Wellbeing Support


The Well-Being Team at DCA is made up of Kathryn Coulson, our resident Welfare Officer, Lesley Joyce, who is Mental Health First Aid Qualified and Fiona McGrother, with a background in acute mental health.   


Early detection of, and intervention for, mental health symptoms is essential in the elite sporting context. We believe it’s crucial  that sports clubs like ours, formally recognise that an athlete’s mental health needs are as important as their physical health needs and, that looking after both with support and early intervention is key to avoiding deterioration of health and developing performance excellence.


The mental health team will seek to enhance well-being provision within the club through education programmes (such as MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) and others), policy development and liaising with club members and coaching team in terms of supporting individual athletes.   

Fiona McGrother - Wellbeing Support Team


Fiona grew up in Scotland and trained in both General and Mental Health Nursing.  She also graduated with a Degree in Human Resource Management and gained membership of the Institute of Personnel and Development.   She worked at both Teesside and Sunderland Universities supporting students with mental health difficulties and undertaking EU funded research projects and later, designing and delivering mental health training and conference events.


Fiona joined the Durham City Aquatics Committee in  March 2021 and leads both Marketing and Fundraising within the club, and she is particularly keen to work with others to develop athlete support structures, most notably, with regards to emotional and psychological well-being.   She says ‘’having a teenager who swims in the Performance squad, I’m acutely aware of the many pressures faced by young people and how this can impact their ability to train effectively’’  Fiona is currently developing a strategy to deliver Mental Health First Aid to as many members of the club as possible











Lesley Joyce - Wellbeing Support Team


Lesley is a scientist by profession having studied chemistry at university and worked as a Research Specialist for 25 years at Procter and Gamble. For the last 9 years Lesley has also been a trained Mental Health First Aider at work; trained to spot the signs of mental health problems in others, to approach and listen to someone suffered mental health problems and to have sufficient knowledge to guide them towards appropriate professional help.

Lesley has been involved with DCA for the last 10 years firstly as a parent then a Team manage and Committee Member. Having two daughters who have progressed through the club Lesley knows only too well about the pressures of balancing swimming with schoolwork and teenage life.

Lesley is happy to use her MHFA skills to support the club in any way she can.










Education Support


At Durham City we acknowledge and appreciate that most of our athletes are also students and that education is incredibly important. We aim to support our athletes with their studies throughout the program; taking into account heightened academic workloads and exam periods as part of the athlete journey.


To further support athletes in this areas, within our athlete support network we have a number of experienced teachers that are developing drop in sessions. These session can be accessed by athletes with revision or homework and they can utilise a learning environment with on hand support if they need it.

Vicky Smith - Education Support Team


Vicky grew up in the North East and has a degree in Primary Education. She has been working as a teacher for 15 years and she is also a Maths Specialist working with the Archimedes NE Maths Hub.


Vicky has three children at different stages of their swimming journey, with her two oldest children currently in A Squad and Entry Squad. She has been a parent volunteer since 2020. Vicky is keen to work with the rest of the team to support athletes to balance their training with the demands of their education. She says, “Having a team of education professionals as part of the Athlete Support Personnel means that we can work with athletes to ensure that they can balance their training and schoolwork. We can help with time-management or study, and we will provide friendly faces to ask for advice and support!”














Nutrition Support

Nutritional support in the athlete community is expanding as physiological demands are greater than the general population. In addition to supporting growth, teenage athletes’ nutrition must fulfill energy demands of their sport.

Victoria will be available to answer any enquiries you may have about nutrition for swimmers, from performance to supplements and everything in between. You can equally discuss other related topics such as allergies and intolerances, sleep, recovery and even recipes, and we will be happy to guide you towards a healthier, fitter you.

Victoria Jacob - Nutritionist 


Victoria grew up on the South coast of France and came to the UK to study. She was drawn to the North East as her mother grew up in Sunderland, but also because she wanted to see for herself what Geordie life was like!    She swam for over 14 years and competed at National level for 3 of them.


"I also used to join DCA for summer camp training!"


Victoria’s passion for health and nutrition developed during her competitive swimming years, which inspired her career. She graduated from Northumbria University in 2020 with a BSc (Hons) in Sport, Exercise and Nutrition and is presently upon completion of a MSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University.

For a few months back in 2020, Victoria volunteered as Nutritional Advisor for DCA. She describes this as a ‘highly positive experience’ and prompted her to offer her skills and knowledge once again in partnership with us. Victoria therefore, joins our Athlete Support Team from September 2021.


"The most exciting part of being a nutritionist is being able to accompany everyone on their individual journeys to achieve their personal goals."


Victoria is also an Accredited Advisor for UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).





Ernest Kwok - Strength & Conditioning 

Ernest Kwok grew up in Hong Kong but came to the UK to study Law at Durham University and joined Durham City Aquatics in 2020 just one month before lockdown. To ensure continued fitness of our athletes in the absence of swimming, Ernest has continued to offer a fantastically popular online land-training option for DCA swimmers.   He is extremely keen to pursue his passion of becoming a swimming coach. 

When asked about his study choices, Ernest says “I chose law because it felt like the right decision at the time. I wanted to study Sports Science at first but I’d spent a lot of time focusing on sports in school and when I went to university, I wanted to broaden my horizon a bit and do something different.”

Ernest is currently a Level 1 Assistant swimming coach.  He particularly enjoys the programming aspect of swim training and the relationships he builds with his athletes. A relative newcomer to the world of swim coaching, Ernest is most proud of the Zoom training sessions he’s designed and delivered over the past few months. He has especially enjoyed seeing the progress that the young athletes have made.  

Something you might not know about Ernest is that he himself is an athlete in the world of Olympic Weightlifting!







Gabby Burdess - Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation 


Gabby was born in Chesterfield, and moved to Wellington, New Zealand for a short time when she was a baby.   She then moved back to the UK where she now lives in Hetton-Le-Hole.

She’s currently a 3rd year student at Teesside University studying BSc Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation.


“My course has covered many different elements of therapy and rehab including sports massage, soft tissue mobilisations, injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, orthopaedics & trauma, and exercise conditioning.  Also touching on subjects such as nutrition and psychology, and how that can have an impact on an athlete’s recovery and their performance.”


Gabby has been involved in sports as long as she can remember and loves the idea of being able to help others. Injuries always occur in sports and with more accessible treatment and intervention, an athlete will have the best tools to recover to their previous performance levels and have the knowledge on how to look after their body so they are always ready to perform.


Along with being a student sports therapist, Gabby is also a swimming coach at Washington Aquatics SC, a qualified Level 2 swim teacher and a lifeguard.


Gabby has a background in swimming herself, competing nationally and internationally in the 400IM before having to retire early due to a misdiagnosed injury. This has spurred her on in a career path to help other athletes in a similar position by helping aid their recovery.

She enjoys being able to pass on her knowledge and passion for the sport and to help others understand the endless possibilities the human body is capable of.