Our Story and You
Squad member, Stella Ong, interviews Coach Shauqie about his swimming journey, his hopes and dreams for MySwim and swimming in Malaysia.
A typical morning in PJ Palms donning in his usual coach wear; a cobalt blue Polo T-Shirt and a pair of black running shorts. Sweaty but all smiles after coaching his morning team of swimmers. As he turned around, he chuckled remembering his interview this morning.
Stella: So, tell me, what made you pick swimming as a sport!
Shauqie: Well, I almost drowned when I was about four. I guess that’s why my dad sent me to take proper swimming lessons at the age of ten. I would say, I did pretty well learning the fundamentals of swimming after a few lessons with a firm and kind-hearted coach. I remember forgetting my goggles one day and I was afraid that I would be scolded in front of my friends but instead he handed me a pair of goggles so I could use every time we had our lessons.
But to be honest, swimming was never my passion when I was small. I just loved all sports. And then when I was 15, my brother presented the idea of swimming in the open sea as a challenge. At that time, there were no open sea swimming events in Malaysia yet so that really captured my imagination.
Stella: Which was your first Open Sea swim? Did you have a proper coach at that time?
Shauqie: I aimed to take on the Penang North Channel on the 31st of August 2006, I chose the National Day to express my patriotism. The swim was both a physical feat as well as an organisational feat as there were no such events back then. I have my father to thank for making both happen. I actually trained on my own with my father as my coach, who sat by the poolside, diligently timing my laps every time. His commitment to my training and his sacrifice kept motivating me, there was no way I could fail.
Stella: What happened on the day of the event? Were you nervous?
Shauqie: There was a heavy storm the night before. The wind was howling and it made me really nervous thinking how the waves were going to be the next day. My boat skipper, the late Wak Saim, fortunately was an experienced fisherman of more than 30 years, soothed me with his wise foresight. A heavy downpour the night before will ensure a windless morning. With that, I carried hope with me.
True enough, nature was on my side and the tidal reading was perfect! The swim took off from Butterworth. But during the swim, my heart rate spiked up and it triggered my anxiety. That forced me to switch to breaststroke where I was more comfortable. I was very frustrated at not being able to swim easily using freestyle despite how hard I practised. My mind was set to see what an average person can do once you put your mind to it so I put that aside.
My dad, being my greatest motivator knew how much I wanted to bring glory to my country and as he was waving our Jalur Gemilang, all thoughts of giving up and how scary it was to swim in the open sea with unknown creatures just diminished.
The endpoint is not a long beach so you need to enter sharp like a boat. I reached the shore with breaststroke, definitely not as cool as swimming freestyle for the camera! As I approached Pantai Marina City Jetty, with the crowd chanting, I felt like I was on top of the world! It was an unbelievable feeling! I thanked Wak Saim for without his precise navigation and tidal reading, I would not have made it.
Stella: I can picture being there myself in your story! How did the experience impact you?
Shauqie: I have to say, a lot of my knowledge of the sea today comes from Wak Saim. His wisdom, when he talks about the sea, makes me feel we are so small in comparison and that I need to be always humble and respectful of the sea.
And the swim itself, is something I remember when I think about the challenges and anxiety my swimmers face. At that time, I was training with no structure to it, just hitting hard laps of freestyle at the pool everyday, which in the end didn’t work out as I had to revert to the breaststroke during the actual day of the swim. Reflecting upon that experience now, I see there certainly is a science behind learning to swim freestyle.
Stella: So then, when or what inspired you to become a swimming instructor?
Shauqie: In February 2013, I started MySwim doing personal coachings and from there, I realised that each individual requires a specific approach. I furthered my research and came across one book that caught my attention; ‘The Complete Coaching System by Swim Smooth’. They put into words and a system what I was observing on a day to day basis. I was fascinated at how they can identify the personalities of different swimmers and develop a specific plan for each individual.
So, in 2015, I opened my horizon by getting hands-on training in Britain. I flew to London and joined the Swim Smooth Coach Education Course. I was truly amazed with their depth of knowledge, their coaching delivery, as well as, their use of video analysis. That experience introduced me to a higher level of triathlon swim coaching.
Later in 2016, I was invited to Perth for an extensive training to be a Swim Smooth Certified Coach and run the programme in Malaysia.
Stella: Can you tell me about MySwim’s coaching philosophy?
Shauqie: Well, this is one of my favourite photos – of Alyce (MySwim coach) and me at the Kapas Marang International Swimathon 2018. What I like about this photo is that it totally describes our coaching philosophy. Physically and our swimming backgrounds, we cannot be more different. Yet we came out of the water at the same time and clocked the same time for the race.
Alyce has a relatively small frame, short arms, small hands and feet; she is highly disciplined. So I have coached her to use short punchy strokes with a high stroke rate and given her high volume training to make up for what she lacks in a natural swimming physique. I, on the other hand, have big hands, big feet (like fins!); I don’t have enough time to train. I use long smooth strokes at a much lower stroke rate than her to achieve the same outcome.
So yeah, we believe there is no one size fits all, perfect stroke. We have to look at the swimmer as an individual – not just their physique but also their personalities and how that influences the way they learn and train. This is especially true for adults. This diversity, which requires full attention and deep knowledge thus inspired us to specialise in swimming lessons for adults. With this approach, we have successfully taught many people to swim, including those who have struggled to learn before.
Stella: What are your hopes and dreams? Where do you see MySwim in the near future?
Shauqie: Well, I hope to inspire more Malaysians to swim. I hope to spread the great coaching methods of MySwim to many more people – through both our writing and our coaching.
I believe that if you don’t innovate the knowledge you learn, the experience would just follow you to the grave and here if I can pen down for others to learn, I could help many people shorten their journey to a successful swim. I want to share swimming tricks and make swimming simple to learn in order to help new swimmers overcome challenges in just a few hours where I have taken years. To constantly grow, upgrade, execute new methods and get feedback; and this is why we share our experience freely at our blog and community page.
I’m constantly looking to grow our team of coaches so that we can expand our impact. Coaches will undergo strict training for many months before they can coach. They will also swim in the squad regularly and participate in Open Water races. Through swimming with the squad itself will turn a coach-student relationship to a long lasting friendship.
Stella: How can one be brave enough to swim in the open sea like you? What last words of wisdom would you like to share with your students and people who want to take up swimming?
Shauqie: My feat was nothing really; everyone can do it with the right guidance and mindset. No human has ever completed a full marathon under 2 hours until recently, a Kenyan runner, Eliud Kipchoge who made it possible in 2019. Once, it was impossible for an average person to do an Ironman race, now many aspire to complete it. We learn from the experience of others, their training mindset and methods. The mind is a powerful tool if you gear to use it at the right time.
Last words of wisdom? Improper techniques and the lack of a strong foundation will definitely hinder one’s swimming ability. Keep striving to improve, to be better every day. Always have this mindset, “If others can do it, so can I.” The only thing you should fear, is the fear of not trying!
Stella: Thank you, coach, for your stories and insights. We look forward to see MySwim grow and make a name for itself!
Shauqie: Ahhh, my pleasure! Thank you for telling my story.