Pople’s topsy-turvy journey to success at Havant

Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club head coach Graham Pople, centre
Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club head coach Graham Pople, centre

Comfortable Ceri secures emphatic national win

  • Pople has been at Havant since 1991
  • The head coach has nurtured elite talent
  • Club has grown in membership
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The ability to constantly adapt, determination and enthusiasm to succeed – all attributes Graham Pople possesses by the bucketload.

So it is easy to see why he has fared so well as head coach at Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club.

We serve the members of Havant & Waterlooville Borough in the performance of swimming competitions but we’re more than that – we’re a club that tries to give something back

Graham Pople

But his journey since 1991 has been anything but straightforward.

Pople, who is originally from Portsmouth, was coaching in Essex before he got the call to join the Waterlooville Leisure Centre-based outfit.

The fact that he had no-one to guide him in his role only made him want to succeed even more.

He said: ‘From my perspective it made me work very hard as I came in with only sport science as my background.

‘I never had a head coach to look after me, I never had someone senior.

‘I’ve had to do this completely and utterly on my own, which I think has been really good.

‘Everyone’s chucking you a curveball all the time.

‘It’s made me work really hard, having all these elite swimmers come through the programme very quickly, because I had to keep up with it.

‘It put me under a lot of pressure having to coach at that level.

‘I was learning all the way through the process.

‘At every level I got to, I realised I had to learn more.

‘Overall, that was one of the best things that happened to me.’

Back in the early 1990s, Havant Borough Council used to give the club free mornings in the pool – that’s how supportive they were of having a competitive swimming club based in Waterlooville.

There were only five people in Pople’s first training session but now the club has grown to around 150 members of all abilities from the age of five through to 17.

Havant faced stiff competition from larger, more established clubs in the area like Portsmouth Northsea.

But the club continued to go from strength to strength and under Pople’s guidance, has turned out national and international swimmers, as well as a British record holder.

Lauren Short set the record in the 50m breaststroke in 2000 and made the final at the European Junior Championships in Moscow the year before while competing for Great Britain.

There has been a conveyor belt of talent nurtured by Pople ever since – the most recent crop being Oliver Jermy, who competed at the World School Games, and Rory Huggins and Alaina Ward who both swam at the British Championships earlier this year.

But for Pople, it’s not just about the elite swimmers.

He takes an interest in everyone at the club, regardless of their level and enjoys watching them develop, both as swimmers and as people.

He wants to give them not just the performance skills in a swimming pool but skills in life that they can take away forever.

‘We serve the members of Havant & Waterlooville Borough in the performance of swimming competitions but we’re more than that – we’re a club that tries to give something back,’ he said.

‘It’s swimmer-orientated, coach-led and community supported.

‘I get as much pleasure from seeing the new kids at their first club championships and watching them swim to their expectations, as watching swimmers at international level.

‘I enjoy watching kids grow up in front of me.’

Although, Pople can’t help but have a big smile on his face when his swimmers excel in top competitions, such as this year’s Hampshire Championships.

‘We’ve had a fantastic counties,’ he said. ‘It’s probably the best we’ve ever had in the history of the club.

‘There’s a little bit of relief in my heart that all the hours and work the swimmers and myself have put in, have been rewarded with really great swims.

‘They’re getting out of it what they put in.

‘When you see that, you forget about the fatigue, you forget about all the indiscretions from the day.

‘You see the results in front of you and it makes it all ok.

‘You can’t help but have a big smile on your face and have loads of energy.’