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07 Mar 2023 329

Swim England Para-Swimming Coach Zoe Stemp’s ‘bizarre’ journey into coaching

Winchester City Penguins Assistant Head Coach and Swim England Para-Swimming Coach Zoe Stemp spoke to UK Coaching – the national body for sports and activity coaches – about her unplanned journey into coaching as part of the 2023 International Women’s Day celebrations

Zoe’s coaching career began in 2010 when balancing a full-time job with being a membership secretary at her daughter’s club, Haslemere Swimming Club.

The mum of two felt she stumbled upon coaching: “My background in swimming was a little bizarre. I started as a membership secretary at my daughter’s club before getting drawn into learning to teach. Fast forward a few years, and I have just joined Winchester City Penguins as Assistant Head Coach, and I’m a Swim England Para-Swimming Coach for the South East Region.

“Being in the coaching environment really made me want to stick with coaching as a dedicated career. I love teaching, but I wanted to continue to progress and reach the next level.”

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, Zoe reflected on what it is like being a female swimming coach and cites former British swimmer and now coach Mel Marshall as her inspiration. 

I have always felt really supported in my journey as a coach. I did a ‘Women in Coaching’ course supported by Mel Marshall. I found her so inspiring and realised how interesting coaching was. I have always had such positive experiences, even though it’s a predominantly male space. The most important thing is everyone in coaching feels supported, and I have always felt the support of my peers.”

Zoe finds the day-to-day achievements matter most to her, from supporting a young child through her first dip in the water, to squad swimmers achieving their PB’s and qualifying for county finals. 

Reflecting on her coaching journey, she said: “There are so many moments I am proud of, but the smaller things are what really keep me going. For example, the swimmers who don’t believe in themselves but then achieve the very thing they thought they couldn’t. These lessons aren’t just swimming but also lifelong skills they are developing.

I would encourage anyone to become a coach. The hours can be long and it can be hard work, but the feedback and buzz that I get from it are all worth it. Seeing the children enjoy swimming and knowing you’ve helped them progress is incredibly rewarding.”

Zoe’s ‘bizarre’ progression through coaching is something she never expected, and she wants her story to show that anyone can be a coach. UK Coaching founded the #Born2Coach movement on these beliefs. #Born2Coach aims to increase the coaching workforce by sparking people’s motivation and drive to become a coach and empowering those who already coach to advance their skills.

Inspired by Zoe's story?

If you would like to find out more about how you can get into coaching, visit our #Born2Coach page and start your coaching journey today.