In the last seven years, Alastair Johnson has endeared himself to the Rotorua community. Originally from England but now a New Zealand resident, he moved here seven years ago to take up the role of head coach at Swim Rotorua. His infectious enthusiasm and eye for detail have seen countless young athletes progress from thrash and splash beginners to slick, streamlined international competitors. However, his time at Swim Rotorua is coming to an end. Sports reporter David Beck spoke to him about his time with the club and what's next.
In the Swim Rotorua clubrooms there is a wall completely covered in newspaper articles, celebrating the many successes of the club's swimmers.
The man responsible for much of that success is Alastair Johnson, who is set to part ways with the club he has called home for the last seven years.
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Johnson is taking up the role of development athlete and coach manager at Swimming New Zealand, based in Auckland's North Shore, and likely to be there next month. He will be working with targeted athlete and coach manager Gary Francis to identify the next generation of New Zealand swimming stars.
"Gary's role is typically what we'd label a national performance director. The athletes on his radar are the top ones, people looking to make next year's Olympic Games," Johnson said.
"My new role is the next tier underneath that - working with people who are really on track for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and the 2028 Olympics in LA. It's a long-term sort of approach, we don't want to rush anybody. We want to encourage athletes in the development space to stick with it."
While excited about the new role, Johnson was sad to be saying goodbye to his Swim Rotorua family.
"I'm quite sad to go because I've been here seven years and I've had a great time, I've really enjoyed my time here. In 2012 I had been doing some work in England, Singapore and Isle of Man but I had coached in Christchurch before that and my intention was always to come back to New Zealand.
"I could see the potential of Rotorua with the 50m pool, a strong board and a club with enough athletes to make a difference."
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He said the most important lesson he had learned during his time in Rotorua was that "you can't do things in a silo".
"We've put a really big emphasis on teamwork. That's not just the coach and the athletes, that's the coach, athletes, the board, the parents and the relationships with outside agencies.
"My approach is, I don't think you can do it on your own. When I got into coaching you pretty much had to but now it's really a network of support, synergy and collaboration.
"I think we've done lots of good things. We've professionalised the whole club and we've got quite strong on doing things the Swim Rotorua way - the athletes know what to expect. I think there's a good legacy there for somebody else to take on."
The highlight of his seven years has been the relationships he has built but he is confident their paths will cross again.
"That's going to be the hardest thing - knowing my time with them is coming to an end. They're an outstanding group of kids, in the way they conduct themselves, their effort every day, they're very positive. We try to make the workouts fun and challenging - they've always been very receptive to that. I'll miss them.
"I've been very, very fortunate to have very strong boards, I've had very good support from them. They've actually made my job quite a bit easier.
"We've also built a strong coaching team. We've got nine or 10 coaches coaching every week. When I started we really only had three or four. This is the best coaching team the club has had, with some wise old heads and some young coaches with energy and some good ideas."
Johnson said it would be hard to "let go" but he would be following the club's results from afar.