This week Bill Carne popped up to the Haverfordwest Leisure to meet Sam Jones, recently appointed as Assistant Swimming Coach to Craig Nelson, and charged with the responsibility of helping to enhance Pembrokeshire’s considerable reputation in Welsh Swimming . . .

Swimming in Pembrokeshire has been given a terrific boost by the arrival of Sam Jones, who originally hailed from Herefordshire but has now been given the challenge of being the county’s Assistant Swimming Coach to Craig Nelson.

Sam has settled into his new role quickly and in the few short weeks he has been involved he has Made the acquaintance of all the feeder clubs – viz: Crymych, Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Pembroke and Tenby, where he will spend a couple of weeks at each, getting to know the swimmers, coaches and parents.

“I can already see that there is loads of talent here and I’m really looking forward to joining Craig in developing things even further.

“I would also like to help increase the participation rate for those who are not swimmers,” Sam told us, “now that would be nice!”

It is great to report that, like with Craig Nelson, Pembrokeshire Swimming is in good hands because Sam was swimming at National Championships up to 2012 so not only has good experience himself in the pool but has fresh training ideas that are sure to benefit his young charges.

His coaching experience began after setting out as a volunteer, especially when he was studying for his BSc Degree in Sports Science at Swansea University. He had already completed his Higher National Diploma there, which included two extended periods of work experience, which Sam opted to do at Swansea Swimming Pool, alongside some video analysis for the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

“The work at the Liberty Stadium was very interesting,” Sam told us, “and it was nice to be accepted by the players and coaching staff as we tried to provide performance analysis and advice on how the younger players could improve their fitness or increase their stamina in individual training programmes.”

After showing his coaching skills in the pool in Swansea on a purely voluntary basis in 2013 he was roped in to coach on a more regular basis for ‘Swim Swansea’ and was one of 11 coaches who looked after a huge number of talented youngsters in different squads for each age group.

“There was so much enthusiasm from everybody that it soon became my passion for swimmers from 12 to 19.

“I was very lucky that I learned an enormous amount from coach Adam Baker and his wife Helen, who was also a coach, plus Matthew Tutton.

“It was at this time that I saw the advertisement for my job and I needed to second bidding to apply for it because I already knew Pembrokeshire Swimming’s reputation.

“I had known Craig from Swansea and I was thrilled when I was offered the job – and grabbed it with both hands.”

Swimming has always been a significant part of Sam’s life since he was about nine years old and his parents, Maxine and Paul, took him to Hereford Swimming Club. He also had lessons with his school and by the time that he was in secondary school he was well on the way.

“The emphasis for us was that hard work was vital if you wanted to do well and we were up with the lark training and also doing evening stints which gradually built up not only stamina but endurance as well.

It is great to see that our talented young swimmers in Pembrokeshire have that same work ethic because it really is a vital key to success.

“At Hereford, I could eventually handle breast stroke, backstroke, butterfly and front crawl but I was the typical skinny, scrawny young teenager,” admitted Sam, “and it was only as I began to fill out a little that I gained confidence and specialised in the breast stroke.

It was whilst Sam was at Swansea University that his swimming really took off and he became a regular medallist in the English Nationals as he competed in the 50, 100 and 200 metres breast stroke. He also took part in the British Championships and did well in the 200 metres.

“I was eventually good enough to compete in the London Olympic Swimming Trials in the early stages after achieving the qualifying time,” Sam told us, “and I was pleased that I came through the first trail but then missed out at the second stage.”

Outside of his swimming, Sam followed his father into judo, where the rigorous training certainly helped his swimming. He also played football at left back for a team named Tipsley Pegasus and represented his school in rugby – but his commitment to swimming meant that they had to be out on the back burner.

So now Sam is here in Pembrokeshire and eager to work well with our talented young swimmers.

“I am impressed already by the support and Craig in particular has been a great help in my settling in. I couldn’t have had a warmer welcome across the board from those already so involved before I came.

It seems that the compliments are already being returned because one parent, whose children are heavily involved in swimming, told us that the youngsters were impressed by his approach and were working very hard.

This was reinforced by Craig Nelson, who said,

“I am very pleased with the way that Sam has thrown himself into the job and I know that he will help me bring out the best in our squads, the clubs and with newcomers to the pool.

“Pembrokeshire Swimming is definitely going to benefit from his being here.”

We couldn’t pay Sam Jones any higher tributes and we wish him every success in his exciting and challenging new role!