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Meet Wellington’s Top Sports Coaches

28 December 2015

Meet Wellington’s Top Sports Coaches

Over the last three months, we have received a great number of questions about our top sports coaches, such as how did they find their way to Wellington, their hopes and aspirations for College sport, their personal philosophies and the almost inevitable and very personal dark moments along the way. So we thought we would provide you with a Q&A with Carlton Palmer (football), Sean Karam (tennis) and Alex Miladinovski (swimming) and allow you to get closer to the personalities behind the names.  Their backgrounds are of course very different to any of the other teachers at the school. They strived to be the best in their respective sports, on a world stage, they trained day and night, they met defeat, while always trying to overcome it, they also triumphed and knew a level of euphoria the rest of us can only dream about, and they had to overcome setbacks, all too often in the public eye. Privacy, which we all take for granted, is something international sportsmen rarely discover. Adjusting to ‘normality’ when it is all over, competition-wise, is in itself another major challenge.

These three remarkable gentlemen have discovered a future in education, to the rich benefit of all Wellington pupils, and indeed staff.  Go and watch the other teachers doing coaching sessions now.  Didn’t I see Mr Palmer doing that last week? We can all learn a great deal from the Messrs Palmer, Karam and Miladinovski because they have experienced the ups and downs of life in a way none of the rest of can truly imagine.  Sport is so immediate, so instant, so decisive and so revealing of weakness. What we have seen in just three months is an extraordinary development in our pupils’ sporting techniques, fitness levels, teamwork and self-confidence. They all look comfortable with what they are doing. This is down to all our coaches, but, above all Carlton, Sean and Alex, and we are delighted to introduce you to them…

Carlton Palmer

1.  Where did you first hear about Wellington?

I have known about Wellington for a long time. I worked with Gary Lineker for several years at the BBC, and he told me his son attended the school.  I first became aware of the College in Shanghai two years ago through David Cook, the Master, who had opened the first Wellington in China, in Tianjin. 

2.  What have you enjoyed most about coming to Wellington and Shanghai?

My wife, Lucy, and I have really enjoyed, a little to our surprise, Shanghai, and we have settled in really well. We like the area and live in Xiantandi. The city is lively and vibrant, and the people so friendly. Wellington is an incredible facility. What makes the school, though, is the staff we work with. Having worked with David Cook in Dubai, I knew he would assemble a great group of staff, and indeed pupils. He has.

3.  What was your proudest moment as a sportsman?

My proudest moment as a sportsman was when I realised my dream and played my first professional match at West Bromwich Albion, the club I supported as a boy.

4.  Who was your principal role model?

My principal role model was, is and always will be, my father. He always instilled in me belief, and, coupled with belief, if I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything I wanted to in my life.

5.  What are your memories of your school?

My memories from school are happy ones. I loved the sport which probably does not surprise you but I also loved learning and finished school with good exam results. But my future, my life, was already mapped out in my mind and that was to realize my dream to become a professional footballer. 

6.  Have you had to overcome adversity in your life?

To become successful in life, there is no one I know, past or present, who has not had to overcome adversity. So the simple answer is yes. I have made mistakes in my life, the biggest a long time ago. But I have always tried to learn from them and move forward. Professional football is not an easy environment in which to grow up, too much money, too much publicity and too much temptation. It can and does go to your head. As I look back over the years, the biggest lesson I have learned is to have the right people around you. I cannot imagine doing anything today in life without my wife and it is she who has brought me into the world of teaching, something I love and think I am pretty good at. Wellington, and Repton before that, have believed in me, and I think through them I have found my true vocation.

7.  What is the best advice you could give to your pupils? 

Always listen to your parents and your teachers, and, with their support, pursue your own chosen path, focus on your own destiny and don’t let anyone discourage you or derail you. Sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth. At 15 I was contracted to Chelsea and  broke my leg. I was told I would never be the same player again. But I never lost sight of my goal and, with the support of my parents, I still made it.  

8.  What do you hope to achieve at Wellington?

To set up the most successful Academy Programme in all Shanghai, and then China, with something that no international school has to my knowledge. We all owe a lot to Wellington, me possibly more than most, and I want this to be the best international school in China. So whatever it entails and takes.

9.  Are you competitive in everything?

I am absolutely competitive in everything. I was brought up with the saying, “first is somewhere, second is nowhere!” Of course we can’t win everything but nothing should ever stop us from striving to be the very, very best we can be.

