28 February 2018
Coaching pioneer Dawes
Andrew Dawes is undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest ever coaches. His early work has been pioneering, setting the standard and a pathway for others to follow. His athletes have included three of the world’s finest Louise Sauvage, Kurt Fearnley and Christie Dawes.
Andrew Dawes was a PE trained teacher, but through his work in sports administration he identified a need for para-athlete coaching.
“I was employed in sports administration for NSW Wheelchair Sports, and always had an interest in coaching and identified that lots of competition opportunities were available for wheelchair athletes but no regular coaching programs were available.”
Seeing this need Dawes jumped into action, filling a void.
“I started off coaching a group of youngsters after work on a Wednesday evening and then we added a Friday evening and it just grew and grew. Eventually this after work coaching hobby grew into a full-time job for me and I have been living the dream ever since.”
He has now been coaching at the NSW Academy of Sport, NSW Institute of Sport and Athletics Australia coach for over 20 years.
He treasures his role as a coach and the friendships formed.
“The relationships you establish with athletes you coach are life lasting. You see each other so regularly and experience many highs and lows that they become part of your extended family.”
Coaching is certainly no office job.
“The lifestyle is good, I enjoy the outdoors so to be able to work in an environment that is not a 9-5 workplace setting is a big bonus.”
Dawes, like so many of our coaches, has a strong passion for the work.
“I have been coaching professionally now for 20 years but I have never seen it solely as a form of employment, it’s just a part of my life and something I love. If I won the lottery tomorrow I wouldn’t change a thing.”
That said Dawes understands coaching can be all consuming and ensures a balance.
“I don’t take life (including your athletics) too seriously. Your first priority must still be to enjoy what you do and everything else follows after this. I believe in the benefits of life balance, if you work hard at what you do you can allow yourself to enjoy or indulge yourself once in a while.”
During his highly successful coaching career he has guided some of the world’s finest athletes, but he notes, as all coaches know, he has also learnt from them too.
“My coaching mentors have largely been my athletes. I have learnt just as much from them if not more than I have passed on to them. And if I work as hard as they do then success usually follows.”
There have been many career highlights during his coaching career, but Dawes narrowed it to three for us:
Louise Sauvage winning the 1998 Boston Marathon. She was approximately 150 metres behind with 800 metres to go and won by centimetres on the finish line over her arch rival Jean Driscoll from the USA.
Kurt Fearnley winning his first Gold medal in the 2004 Athens Paralympics after commencing coaching him from 15 years in 1997.
Christie Dawes, his wife, winning a bronze medal in the 5000m at the London Paralympics. This was her first individual medal and it was her fifth Paralympics.
Dawes has grown enormously as a coach over the last two decades and provided a key to his success.
“Don’t be afraid to take a risk and back yourself. Self-confidence is the key to most success including coaching. Early on in my coaching career when I had limited experience and knowledge I was asked by Louise Sauvage to coach her. In reality I didn’t have the experience to work with such a high calibre elite athlete. But I went home and thought this is an opportunity of a lifetime and if she thinks I can do it well I’ll work hard and learn on the run and make sure I don’t let her down.”
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Image: Kurt Fearnley and Andrew Dawes (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)