Olympic gold, world records and Michael Bohl – these are just a few things swimming sensations Emma McKeon, Lani Pallister and 2023’s backstroke deity Kaylee McKeown, have in common.
The Head Coach of Griffith’s High Performance Swim Squad, ‘Bohly’ as he’s known to most, has helped guide the formidable Kaylee McKeown to record-breaking success, from blitzing the women’s backstroke at Worlds, securing the AIS’ ‘female able athlete of the year’ and just last week ‘swimmer of the meet’ at State Championships.
“It has been great to see Kaylee excel in 2023, she has really worked for it,” Mr Bohl said.
“Three World Records in one year is an amazing achievement and hopefully Kaylee can build upon her results from this year and position herself for some great performances in Paris 2024.”
Mr Bohl, who works alongside Assistant Coach and former Olympian Janelle Pallister, said his training philosophy for his elite squad is simple: create an environment that promotes positivity and hard work.
“There needs to be an understanding that we are creating great people first and athletes second,” he said.
“Modern coaching demands programs that are as bespoke as possible to the individuals that you have in your group, also being able to adjust training plans and respond to what is presented from day to day.
“I think the contribution that you as the coach make to long-term development too is setting the standards that the training group must live by.”
Mr Bohl said these “non-negotiables” include attendance, consistency, attitude and support for teammates, as well as shared trust.
“Trust is a two-way street; coaches must trust athletes and the athletes must trust the coach,” he said.
“These things are not easily achieved, but over time, trust and relationships are galvanised through actions.”
Kaylee McKeown testifies to the trust and “environment of professionalism” both Mr Bohl and Mrs Pallister have cultivated amongst the Griffith swim team.
“I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today if it wasn’t for the belief Bohly and Janelle have had in me,” Ms McKeown said.
“I truly believe in the program they have created and where they think it’s possible to take me as a person and as an athlete.
“Bohly is like a dictionary filled with knowledge and being able to put all your trust into someone is huge.
“I think we all thrive off the calm and collected vibes Bohly gives; he just always seems in control, in turn creating a calm athlete trusting in the process.”
In the lead up to the 2024 Paris Olympics, Kaylee McKeown is aware of the “target on her back”, but she is not prepared for that to slow her winning stroke.
“Something that I learnt from my previous coach is that pressure is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience, so enjoy it while you can,” she said.
“Bohly always says to me is “don’t get in your own way”, meaning let your training come to fruition.
“There is no magic potion that’s going to make the pressure go away, but if you can remember ‘your reason why’ it seems to bring things back to simplicity.”
Griffith University showcased its sporting excellence at State titles last week, with impressive performances from athletes such as Kai Taylor, Shayna Jack and Jenna Forrester, all who are balancing tertiary study with their competitive careers.
“Twenty years ago, the vast majority of swimmers were not studying at the tertiary level,” he said.
“It is great to see SAL encouraging synergy between tertiary and sport.
“This is one of the advantages the USA has, and it is encouraging to see SAL and Griffith partnering to further enhance the competitive and academic aspirations of our student athletes into the future.”
Top results from 2023 State Championships:
- Kaylee McKeown (GU Swim Squad): ‘Swimmer of the Meet’ award, 3rd 200M Freestyle Women, 1st 100M Backstroke Women, 2nd 100M Breaststroke Women, 1st 200M Individual Medley Women
- Kai Taylor (Student): 1st 100M Freestyle Men, 4th 200M Freestyle Men
- Shayna Jack (Student): 1st 100M Freestyle Women
- Cody Simpson (GU Swim Squad): 1st 100M Butterfly Men
- Lani Pallister (GU Swim Squad): 1st 1500m freestyle, 4th 200M Freestyle Women,
- Jenna Forrester (Student): 2nd 200M Individual Medley Women
- Jack Cartwright (Student): 4th 100M Freestyle Men