As the training coach of Point Leo Surf Life Saving Club’s senior water competition squad, Jon Ford knows his way around a board and ski course.
While much of his focus is on physically and mentally preparing his squad for the Victorian and Australian Championships, Jon is a competitor himself.
Placing fifth in the Masters’ 55-59 mens’ event at the 2021 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, Jon ticked the four-year goal off his bucket list, despite a challenging build up to this year’s event.
“This year was touch and go for our squad leading up to The Aussies, especially mentally,” Jon said.
“Due to the nature of the Victorian lockdowns, we weren’t able to train until December, which was tough.
“Having not raced interstate for two years, I kept my goal of wanting to finish in the top five in the iron at The Aussies but this year I felt mentally shot. It was a long drive up to the Sunshine Coast and I was struggling to find my feet while training the day before the race.
“However, mental training is a massive part of our program, so I slowly managed to get my head right and put together a good race taking every opportunity that came and making no errors.”
Jon’s focus was not just on his own results, with him developing the Point Leo senior squad since their junior days, before becoming head coach five years ago.
“I knew my way around the ocean quite well from being a surfer, so I started as the nippers’ board coach. Seven years later when the kids moved into seniors, I went with them,” Jon said.
“I’m a university tutor so I love helping others. Lifesaving is just another opportunity for me to follow my passion of helping people fulfill their potential.”
This season, Jon’s hard work and dedication to the squad saw Point Leo’s open women’s Taplin Relay team take out the gold medal at the Victorian Championships for the first time in the club’s history and the club win the overall Masters competition, which was also a first for Point Leo.
“For the first time ever, we ran three Masters sessions a week during January and had 45 Masters competing in the Victorian Championships,” he said.
“We were absolutely rapt to take out the Masters for the first time in the club’s history, especially on the back of COVID-19 lockdowns. A lot of our Masters had raced a board or a ski and started out quite uncomfortable and falling off, but they quickly developed into a good squad of athletes.
“This is a great example of how lifesaving allows people to extend themselves out of their comfort zone, even if they’re 50 or 60 years old.”
With COVID-19 lockdowns hopefully behind Point Leo, Jon and his team are eagerly awaiting season 2021-22 to continue pushing towards making Australian finals and making history at the Victorian Championships for the club.
“Our athletes had a positive de-brief session after Aussies and we are already working together to plan what next year is going to look like.
“It’s great to see the squad come from juniors and evolving into mature adult athletes and motivating themselves to work collaboratively to achieve their goals.
“Being a training coach, I find it really important to lead by example to the other athletes and having achieved my goal at The Aussies, it’s a powerful thing to take back to the squad.”