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Profile: Denis Cotterell

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performances


Paul Quinlan

Denis Cotterell, a graduate in Physcial Education and a top-level coach in the Australian coach accreditation program, is one of a new breed of coaches who has studied both professionally and by association with top coaches throughout the world.

Denis began his coaching career in 1967 as a junior coach with the late Gordon Petersen at the famous Valley pool in Brisbane. Shortly after that time, Shane Gould came to Petersen when her father was transferred to Queensland as an airline executive. Coach Petersen had many national champions and the young Cotterell was exposed to top coaching and world class athletes at an early age.

Cotterell is the coach with the film-star looks. He was mistaken for Paul Hogan, the Australian actor of "Crocodile Dundee" fame, when he travelled to Canada with a national junior team. His bronzed looks and blond hair are typical of those who lead the active life on Queensland's Gold Coast, where he is also a member and coach of the Surfers Paradise Life Saving Club. Many of his athletes swim for both the Miami Swim Club and a Surf Club.

Most of all, Denis says that he has gained a great deal of his knowledge from other Australian team coaches while he was a member of national teams. Denis makes special mention of the role Gennadi Touretski has played since his arrival in Australia in furthering Cotterell's knowledge of the sport. Since 1987 he has been chosen for 12 national teams for major international meets:

Pan Pacs-1987, 1989, 1993, 1997
Commonwealths-1990, 1994, 1998
World Championships-1991, 1994, 1998
Olympic Games-1988

Ten swimmers have been selected from his Miami Club to Australian teams for major international championships. The most notable of these have been: the current world champion Grant Hackett; Andrew Baildon, former Commonwealth sprint freestyle record holder; World Championship and Olympic Games medallist Daniel Kowalski and Olympic backstroker Joanne Meehan. Another backstroker, 15-year-old Giaan Rooney, has been selected on this years' Commonwealth Games team. This all round coach has also placed butterflyer Jon Sieben, backstroker Toby Haenen, and breaststroker Brett Stocks on national teams in comebacks to top swimming.

World 1500 free champion Grant Hackett
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Like our previously profiled Australian coach Doug Frost, Cotterell has coached his star pupil Grant Hackett since before the age of 10. Grant Hackett started his swimming career while only seven years of age. Shown above is an outline of the gradual multi-year development program Denis has for his club members, to whom he is totally devoted. Denis was first impressed by the young swimmer's competitiveness, coupled with a desire and ability to work.

Grant Hackett's Progress
Age 14 15 16 17
100 freestyle 55.08 55.05 53.58 52.05
200 freestyle 1:57.34 1:53.20 1:51.73 1:49.73
400 freestyle 4:06.70 3:57.44 3:51.69 3:46.44
800 freestyle 8:37.76 8:14.31 7:59.29 7:50.30
1500 freestyle 16:07.58 15:30.63 15:03.67 14:51.70

Achievements At National and International Level
Age Year Meet
14 1994 Age Group Championships: 1st 400 free, 2nd 1500 free
15 1995 Age Group Championships: 1st 200, 400, 1500 free
16 1996 Long Course Nationals: 1st 400, 1500 free
16 1996 Short Course Nationals: 1st 400, 1500 free
16 1997 World Short Course: 1st 1500 free, 3rd 400 free
17 1997 Pan Pacific Championships: 1st 400, 800, 1500 free
17 1998 World Long Course: 1st 1500 free, 2nd 400 free
17 1998 Long Course Nationals: 1st 1500 free, 2nd 400 free

Multi Year Development Program
Grant Hackett Born 9 May 1980
Age 7-13
Focus Technique, Surf Life Saving
Weekly Sessions 3-6
Volume per Session 2-3 km
Weekly Volume 10-35 km
Age 14
Focus Freestyle distance, technique
and endurance
Age Group Championships
Weekly Sessions 7-8
Volume per Session 5-6 km
Weekly Volume 40-45 km
Age 15
Focus Technique and endurance
Weekly Sessions 9-10
Volume per Session 5.5-6.5 km
Weekly Volume 50-55 km
Age 16
Focus Endurance, technique, speed
National Age Group and Open
Weekly Sessions 9-10
Volume per Session 6.5-7.5km
Weekly Volume 60-65 km
Age 17
Focus Endurance, strength,
technique, and speed
National Championships
Weekly Sessions 10
Volume per Session 7-8km
Weekly Volume 65-75 km

The table of Hackett's progressive improvement in times is proof of the old adage that "Proper, prior planning prevents poor performances."

The future looks bright for Australian distance swimming with Coach Cotterell's star pupil in the 1500 and Coach Frost's incredible Ian Thorpe in the 400 free, but don't be surprised if the Miami coach produces another sprinter or backstroker of world standard by year 2000 for the Sydney Olympic Games.

As they say on the Gold Coast, "Cotterell can and probably will!"

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