One on one with coach Robby Neat

FEVER reporter Nosipho Mkhize chatted to swimming coach Robert Neat who works for the Elite Marine Association, to find out a little more about him.

NM [Nosipho Mkhize]: Please tell me a bit about yourself.

RN [Robert Neat]: I consider myself to be a humble person with a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of those around me, particularly my students, through my career as a coach. My reward is your growth.

NM: Please tell me about your childhood memories.

RN: In my childhood I remember the sacrifices my parents would make, taking me to the pool on a daily basis, watching me swim and giving me the opportunity to receive professional coaching to ensure I had the best possible chance of success. I spent most of my spare time in and around water, always with a deep passion to become a better swimmer and be an example to my siblings and friends.

NM: Please tell me about what you accomplished as a swimmer.

RN: I swam competitively for 12 years and qualified for the KZN swim team every year and was made the KZN captain in 2008. I worked my way up from SA level one to three and finally senior nationals. I attended Westville Boys’ High School on a 100% scholarship and was awarded the WBHS sporting excellence award in 2011.

NM: What encouraged you to become a coach?

RN: As a swimmer I always looked up to my coaches and I was especially drawn to their lifestyle of leadership and influence in so many swimmers’ lives. Their passion for this sport and their love and patience for me were what inspired me to become a coach.

NM: What else do you do besides coaching?

RN: Taking a break from swimming, I found myself working in a completely different environment, the bush! I received the opportunity to attend a nature training camp which led me to do part-time field work as a nature guide. Soon after this, and still far from water, I decided to take up running. I started running short distances on a regular basis, to completing my first Comrades Marathon in 2017.

NM: What are the challenges you have faced as a coach?

RN: As a coach I have faced many challenges. From teaching large squads of 40 to 50 swimmers in a single session all the way to teaching disabled swimmers. All, however, stretch us to become better coaches.

NM: What are the biggest mental tools one needs to be successful as a coach?

RN: Patience, fortitude, commitment and humility.

NM: How has your experience been so far [as a coach]?

RN: My experience as a coach has been tough. The gap between what you learn in a textbook to actually being in the water and responsible for the progress of swimmers, is huge. It’s been a long journey of learning from other more experienced coaches, to now having gained the experience needed to make my own decisions as a coach rather than constantly rely on others. I have spent the past six years coaching swimmers all the way to SA level one and two.

Furthermore, and most recently, I have become part of an elite team of coaches at Elite Marines where I have been given the opportunity to expand our reach into the Kloof, Hillcrest and Waterfall areas at a school called Forest View Primary, as well as Pinetown and Queensburgh at the Northdene Preparatory School Elite Marines branches.

For more on Robby Neat, e-mail