Swimming Australia and the Australian Dolphins swim team would like to sincerely thank Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren for his services to swimming, following his decision to return to his home country of the Netherlands for family reasons.
Choosing not to extend his contract with Swimming Australia – which was due to be completed in November 2020 after the Tokyo Olympics – Verhaeren will now finish in his role at the end of September.
With COVID-19 forcing the postponement of the Games, Verhaeren carefully considered every possible scenario to stay, but ultimately made the tough decision to return home after many discussions with his family and Swimming Australia.
“I tried to look for ways to extend, but you can’t compromise in a high performance environment, nor did I want to compromise my family,” he said.
“I am honoured to have had the opportunity to serve this amazing swim team and nation for almost seven years and I am confident that there are many good people around to ensure the continued success of swimming in this country, and that the team is ready to face any challenge.
“I am incredibly proud of the systems and strategies that have been implemented – from the national relay project, to the reintroduction of national event camps and an improved campaign structure and leadership model.
“But these plans and systems would be nothing without the talented people from across the organisation and our high performance programs that come together to work towards our goals, and I thank them all immensely.
“We have built trust between these people over a period of time and I believe that is a crucial component to achieving high performance success.”
Verhaeren paid particular thanks to Swimming Australia President John Bertrand AO.
“There are many people to thank and I can’t name them all, but I would like to acknowledge and thank John for his support throughout my time as Head Coach.
“He has become a personal mentor for me and contributes so much to swimming in Australia and I am grateful for his guidance during my time in Australia.”
Bertrand said Verhaeren left a strong legacy for Australian swimming.
“Jacco has left his indelible imprint on high performance swimming in this country. His constant search for new developments and his curiosity has taken our thinking to a new level.
“I thank him for everything he has done for swimming in Australia and wish him and his family all the very best.”
Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell thanked Verhaeren for his contribution and said she understood the difficult decision he had to make.
“I know firsthand the sacrifices made by families that support a coach striving for sporting success and at some point, it is the right time to put family needs above anything else,” said Russell.
“I’d like to thank Janneke, Jules and Teun for their commitment to making a life here in Australia and supporting Jacco, our team, and our sport.
“Jacco has made an incredible contribution to Swimming Australia and the Australian Dolphins swim team over nearly seven years and has overseen significant change and development in a complex system, laying a strong foundation for future success.
“On behalf of Swimming Australia, I want to thank Jacco for his commitment and leadership to our team and wish him and his family all the best for the future. Hopefully, he can watch on next year in Tokyo and be really proud of our Dolphins and the contribution he made to their successes during his time in Australia.”
Swimming Australia Chief Strategist Alex Baumann also thanked Verhaeren for his contribution.
“I would like to thank Jacco for his leadership and commitment in his pursuit for excellence for our team. I believe the foundation he has laid is leaving the team in a strong position to succeed in Tokyo.”
Stepping into Verhaeren’s role to oversee the Tokyo campaign is current State Head Coach (Victoria and Tasmania) Rohan Taylor, who has also worked closely with Verhaeren and the Dolphins swim team as its Coach Leader.
Russell said Taylor was well placed to step into Verhaeren’s shoes and take the team through to Tokyo.
“I know Rohan is primed to lead the way on the revised journey to Tokyo having worked closely with Jacco over a number of campaigns,” Russell said.
“His passion and commitment for our athletes, coaches and staff is apparent to everyone who works with him. He has our full support and will work closely with Jacco during the next few months to make the transition as seamless as possible.”
Verhaeren supported the appointment of Taylor into the role and will work with him through a transition period.
“I want to congratulate Rohan, who I believe is a great appointment, and wish him and the team all the best for next year and beyond.
“My focus now shifts to supporting the organisation and Rohan through the transition phase until the end of my contract,” he concluded.
Taylor, the Olympic coach of gold medal swimmer Leisel Jones and former Nunawading Coaching Director, said he was honoured to take up the role guiding the Dolphins through to Tokyo.
“Firstly, I would like to thank Jacco for his friendship and leadership over the past six years. I have been privileged to work as a team coach under him for numerous campaigns and I wish him and his family all the best,” said Taylor.
“Jacco has laid the groundwork for our Olympic campaign and I have worked closely with him and our Olympic leadership team, so believe I am well placed to see those plans through and lead our team to success in Tokyo next year.
“I look forward to working with Jacco during this transition period and beginning work with our high performance programs and Swimming Australia staff as we count down to the Olympics.”
Verhaeren worked with the Dutch national swim team for a number of years, coaching Pieter van den Hoogenband, Inge de Bruijn, and Ranomi Kromowidjojo to multiple Olympic gold medals, before moving to Australia to take up the role with Swimming Australia in 2013.