Updated: Mar 18
Radio announcer, snowboarder, stand up comedian, open water swimming champion and a hunter gatherer who often spears or catches his dinner by hand. Our very own Jarrad Lawford may just be one of the most interesting coaches on the planet!
With a stack of swimming and coaching experience under his belt, we spoke with Jarrad to hear his journey and why he joined the Swimclan team.
How and when did you first get involved with swimming?
"My parents threw both my older sister Ashlee and I into the pool when we were toddlers for basic swim skills. I vividly remember Ash being the obedient one and always displaying perfect technique. I on the other hand was a shocker in the water and would always jump up and down full of excitement. I'm surprised the teacher didn't smack me with a pool noodle.
That all changed when I turned seven and joined my first club at Wanneroo Breakers. Swimming became a great way to channel my high energy levels and I soon realised I had great pace and endurance.
I was also decent at AFL and cricket but decided to focus on swimming as that was where I was excelling the most. It was a tough decision because I loved playing every sport, but swimming was the right choice and I'm very happy with what I went on to achieve."
What have you achieved in swimming?
"Throughout my career, I've picked up over 30 state championship titles in Open Water and Pool racing both at age group and open level. I've been fortunate enough to race all around Australia, winning multiple Australian Age Championship gold medals in the 5km and 10km Open Water events.
I represented Australia at the Junior Pan-Pacific Games and some of the coolest and most memorable achievements have been winning the Rottnest Channel Swim as a solo competitor in 2012, as a team member in 2010, and in the men's duo in 2013 with fellow Swimclan coach Jason Evans. I'm hoping to add another duo win in 2021."
Of these incredible achievements, which was your favourite?
"Winning the Rottnest Channel Swim Solo would definitely be up there. That was something I was rather proud of as I came out of retirement to compete.
I had been out of the water for two years and naively started training for it in November, giving myself around three months to lose 10kg and regain fitness. The first eight weeks of training were a nightmare. I was so unfit and could barely make it through a two-hour session. I was training with Ian Mills, a former coach at Perth City Swimming Club and he said the only way I'd get fit in time was to absolutely crush myself in training.
At first I thought I'd made the most stupid decision leaving it so late, however Ian's coaching was incredible. By swimming around 15km per day, he took me to peak fitness within two months.
My target suddenly changed from simply finishing the race to trying to slip under the radar and win it. On race day, I felt amazing at around halfway and sprinted the next 5km to take the lead. It was an incredibly close finish with only about three minutes separating the first three swimmers. I was pretty lucky to get the win, I think the tactics we used saved my ass!
However, my proudest career moment actually came at my first Australian Age National Championships in 2006. Growing up, qualifying for Nationals was always a tough task because my birthday was a week before the event, so I had to achieve the qualifying time of the age group above me. After just missing out on qualifying by less than a second for three years in a row, I finally qualified for my first Nationals in the 16-year age group.
The event was in Sydney and I was nervous as hell, but just ecstatic to finally be there. When it came to the 5km Open Water race, I ended up having the swim of my life in 11-degree water, beating all the 16-year old’s, all the 17-year old’s and almost all of the 18-year old’s in the field. I could hardly stand after that race and couldn’t feel anything because I was so cold. Had no idea I’d won a gold medal either.
My mum and sister were there to watch with dad staying at home, but I'll always remember calling home to tell him the news and hearing him cry with joy. My parents sacrificed a lot by driving me to the pool every morning at 4:30am before they had to work. They were both knackered at their desks for over ten years, yet still put my goals first. I'm really grateful to both of them for that.”
How has swimming impacted your life?
"Of all things, swimming brought me my brother-in-law and my two nieces! My former coach, Matt Magee, met my sister Ashlee over at my first National Championships in 2006. They started dating and fourteen years later are married with two daughters. They now live in Germany where he coaches their sprint team. I'm hoping to get across to visit when the world calms down.
In terms of experiences, I've been incredibly fortunate to train and race alongside swimming legends such as Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Libby Trickett, Eamon Sullivan, and Travis Nederpelt. I've also made incredible friendships through the sport and some of the funniest memories of my life have been in a swimming pool. These usually involved swim camps or team mates farting in the pool. Not to mention names, but Jason Evans, Travis Nederpelt, Simon Huitenga and Rhys Mainstone were all the main culprits. I'm lucky to still be alive!
One of the biggest things I thank swimming for is the work ethic it gave me. I had to juggle five hours of swimming every day with school, university and work for over fifteen years. I was knackered most of the time, but that kind of discipline prepared me really well for how I'd go on to cope with fatigue, stress and daily tasks as an adult."
After swimming, what type of career did you pursue?
"I finished a Degree in Exercise and Sports Science in 2012 and worked in injury rehabilitation and personal training. I also did swim coaching on the side and started with toddlers. From there a spark was ignited to work with older kids, teenagers and adults. Before I knew it, I had worked with hundreds of clients one on one.
Eventually, this led to me coaching more advanced swimmers. I became the National Age development coach at Arena Swimming Club. Irrespective of skills, I always enjoyed watching the progression of swimmers and I knew that if I wasn't going to be an elite swimmer anymore, I could pass on my knowledge and understanding of the sport to anyone who wanted to experience it themselves.
After a few years, I made a complete career switch into media in 2015. This actually stemmed from my stand-up comedy career, which started out as a hobby then became surprisingly successful. I then completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Broadcasting at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts and landed a job at radio station Nova937 as an announcer, producer and promoter.
I stayed there for four years, before recently working as a reporter, journalist and content writer. Over time, I realised just how unhappy I was behind a desk and in the industry. I set out to make a change and return to helping others through swimming.”
What made you join the team at Swimclan?
"I started reflecting on life through 2020 and I realised how unhappy, stressed, unhealthy and over-worked I was. I’d become so obsessed with making a living that I was forgetting to have a life. Not exercising enough definitely was a factor in that downward spiral.
I met with my old friend Andy Donaldson who mentioned the new swimming venture he was setting up with his business partner, Martin Smoothy. The more I learned about the Swimclan project and its vision, the more I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in.
It was the perfect platform to combine both my knowledge and passion of swimming with my experience in marketing and media. It was an opportunity too good to pass and I took a leap of faith that has already paid off. I've been back on pool deck coaching, managing the media and marketing strategy and even got myself swimming again."
How are you finding getting back into the water after an eight-year hiatus?
"As part of joining the team, Andy convinced me to get back in the water. I hadn't trained since 2012, so I was in a world of pain trying to recapture my fitness. Luckily I worked on my technique when I was younger and that has made it a lot easier to click back into gear. My speed and endurance are both finally starting to come back.
It’s also been incredible to see the impact it's already had on my body. A few months ago, I would run 5km outdoors most days and noticed no weight change. Now I've swapped that to swimming around 7km each morning and I've already lost around 12kg. My girlfriend Frankie <