Coach to Disabled People of the Year Finalist – Emily Griffiths

She claims swimming is “the most unsociable sport ever” but Emily Griffiths cannot imagine a life where she isn’t coaching poolside.

She is the Head Coach of the South Wales Titans – a Paralympic swim academy straddling Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend; cultivating talent from pools in each of the three areas:

“Our aim is to help swimmers progress into a mainstream club or, depending on the level of disability, it may be more appropriate that they stay with us.

“We’d love to find a future Paralympian and unless we get people in the pool now, we won’t find the one.”

But it’s not just about future champions:

“We get swimmers who come to us who have often heard the word “can’t”. We have a boy who was told he couldn’t swim butterfly and he was really desperate to do it. He came to us and the other day he swam a length of the stroke. Both he and his Mum were crying. It might not look like textbook butterfly but it works for him.”

Emily grew up in Gloucester and was training and competing when she became injured:

“I was 16 and like a bear with a sore head. My Mum told me I had to get out of the house and do something because I was doing her head in.”

And so she made a beeline back to the pool where she started coaching the little ones. It wasn’t long before she heard the disability squad also needed help.

She has since moved to Bridgend and has been nurturing the talents of the Titans for just two years. Since she has been at the helm, not only have members increased, but personal bests have been achieved right across the board.

2016 has been an especially busy year. She was selected to coach Team UK at the Invictus Games and then appointed Head Coach for the Warrior Games. Her hard work has also earned her a spot as a Swim Wales coach for the Para-Swimming National Championships.

She can be found poolside four evenings every week as well as a Sunday morning. And she juggles her coaching commitments with her day job as a Sports Recovery Coordinator for Help for Heroes. But she wouldn’t have it any other way:

“Swimming has been my life. I don’t think I’ll ever not be involved. No one day is the same and no one swimmer is like any other. Working with a range of disabilities and impairments really keeps me on my toes.

“It can be tiring sometimes but there’s always something new to learn. And when the swimmers say thank you at the end of the session? Well that’s all you need isn’t it?”