Innovative and inspirational swimming coach James Lake has reached the national finals of the Swim England Coach of the Year awards for his services to Tavistock and Devonport swimming clubs.

Tavistock Swimming Club’s head coach got through to the finals after qualifying by winning the South West Regional Awards.

As things turned out, he did not win an award at the ceremony in Birmingham last Saturday (November 26), but was recognised for his achievements, including introducing headsets to swimmers, so he could coach them as they swam, for inspiring junior coaches and for regenerating the clubs after lockdown closures.

Both clubs found the lockdown pool closures tough, but James kept morale high by continuing to coach ‘dryland’ exercises and training via Zoom to reach all members during lockdown.

After a decline in membership, his leadership and enthusiasm turned his clubs around, giving the swimmers motivation by making swimming fun, while at the same time instilling technique, stamina and land training.

His nomination also rewarded his years of mentoring many volunteer coaches with his 20-plus years of coaching experience.

His novel idea to introduce headsets transformed communication with swimmers, providing instant feedback – with songs or jokes thown into the mix – while swimming.

James has also shown a great understanding of para-swimmers, leading to competition achievements by two members, including a British Championship win. He has also coached a masters swimmer, Sam Lake to win the World and European Aquathlon Championships this year.

Thanks to James, both clubs are now thriving with happy swimmers who thoroughly enjoy their sport.

James said: ‘Coaching swimming is my passion, I do this job because watching all the swimmers achieve, succeed and enjoy their sport is what it’s all about for me. I was honoured to be nominated for this award and to be a national finalist is the icing on the cake.

‘Despite not winning overall, to reach the national final was an extremely prestigious achievement in the annual swimming calendar.’