John Slater (Big John)

Senior Race Squad

Coaching Qualifications/Experience

  • Basingstoke Bluefins Coach – Senior performance

  • Personal Trainer – Level 3

  • Swim England Level 2 Coach

Years in Swimming

“I started with Bluefins in our lessons program, before progressing into Squads when I was 9 at Tadley and then onto the Aquadrome. I was coached by Tom Blakeley and Steve Greenfield – both coaches I now work with at the club.”


Moving through the squads, I was 13 when I started to see some real progress and was a Regional contender, however at the age of 14 I narrowly missed the British Record and lots of success followed. 

Highlight for me was World School Games in Brazil – bringing home an individual Silver and relay Silver and Golds. I raced at both 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trials. London 2012 Trials stands out in my mind – I had a chest infection and there was a question over whether I would race. The team were already there but I travelled up on the train in the morning, swam in the first heat, won it in a PB and went home, back to bed, still unwell. It taught me whilst you can do all the prep you can, sometimes there are things out of your control and you need to deal with it the best you can – outcomes can still happen! 

After swimming as an age group swimmer with Bluefins, I made the move to Plymouth University, joining the fantastic Plymouth swim team. I had the experience of training with Ben Proud (World Champion) and Ruta Meilutyte (Olympic Champion and World Record Holder). 

Coaching Background

After coming back from Plymouth, I started on my coaching journey back with Bluefins. I started by working as an assistant to our previous ‘B Squad’. I then progressed to lead coach for B, then our newly formed Youth Squad and now I lead the top swimmers in our club as Coach to Senior Performance Squad. 

Coaches that Inspired me

  • Graeme Thomas – My coach as a swimmer – supported me all the way through my career. His passion for coaching, pushed me when I needed me and always there. Encouraged me to get involved in Coaching and gave me the opportunity back with Bluefins. 

  • Steve Greenfield - His overall swimming knowledge, someone I have always been able to go to who has the answers – he just knows!  

  • Matt Heathcock - Matt was always poolside at Aldershot for my Long Course sessions with his team, he watched me grow as a swimmer. At a meet, he gave me some advice in a 200 race – take it all out on the first 100 – I did just that, split a 53 and died drastically! It’s happened to the best of us.

Favourite Set

As a swimmer:

9 x 400 – 1 fast, 1 easy, 2 fast, 1 easy, 3 fast, 1 easy – I used to love this and held 4:20 on all the fasts! 

As a coach:

I love a drill set, helping swimmers to get their technique right, but it has to be the 10 x 50 Max effort from a dive. You watch the squad turn into ‘Weird mushy shapes of lactic acid’ I enjoy pushing them hard, the results are great and getting there is messy! 

Favourite Racing Pool

Initial reaction is Sheffield – Ponds Forge, ‘Anything is possible in Sheffield’, however also London Aquatics Centre – a great swim whilst being very unwell at Olympic Trials in 2012. 

Best Advice

Always listen to your Coach – they have the knowledge, skills and its true – ‘Coach knows best’

Favourite Quotes

‘What are you going to do today to make yourself better than yesterday?’