Stanley Nicholes OAM
17 April 1919 - 24 June 2010
In Australia, especially in Melbourne, Stan Nicholes was a highly revered physical (and importantly also psychological) trainer of world class athletes across multiple sports for over 50 years. Stan provided unique physical training and insights to his athletes so they could maximise their performance and provided the training regimes to achieve those outcomes.
In the foreword to the book on Stan, “The Stan Nicholes Story-An Oral History”, leading Tennis Coach Bob Brett had this to say: Stan Nicholes is a giver. He has an intuitive knowledge of the individual in a psychological sense and is able use this knowledge in a practical way. He sees all the dimensions. He reads people very accurately and uses that knowledge to extend or challenge their perceptions of what they think they can do and takes them beyond what they thought was possible.
Initially Stan's training was at Findlay’s Gym then the Oasis Gym and ultimately Stan constructed his own bespoke specialist gym at his home in North Caulfield. In each of Stan’s gym rooms at his home the walls were adorned with photos of many of the ‘greats’ of Australian and world sport that Stan had spent a lifetime training.
Many of Stan’s athletes, especially the rowers, talked of his intensive gym sessions at his Caulfield home and after the session they “decorated the roses” in his front garden. The roses thrived…
Prior to Stan becoming an outstanding trainer he was a successful athlete in his own right as a weightlifter.
Stan’s involvement across many sports began just post World War II with tennis and, in particular, working alongside the doyen of Australian tennis, Harry Hopman, and the highly successful Australian Davis Cup Team, and continued for another 40 years with the ‘sporting royalty’ of many sports that significantly included:
- Tennis - Frank Sedgman AO, Neale Fraser MBE, Ashley Cooper AO, Ken Rosewall AM MBE, Lew Hoad, John Newcombe AO OBE, Tony Roche AO MBE, Margaret Court AC MBE, Chrissie Evert (USA), Ivan Lend (USA, Czechoslovakia), Boris Becker (Germany)
- Athletics - Herb Elliott AC MBE, Raelene Boyle AM MBE and Rick Mitchell
- Cycling - Peter Bartels AO and Russell Mockridge
- Canoe and Kayak - Peter Foster and Adrian Powell
- AFL - Essendon FC, St Kilda FC, Richmond FC, Kevin Sheedy AO, Des Tuddenham, Stan Alves OAM, Tom Hafey, Royce Hart, Trevor Barker, Peter Keenan and Tony Lockett;
- Surfboat Rowing - Point Lonsdale Surf Lifesaving Club and Anglesea Surf Lifesaving Club.
Stan Nicholes after induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame surrounded by some of the athletes he trained
They include, Herb Elliott, John Newcombe, Frank Sedgman, Raelene Boyle, Margaret Court, Peter Bartels and rowers Peter Antonie OAM, David Douglas, Geoff Rees and Colin Smith
As Stan described in his Oral History, he believed the sport that his weight training methods had the biggest influence on was definitely rowing. Stan firmly believed that a 2 km rowing race requires good technique that was wholly dependent on muscular endurance. Rowers who had the benefit of his work included: Paul Guest OAM, David Douglas, Cam Johnston, Andrew Michelmore AO, Colin Smith, Peter Antonie OAM, Simon Gillett, Margot Foster, Barbara Griffiths, Fiona Milne, the Australian Women’s Four , the Australian Lightweight Four 1974, 75, 77, 78, the Australian Lightweight Eight 1978 and 1979, Melbourne University Boat Club 1967-1990.
These crews and the rowers became World Championship medallists and Olympic Games medallists.
Leading rowers have reflected on their training from Stan:
- Paul Guest OAM [Olympian 1960, 64 & 68]
Stan was very tough indeed and very much alert to the fundamental requirements to rowers. I am forever grateful for his enthusiasm, special knowledge and skills.
- Peter Antonie OAM [Olympic Gold Medallist M2x 1992, Olympian 1992, 1996, World Champion 1986 LwM1x, World Championships medallist 1977 Silver LwM4-, 1978 Bronze LwM4-, 1990 Bronze M2x]
Stan taught me that if my aim was to do something, I had to understand exactly what I was doing and what made up the skill set I needed to achieve it. That meant being the best in that sport. As a rower I had to be physically fit aerobically as my opposition, then stronger again, including mentally stronger. I had to technically execute the rowing movements better than them. Because we had the opportunity to train with Stan at his gym we had an impression that we were going to win.
- Colin Smith [World Champion LwM4- 1974, World Championships medallist 1975 LwM4-, 1977 LwM4- Silver, 1978 LwM8+ Bronze]
When I relocated from South Australia in my first gym session with Stan I was shocked as Stan said ‘we have a lot or work to do for you to become an elite successful rower” Under Stan’s guidance, cajoling, encouragement I gained physicality and a belief as a successful rower. I will always be grateful to Stan.
- Fiona Milne [Olympian 2000 & 2004, World Champion LwW1x 2003 for Canada]
I had heard that Stan was a gruelling task master that inflicted pain and suffering on generations of rowers before me. Stan’s training certainly helped my campaign and in every year I returned to Canada after Stan’s training made the difference in my performance.
Stan Nicholes was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on 26th November 1998, general division.
Colin Smith and Peter Antonie
- Authors' knowledge and records
- The Stan Nicholes Story-An Oral History, as told by Stan Nicholes; interviewed & edited by Ann Scally, Storytelling Productions, 2008
- Sport Australia Hall of Fame website - Stanley Nicholes | Sport Australia Hall of Fame (sahof.org.au).