Whether he was competing in the pool, coaching his athletes to international success or mentoring Dolphins on national teams, Swimming Australia’s incoming Head Coach, Rohan Taylor, has always had a passion for swimming.
Taking the reins from Jacco Verhaeren at the end of September, Taylor said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead the Australian Dolphins swim team as it embarks on its extended Tokyo campaign.
“I feel really privileged and honoured to take up this opportunity and continue what Jacco has put in place,” he said.
“I want to help make a difference, provide support to people to achieve their goals and see everyone – the coaches and the athletes – really get rewarded for their hard work. So, if I can help in anyway and lead in that space, that’s what motivates me and what I’m looking forward to.”
Born in Australia and hailing from Melbourne, Taylor’s swimming journey – which started when he was just five years old – has seen him travel around the world and gain a wealth of swimming and coaching experience.
His path began on the small Micronesian island of Nauru. His family made the move for his father’s work when he was a child and it’s where he first dipped his toes in the water and learnt to swim. From there, the family relocated to America – once again for his father’s career – and that’s when Taylor started to swim competitively, during college at California State University, Northridge.
In 1985 he was awarded a visiting scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport and returned home to train under the likes of Australian swimming royalty, Bill Sweetenham AM, John Rodgers and Bernie Mulroy – mentors he still calls friends to this day.
Nine years later in 1994 and post his college days, Taylor moved back to Australia permanently to pursue his coaching career – a direction he fell into and loved. After basing himself in New South Wales for six years, he then returned to his home state of Melbourne and during this time, held the role High Performance Coach at Nunawading, affording him the opportunity to coach a host of Olympic swimmers – most notably, 2008 Beijing gold medallist Leisel Jones and dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Belinda Hocking.
Hanging up the stopwatch at Nunawading in 2016 saw the highly respected coach appointed to the role of State Head Coach (Victoria and Tasmania) at Swimming Australia. Throughout his time with the governing body, Taylor built and strengthened key relationships within the team, in an additional role as Coach Leader on numerous campaigns, giving him the perfect platform and allowing for a seamless transition to take over the reins as Head Coach.
“For me it’s about relationships and I have good, strong relationships across the board with coaches, athletes and the staff, because I’ve been working on the team recently with Jacco, but also as a coach for the last ten or so years,” he said.
“This has given me a very comfortable familiarity with how everything works, and I do have the relationships that I feel are critically important – it’s a collaborative approach, we work together.”
With combined expertise as a swimmer, Olympic coach and State Head Coach, Taylor has all bases covered when it comes to solving challenges and providing the team with what it needs to achieve success.
“All we’re there to do is to ensure that the athletes and coaches have everything they require to win when it matters,” he said.
“I know what it’s like on both sides and what worked well for me, and I hope to try and continue that on. There’s not much to change, it’s really about managing the unforeseen challenges that will come up.
“The unforeseen challenges at the moment is obviously the COVID-19 situation and what we might or might not have to do at the Olympics, but I’m confident and comfortable with the team and staff that we can be adaptable.”
As well as organising logistics and being across team preparations, Taylor describes maintaining the team culture which has been established as a vital component to future success.
“It’s a place where you feel comfortable, valued and where you can be yourself, drive for excellence and know the support is there and you can have a bit of fun too.
“It is a challenging existence being any elite sports person and when you’re in the environment with your peers you want to enjoy that time – so protecting that culture is really important and ensuring it continues on.”
While Taylor is currently still based in Melbourne with his wife and three daughters, he will eventually – when the current climate allows – move to Queensland to be closer to Swimming Australia’s High Performance office, as well as key high performance swimming hubs and squads.
With the fourth day of winter washing over a very cold Melbourne, it’s a move he said ‘won’t hurt!’
Main image photo credit: Aaron Francis, The Australian.