Coach Shelley

I am a firm believer that if you don’t love what you do… then you should do something else!

So it’s therefore not surprising that I find myself now diving into coaching and sharing my 30+years of my passionate open water swimming experiences, knowledge and insight into all things Open Water!

I began swimming at the age of six, doing the big sister thing, going along to keep my baby sis, Liz Taylor, company.  Liz suffered with severe asthma and swimming was her therapy and she despised it. I chose to swim and loved it.

From the moment I sat in my bean bag, aged eleven years, eating my rice bubbles glued to the television watching Shane Gould at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and her incredible gold medal performances I was hooked on giving it my all in life and going for gold… to be the best I can be!  As I listened to the sports commentator, I imagined one day that if I ate right, slept the right amount of hours, listened to my coaches, respected my parents and teachers; maybe I could be like Shane Gould and one day represent Australia at the Olympic Games.

From then on there was no stopping me. I was hooked!  As a child I used to go to bed at night with my swimsuit on and my Mum would shake her head at the bedroom door asking herself “what have I created?” Inside my pillow, beside a spare pair of bathers was my bible, “Swimming the Shane Gould Way”. It taught me how to eat like a Champion, swim like one and train like one.  In the mornings before Dad had even finished jiggling his teabag, in his tea cup, I was in the car ready to go. As Dad reversed out of the driveway, the cap and goggles went on!  I’d be first through the turnstiles, changed and behind the blocks ready to go before any of my teammates. If my coach was late, I would start without him. I had found out the warm-up the night before. I never missed workouts; I ate-up the training dished out and begged for more.  From then on there was no stopping me!

My passion for swimming—and the life it gave me – started to blossom. At aged eleven I won my first state title in the 12yrs 200m backstroke. However in that same year I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and succeeded in my first life skill of negotiation with Mum and Dad to avoid having a steel rod and my spine fused. For the next 2000 days, which equates to all of my high school years, I wore a steel back brace.

I have been passionately committed to giving 100% throughout my life and was rewarded with a swimming athletic scholarship to the University of Arkansas in USA (1982-1986) where I graduated with honours with a Bachelor of Science in Edcuation in Physical Education (K-12) degree. It was in pre-season training in Beaver Lake, Arkansas in 1983 that I set my first American record and discovered open water/long distance/marathon swimming. The sport is like no other I know and one that has blessed me with the richest of experiences and an abundance of friends throughout the world.

I never did make an Olympic team. Yet who could have predicted that at aged 29 years, I would win gold in the inaugural Women’s 25km Long Distance swim event at the 6th FINA World Swimming Championships on 10th January 1991, in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia; fulfilling my father’s dying words said to me at aged 15; “one day you will wear the green and gold and be a World Champion.”

As 7-time Women’s World No.1 Marathon Swimming Champion from 1988-1995,  nothing brought me greater pride than the privilege of representing Australia and wearing the green & gold. Standing on the foreshore, looking out and seeing the Aussie flag flying on my boat as I prepared for my next marathon swim challenge to achieve my Champion potential made me smile and realise how fortunate I was to be doing what I love.

After finishing 1st overall in the Sydney Harbour 30km Marathon Swim, the final event of the 1991 International Marathon Swimming Association World Series; I had achieved what no other woman has in the history of any sport worldwide – The World No.1 Ranked Marathon Swimming Champion (overall for both men & women). As a result the governing body elected to separate the rankings and award equal prizemoney for both men and women. This is my proudest achievement and global legacy for women!

[read Shelley’s detailed CV…]



In 1998 I officially retired from the competitive swimming after winning my 5th overall title around Manhattan Island. Meanwhile, I continued swimming with the local Manly Swim team with my girlfriend and swim coach, Narelle Simpson. That’s where I was given the opportunity to coach the Adult squad of men & women, a combination of keen Masters Swimmers and open water swimming newbies. During those post-career years I trained as a mental performance coach and launched Champion Mindset Consulting where I was able to assist many athletes from recreational to Olympic & Professional to achieve their Champion potential.

I never fulfilled the Olympic dream I shared with millions of other kids and never won an Olympic medal of any colour.  However I was elected to the FINA Athletes Commission as Chairperson. In 2000 I wes appointed Honorary Secretary, FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee (TOWSC)  2000-2009 and on October 27, 2005 my 30 year dream became reality with the inclusion of the 10km Marathon Swim event into the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games programme.  The greatest honour was bestowed upon me to train the Chinese Open Water Swimming officials and co-ordinate the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 inaugural 10km Marathon Swim from 2005-2008.

