on to compete at the World Age Group Championships in London, which she takes pride in as one of her biggest achievements as a coach.
A Level 3 triathlon coach, she coaches a weekly swim session at the club and arranges the rota for the other sessions, while taking a weekly bike session for the triathletes all year round (and a second one in the lighter evenings from April to September). ‘I think it’s about planning and prioritising really, getting the best out of the individual.’
Continuing to advocate on behalf of the coaching profession, Penny closes by saying, ‘I want to encourage other people to become coaches, you don’t have to be a phenomenal athlete. The more of us that are doing it (coaching), the less onerous it would be on everybody.’
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