Message from the Head of Swimming

With the success of our Junior School interhouse swimming carnival and the IGSSA event just around the corner,…

With the success of our Junior School interhouse swimming carnival and the IGSSA event just around the corner, swimming is a major focal point at St Hilda’s at the moment.

It was the spirit and culture at St Hilda’s that drew my attention to the role in October last year, not to mention the School’s remarkable swimming accomplishments over the years. With an impressive record at IGSSA, boasting the longest winning streak over 7 consecutive years and winning 11 out of the last 12 carnivals, it shows that even though swimming is mainly an individual sport, you need to have a cohesive team culture to be successful. I immediately felt it was a perfect fit; a place where my experience and knowledge could inspire and add value to an already thriving swimming program.

Like many athletes, my path to success in swimming was not without its challenges.

I started swimming at 8 years of age in the local pool in Derbyshire, England. I didn’t really like the water, and I was allergic to chlorine, so the only reason I did lessons was to learn to swim before we went on a family holiday. But I persevered and kept up with lessons even when I found myself consistently trailing at the back of the lane, struggling to keep pace. Truth be told, I wanted to play football (soccer), but it wasn’t an option for me as girls were not allowed to play back then.

The breakthrough moment came at the age of 11, when I started enjoying the competitive side of swimming and made my first national time in breaststroke. I also found my ‘tribe’ among friends and teammates. I broke my first British junior record at the age of 15 and senior record at 16. My journey took a monumental leap when I moved to New Zealand at 19 to live and train. Over the next decade I worked hard to accomplish my goals; including becoming a four-time World Record Holder in 2002 and Commonwealth Champion in the same year.

In 2011, I retired and made the transition from athlete to coach, embarking on a new chapter in my life, it was my turn to give back to the swimming community and nurture future talent.

The tenacity and solidarity that I see the girls display here St Hilda’s is why I love what I do. Whether it be at the Interhouse Swimming Carnival or more competitive competition at IGSSA Swimming, cheering each other on to be the best they can be shows that the girls really embody the School’s value of Belonging, no matter what their swimming ability is.

It offers a glimpse into our strengths – the unwavering and unconditional support within our swimming family, and a training program that develops professionalism, passion and discipline.

For me, it’s not just about coaching strokes; it’s about instilling confidence, fostering dedication to excellence, and igniting the spark of possibility within each student. My vision for my time at St Hilda’s is to be a role model to the young girls, provide them with a safe training space where they can reach their full potential and where they can dare to dream big. We are creating a quality swim program from grassroots to Olympic level for all ages and abilities. Ultimately, I see my job is to build confidence, develop winning behaviours, and have a positive impact on each and every swimmer I have contact with. I love being at St Hilda’s and am excited by what I can achieve here as the potential is huge and the support for swimming is incredible.

Zoe Baker
Head of Swimming