In December 2008, I returned to my hometown of Perth, Western Australia after living in Sydney for seventeen years. Sydney 2000 Olympic Gold Medallist & childhood City of Perth/Aquaclub training teammate, Bill Kirby approached me in July 2009 with the offer to be the Head Coach of the Kirbyswim Solo Squad for Western Australia’s premier open water event; “The Annual Rottnest Channel 20km Marathon Swim”.  Now two years on, I have had the unique privilege to coach over 100 Kirbyswim solo & duo swimmers in 2010 & 2011 to achieve their Rotto goal!

Last year, Triathlon Western Australia approached me to conduct Open Water Swimming Mastery Clinics for their triathletes in addition to the sell out clinics conducted in 2009 & 2010 for Swimming Western Australia .

Now OPEN WATER SWIMMING MASTERY is conducting beach workouts for triathletes and open water swimmers, offering an additional training option in the pool to help develop and transfer open water skills to all open water venues.  At the same time, I now offer 1on1 pool-specific swim training and small group squads for committed open water swimmers preparing for their Everest… the English Channel.

I have a limited number of positions available as my aim above everything else is to keep my approach personal. You can get in touch with me using the contact form available on this website or email me direct at


My experience from age group to World Champion and professional athlete has given me the good fortune to train alongside many well-credentialed athletes and coaches. Now I am excited to be able to offer the knowledge that I have learned to others.

Although my coaching philosophy has evolved over my twenty years of competing with over a quarter century of experience, there remain several core beliefs and values that have guided me since I blew my first bubbles with the seaweed and jellyfish at Mettams Pool in North Beach, Perth, Western Australia and, I expect, always will do so:

1. There are no shortcuts to success;
2. There are no secrets to success;
3. You have to show-up; with a positive Champion attitude;
4. You must believe in yourself;
5. You must have a goal;
6. You must be patient; and
7. You must apply yourself diligently in mind, body and spirit.

My coaching philosophy is simple – I am personal and professional. And my athletes refer to me as the Tough Love Coach.

For his or her part, the coach must be prepared, and have a well laid-out plan. Training sessions need be specific and meaningful; and they must have an absolute and direct purpose with an end result in mind. A mechanism to measure or quantify return or improvement must be in place. Finally, the coach should allow the swimmers to learn from other coaches: no coach has a monopoly on technique, training or motivation.

I believe that novices and newbies (who quickly become raving open water swimming fans), Masters swimmers and triathletes can all achieve their potential and succeed in the right training environment – a structured atmosphere that accommodates both the ‘serious competitor’ and the ‘recreational participant’ who just wants a workout. Anything less ambitious and I am not delivering my promise.

My motto is simple: You may not be training to become the World Champion or even compete, but I promise,  you will end up becoming the Champion of your own world and being the best you can be.

As I stumbled through my athletic training and school teaching profession, loving the training and energy derived, a thirst and hunger for knowledge emerged. I can say I have now matured. Those that have coached me and known me since my childhood say “I have found my niche! Shelley you have arrived!”  I now view myself as a guide with the Champion took kit (my experience), knowing which tool (swimming drill or workout) to utilise for a specific task, while recognising any particular tool may have a very different impact on each project (individuals) and one size does not fit all (methodology – coaching style).

Fortunate for me I have found my calling. My mission is to help athletes and wannabe-athletes believe they can achieve success beyond their wildest dream, while helping them execute it. My thousands and thousands of training k’s and miles swum in pools and open water, the self-taught tactics of open water racing, coupled with my years of coaching, have made me an excellent teacher for swimmers at virtually every level. I wish to help you!

I dedicate this website to my late Mother, Irene Taylor & Father, Mervyn Taylor. Together they taught me how to stand up for what I believe in and stand out with passion and conviction. I also dedicate this website to Fran Crippen, USA Pan Pacific 10km Champion and USA National Champion 2010 whose tragic death on October 23rd 2010, rocked the Open Water Swimming fraternity. Fran and I shared a mutual passion (and obsession) for all things Open Water and he taught me to never compromise on my values in life.