10. What was your best moment in sport?

Walking out at Wembley to represent England. No one can ever take away that feeling, as I walked out to represent my country. I was amongst the best players at home and I was now playing against the world’s best. 

11. What music do you like?

A wide range of tastes: jazz, hiphop, soul and reggae, and I love Frank Sinatra.

12. What makes you laugh?

Anything can make me laugh ranging from someone, somewhere did this or said that, to watching a funny movie or going to see a stand-up. Above all, my wife! If you hear her laugh, you will end up laughing too. 

Sean Karam

1.  Where did you first hear about Wellington?

I heard about the school from a parent of one of my students in Beijing. I was working at a sports club, and wanted to develop my own tennis programme. I looked at Wellington on the website and liked what I saw. It has been great since day one.

2.  What have you enjoyed most about coming to Wellington and Shanghai?

The people. There is a great atmosphere here. Alex (Lloyd), Carlton (Palmer) and all the sports and PE team work very hard and very well together. Even when I get up at 6.00am to do the early morning coaching I look forward to getting here.

3.  What was your proudest moment as a sportsman?

It’s a long time ago, but being the no. 1 ranked player in Australia at  the Under 12s, under 14s and Under 16s age groups. The competition was intense, but I felt in control of my game and my temperament.

4.  Who was your principal role model?

That one’s easy: my parents. They had to sacrifice so much, not just money but also huge amounts of time, to enable me to play tennis to the level I did.

5.  What are your memories of your school?

Good and not so good. When school is right, like here, it’s great. But there is another side,  the rivalries, the jealousies, and my life was really tennis. 

6.  Have you had to overcome adversity in your life?

Yes. My injury brought my playing career to an abrupt end. I was desolate, even now it’s difficult to explain. All your hopes and dreams ended. But what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger. I would not wish what happened on me to anybody, but it made me rethink everything and go forward,  and, I believe, it made me a better coach.

7.  What is the best advice you could give to your pupils? 

Simple. Work hard and with this attitude you can achieve anything. It’s not just in sport but anything.

8.  What do you hope to achieve at Wellington?

Positive things all round. I love the attitude of the kids. They all want to improve and they listen. So important.

9.  Are you competitive in everything?

All sports! I don’t like losing. 

10. What was your best moment in sport?

Not as a player, I did once beat Andre Agassi, but as a coach. I was the national and Davis Cup coach for the Lebanon and, amazingly, we got this tiny country, with no tennis tradition, into the  top 32 nations in the world. That will live with me forever.

11. What music do you like?

The Doors and Eminem.

12. What makes you laugh?

Funny people!

Alex Miladinovski

1.  Where did you first hear about Wellington?

Mainly from history lessons, with the famous rivalry between Arthur Wellesley aka the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. As I lived, and worked, in Dubai for six years I know that there is a school in Dubai with the same name. I now know it has nothing to do with the Welington community of schools.

2.  What have you enjoyed most about coming to Wellington and Shanghai?

The friendly atmosphere amongst the staff and pupils, the state of the art facilities and the vibrant culture of the city.

3.  What was your proudest moment as a sportsman?

I was Macedonia's flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

4.  Who was your principal role model?

Alexander Popov
(Alexander Popov, Russian, is a  former Olympic gold-winning swimmer, regarded as one of the greatest sprint freestyle swimmers of all time. He is the only swimmer in history, male or female, to win four individual Olympic gold medals in freestyle events)

5.  What are your memories of your school?

Amazing. There were lots of happy and unforgetable moments.

6.  Have you had to overcome adversity in your life?

A few times. I recall one now. After my 100m butterfly qualifying round heat in Sydney 2000, someone took my clothes by mistake or NOT. When I went to get my clothes from the call-room area they  were gone, and the organiser told me I had collected them already. Obviously, someone else had taken my clothes, claiming them as his and walked off. Therefore I had to go back to the Olympic village in my swim trunks, wrapped in a towel. You can imagine the faces of the other athletes and various random people driving in the bus on our way back to the Olympic village.  

7.  What is the best advice you could give to your pupils? 

The access to sporting success is always through your mind.

8.  What do you hope to achieve at Wellington?

Hopefully, producing a few more future Olympians. Not sure for which country! 

9.  Are you competitive in everything?

I have competed my whole life, so now I only take up serious challenges as competition.

10. What was your best moment in sport?

I qualified for the semi-finals of the 200m Individual Medley (IM) at the World Championships and finished 14th in the World.

11. What music do you like?

Fancy Pop, Rock and House

12. What makes you laugh?

Continuously, my son Darian