Coach Schuster commends athletes and home crowd

It’s more than just winning medals for Samoa’s national swimming coach, Suzie Schuster, who described her team’s effort as “stellar”. 

While medals recognise the athletes’ talents and achievements, she said, for her it’s always about getting her athletes to be their very best in the sport.  

“I am not a big medal fan,” Suzie, who has been the national coach since 2009, said to the Samoa Observer. 

“To me, they come off the podium, I feel so pleased with them, so pleased that their performance has been recognised in that way, but from a coach stand point, and a coach is what I always am, I can see that going down two seconds and immediately I am going into the technical feedback of how we can make them better because the medal is great, but it’s just one part of the equation. 

“I want them to be able to break apart their whole race and say where we can strengthen it. It’s a closed sport, which mean there is a beginning and an end and we only we have a finite amount of time and strokes to actually improve in.”

Suzie said her team exceeded her expectation with their performance at the swimming competition this week, and she has been building the team since the Commonwealth Games in 2015.   

“They’ve exceeded my expectations in terms of coming together, forming a unified team and really giving it there all. 

“We are not a deep team, we’re only 14, with half the team out of my development squad, so when I have to pull relays together, I am pulling on the same people that just came out of individual events and they’re doing turn around events from podium, right back into the water, right back into their relay and so I believe it’s just an absolute commendable achievement. 

“They hitting medals, they hitting personal best times, they’re breaking national records, they’ve broken Pacific Games records and they are also helping teach my second tiers of what it really means to be on a team.”

She also acknowledged the home crowd who turned up in numbers to support the team.

“Having this home crowd, this cheering is beyond what we have ever experienced,” Suzie said. 

“We love the games in Fiji because the crowd is right there, they are very into swimming, we love the games in P.N.G. because the bleaches are right on top of the water, and it always worried me here because it’s a very large facility, it’s a covered facility and the bleaches are very far away from the playing field.

“It’s proved me wrong because when we fill this stand with passionate fans, that’s been the motivation to keep these guys going even if they’re tired and just about ready to say ‘another one coach’, yes you are doing another one, we’re a home team, you are going to do another one, we’re going to fill these relays, we are going to do our best.”

Suzie said their achievement is a four years work, trying to build the team, get sustainability as kids come and go.  

“All we want is the commitment and that’s what we are trying to work on. It’s good for them to commit so they can see where they can go in the sport. 

“We’ve been out of the pool since last August and we are really keen to get back in and start our redevelopment programme, continue our high performance programme, continue the transition, the transfer of skill also gained from China and bring it here.

“Also our university swimmers are still here they don’t go back to school until the fall so we want to tap into them as they are a resource, knowledgeable resource to help out that younger group and our next focus, which is our big one is the Oceania back in Fiji. It’s the last Olympic qualifier and that’ll be our big event, that’s where we are heading.”

She also highlighted that Brandon Shuster, the team’s captain, just hit a B qualifier for worlds, not for the Olympics, will get more exposure and opportunities when he travels to the United States. 

Suzie said the challenge in the islands is the limited number of swimmers, capacity and they have to go further to find competition.

“I’ve been working in the national coach position since 2009, it has been difficult because a lot of our previous national swimmers they leave the island to go and work, we don’t have legacy remaining in Samoa, it’s too small whereas in Fiji for example, their ex national swimmers start clubs or coach or do whatever, so there’s always legacy, there’s always continuity and we lack that continuity.”

She looks forward to building on the team, and hopefully gets more swimmers.  

“We need more multi-sport platform competitions. You know maybe not just direct swimming but doing it as dual sport so that the threat of just swimming is taken away of alleviated, maybe doing a basketball and swimming competition. 

“Samoa embraces land sports, contact sports so it’s always a challenge to invite new people to our sport. 

“I see aquatics just really broadening throughout the region, synchronized swimming, diving and open water. I think we need to uplift the profiles more and I think it all starts at grassroots level. It all starts with learning how to swim.”

Suzie said her team couldn’t have achieved their great result if it wasn’t for the crowd, who pushed the athletes and cheered them on.  

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