Rocco Meiring SA Swimming Coach

In South African swimming circles, Rocco Meiring is a force to be reckoned with. He is the head coach at the University of Pretoria (TUKS) and coach to 200m Breaststroker Tatjana Schoenmaker (2018 Commonwealth gold medalist and 2019 World Championships silver medalist). He is widely respected by coaches and swimmers alike.

VS. caught up with Rocco to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on his plans and how he is surviving:

Q. Are you happy and healthy so far in the lockdown, or are you going a little crazy?

A. I’m very frustrated about the lack of direction and leadership in terms of getting our top swimmers, who are preparing for the Olympics, back in the water.

Q. What immediate coaching goals have the lockdown interrupted?

A. Lockdown prevented the swimmers I coach from competing at SA Nationals which meant that they had to stop 3 weeks prior to Nationals event they spent 11 months preparing for. It also meant that we have lost at least 3 weeks of base training for the new season meant to commence in May.

Q. Which events were you focused on but were cancelled?

A. Nationals and the Olympics

Q. What have you done during your lockdown time (planning/scouting/research) related to your sport?

A. I have planned the new season under 3 different scenarios, and  I have invested time to re-educate and upskill myself. I have also done a lot of work to educate and upskill my fellow coaches in SA. With regards to my swimmers, I have spent time on presenting webinars on technique as well as motivational content to assist them.

Q. What have you done unrelated to your sport – new skills, hobbies – to stay busy?

A. I spent time with my wife and children to reconnect and re-affirm family relationships.

Q. How are you feeling about returning – are you anxious about getting the virus, your swimmers safety, etc.?

A. I’m very keen to resume my normal life as a coach and I’m not at all anxious about the virus.

Q. Do you feel more positive about the future – has this time been constructive, or do you feel like you’ve lost some ground?

A. I feel the swimmers and I have lost a lot of ground and have been set back more than we realise.

Q. Have you been monitoring what other coaches have been up to?

A. No, I haven’t

Q. What are the plans to resume/when do you think training will be resumed?

A. I have no idea and no indication is given either.

Q. How do you think training will be different in the future?

A. I don’t think it will be different.

Q. What positives have come from this time?

A. No positives in a professional sense, but positive on an interpersonal & family level.

Q. What impact do you think the postponement will have on overall performances at the Olympics?

A. It will detrimentally influence the performances of the SA swimmers.

Q. What advice do you have for your swimmers?

A. My advice to them is to use this time to improve flexibility, basic strength and power and to try to maintain some form of aerobic conditioning as well as study the technical aspect of their main stroke technique.

Q. First “normal” thing you’re planning on doing once lockdown ends?

A. Get on the pool deck with my squad.

Q. Silliest thing you’ve done in lockdown?

A. Binge-watched a Netflix series

Q. Favourite entertainment/place/activity you missing the most?

A. Having a breakfast and favourite coffee with someone I feel like sharing a meal with.

Q. Coach you admire the most?

A. Graham Hill

Q Funniest moment at a swim event?

A. Too many to list, but I normally have a great time with fellow coaches on deck.

Q. Superstitions or rituals at a swim event?

A. No superstition but an important ritual is to be early for every session

Q. First thing you will say to your swimmers when you see them?

A. “Don’t look back”, be patient and trust the process to get you back on standard and then beyond.

Amy Bathgate
About the Author
Amy Bathgate is the Operations Manager at VS Sports, playing an integral role in product development, innovation, and design, and heading up a team of enthusiastic analysts working towards transforming the way sport is analyzed, scouted, and experienced. With over a decade of expertise in consulting, biomechanics, and performance analysis across various disciplines and levels, she understands that the little details make a big difference. One of her passions and specialties is swimming, and she assists and drives athletes and coaches to achieve their performance potentials using stroke and race analysis to better their understanding of the complexities of the sport in order to go faster and train and perform more efficiently. Amy is also a Dartfish Certified Instructor, certified in Functional Movement Screening, and a former lecturer at the University of Pretoria.