When Adam Peaty walked through the doors at City of Derby in January 2009 awaiting him was Mel Marshall.
Mel is a former Great Britain swimmer who won world, European and Commonwealth medals as well as competing at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
After retiring from competition Mel turned her hand to coaching and now leads the Derby squad.
Teri McKeever led the United States women’s swimming team at the 2012 Olympics and Lisa Bate heads up the programme at London Aquatics Centre but coaching is generally still a male domain.
Adam and Mel’s partnership is working wonders with the breaststroker holding the 50m and 100m world records and the World Championships in Kazan looming.
Of whether Mel offers a different dimension as a female coach, Adam muses: “There is not that much difference really, I can’t really tell the difference. I don’t know if it is different coaches or gender.
“Mel pumps me up to the max – that is what she is good at, she knows how to get that 100% trigger on me.”
Adam had encountered male coaches before joining Derby and recalls:
“My old coaches were really aggressive but did me good.
“Before races when I was younger I was like ‘yeah let’s absolutely annihilate it’ but she has taught me how to think smarter now instead of going hard at everything, you go hard at everything and smart as well.
“One of the main areas is that it’s not only what you do in the pool but it’s also the other 18 hours a day. There’s no point going swimming, do a really hard set and then go to a party or whatever.”
The pair had only been working together a short time when their fledgling partnership was tested, Adam walking out only to soon return to the fold following an apology to Mel.
“I was a right little nuisance,” he admits.
“I think having a male coach kind of brought that side out in me and I was only with Mel three months when that happened. With a male coach you can have a good argument I think but with a woman I think you just really negotiate.
“I wouldn’t do it now but I think she calmed me down and got me on the right track.
“I need to know why I do stuff: I still ask her now why I need to do things but I think she understands why I need that because that is my personality.
“Before I was like I don’t want to do that, I wouldn’t ask why.”
Mel is forthright with a head down, get on with it type attitude.
“You’ve just got to have balls. It doesn’t matter. I’ve always been the first girl to do everything else.
“I was the first girl in my area to play boys’ football when I was at primary school. I was the only girl on my course at school in terms of a sports course so just get stuck in, it doesn’t matter. A different dimension but you’ve just got to have balls.”