Adam Peaty’s coach Mel Marshall: If someone tells me NO, I’m up for a fight

Ask Mel Marshall the secret of her success and the coach of the world’s best swimmer will tell you straight.

“I’ve just never seen boundaries,” she said. “I’m like ‘impossible is nothing’. If someone tells me ‘no’, I’m up for a fight.”

Marshall has coached Adam Peaty since he turned up at the City of Derby swimming club as a 14-year-old.

He has become the fastest human in history at breaststroke and four months from now defends his 100 metres Olympic title in Tokyo.

Before then, Marshall has another goal she wants to accomplish – inspiring a new generation of female coaches.

She has chosen International Women’s Day to join UK Coaching in calling for more women to go into sports coaching at grassroots.

The ambition is to close the gender gap from just 43 per cent female coaches today to a 50/50 split in five years.

Research shows that women and girls prefer female coaches and Marshall is convinced that stemming the decline in their numbers is a vital contributor to rebuilding the country coming out of lockdown.

“There are three things that can make a difference to the shape of gender equality as we move forward,” said the former world number one freestyler.

“Role models are really important, as are women having faith and confidence in themselves that they can do the role. And then there’s organisations providing opportunities.

“My philosophy in life is ‘get stuck in’. I’ve probably been naive, but if I don’t see a problem I just plough straight in.

“It’s about empowering women to know they can cope in these environments, to get to a position whereby they too can just plough straight in.”

That, Marshall knows, is a gradual process. It requires the creation of platforms at every level to provide women with greater opportunities.

“When I first started out in my coaching career I wanted to make change and I wanted to do things differently,” she said.

“I came across a lot of challenges. People that presumed they had the authority and would be quite intimidating with their thoughts. But I built the skills to be able to do everything.

“Because when you’re trying to make change, as a female, as a leader, you need to be the iron maiden, the damsel in distress, the priest, the teacher, the inspirer, the data collector. You need to be able to do everything.

“It’s now about how we can empower other women to know they can cope in those environments.”

Marshall says Peaty has never questioned her credentials and believes that is because she brings a “different dynamic” to him.

“I’m able to blend being the disciplined teacher and the supportive parent in some ways,” she said. “I think he likes that.”

But she wants her influence to extend further, to getting boys AND girls off their phones and back to being physically active. Now that would really be a golden legacy.

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