Our 2019 Coach of the Year, Matt Bowbridge (Trigg Island SLSC), has been part of the surf family since he was young, getting dragged to surf club by his parents before he started nippers at 7 years old. These days, you’ll find Matt cheering on his athletes down at carnivals, sometimes accompanied by his own little family.

We asked Matt to tell us about his time with surf life saving and how he motivates his athletes, as well as some hard-hitting questions like “does pineapple belong on pizza?”

Did you grow up around the beach? I grew up at Glenelg Beach in Adelaide. My dad has been a member at Glenelg SLSC since he was a teenager, so some of my earliest and fondest memories are running around at Glenelg Beach and the surf club.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I chopped my finger off in the surf club gym when I was 5 years old, so now the knuckle on my middle finger is fused together and it looks pretty funky.

If you could time travel, when/where would you go?  I’d go back to the early to mid 90’s to watch some of the epic ironman races with Trevor Hendy, Guy Andrews, Dean & Darren Mercer etc. I realise that this makes me a bona fide surf club nerd, but I can live with that.

What is the best thing about your surf club? The culture. Clubs don’t become successful by having a few good competitors. There needs to be a team of people in all areas who believe in the cause. We are fortunate at Trigg to have a big group of friends who get around each other, which is great.

What is your favourite date on the SLS calendar? It has to be Aussies.  I still get as excited about Aussies now as I did when I first went when I was 13 years old.  It truly is the pinnacle of our sport and I love it. The Monday after Aussies is a bit of fun too.

If you could eat 1 food for the rest of your life, what would it be? My wife’s potato bake.

What is the most rewarding part of being a coach? Obviously seeing athletes achieve their goals after sacrificing so much time and energy is extremely rewarding.  Aside from that, seeing a big group of kids loving the sport as much as I do is the main reason that I coach.

Most memorable moment during your time with surf lifesaving? It is very hard to single out one moment over the past 30 odd years, but being a part of a Taplin team that got 3rd at Aussies back in 2008 was a huge honour.  It was a huge shock at the time, but was the start of a long run of success for our Taplin teams and led us to believe that as a club, we could match it with the clubs from the east coast.

As a coach what do you tell athletes to motivate them? Different things motivate different athletes, so it is a tricky question. On those cold and dark mornings, it is easy to just go through the motions, so I try to put it back on the athlete: How much do you actually want this? Are you going to be happy coming second or third? What do you think the people you race are doing while you just plod along for this session?

How would you describe your coaching style? I think it has changed quite a lot in the past few years. I place a lot of importance on letting the kids see that I am completely invested in the squad and the sport so that they trust the program. I also try to keep it as fun as possible.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in getting involved in coaching? Think about what sort of squad you would like to train in if you were a teenager and try to create that kind of atmosphere in your squad.  Most people can write a decent program, but having athletes continually show up is just as (if not more) important.

Now for the serious stuff…

Describe your perfect weekend? I now have a family, so my weekends have changed dramatically over the past year.  But it would now involve morning training and some waves followed by some family time, then some afternoon beers in the sun with my friends and family.

Dogs or cats? Dogs, I can’t believe people actually like cats.

Does pineapple belong on pizza? It does not.

What is your spirit animal and why? A lot of people have said that I remind them of a Meerkat. I’m not sure if I should be offended, but it is probably a fair call.