Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thats A Wrap!

Well this is it... My final day as a head coach before moving to an assistants role with another club. I want to say thanks to everyone at the Halton Hills Blue Fins for making my time there special. I believe that the things I experienced as a Head Coach with the organization (both good and bad) will add to my arsenal as a coach going forward. 

I am very excited about my new position with the Oakville Aquatic Club and cannot wait to get started. I plan to be on Blog hiatus for the month of August while I retool and make some changes - hopefully continuing to add to the world of swimming in a positive way.  Anyone interested in my thoughts about World Championships or anything else that falls out of my brain can check me out over on Twitter.

Fair well everyone! I'll see you all soon. I'll still be the same guy - only I'll be dressed in red instead of blue.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Worst Nightmare As A Coach

Ever since I swam for Alan Swanston in the late 90s and he came down with the stomach flu/food poisoning while we were away at a meet, it has been my worst fear as a coach. What if I was away at a meet and was responsible for a bunch of athletes but I was so sick that I couldn't get up to take them to the pool... or drive home that night... even worse, what if I had a roommate that had to watch my sickness unfold? What if I was blamed for ruining someone's major meet? This was a reality that I have been afraid of for a very long time.

The night of the first day of Canadian Senior National Championships I found myself awake most of the night violently ill. I was very worried that other athletes or coaches were going through the same thing that night and that somehow it would have been my fault. My fear of not being able to help my athletes the next day was alleviated by the fact that I was travelling with Alan Swanston (ironically enough, we had discussed his food poisoning incident earlier that day) who could help out my athletes that day - they could get the the pool and be coached by a great coach (actually a good deal for them). 

I spent yesterday morning in bed instead of going to prelims, running through what could have been happening in my head. I was completely out of control of this meet at that moment. Perhaps it was the loss of control that was more my fear than actually getting the flu.

What I learned from this experience was that; it was not the end of world. Yes, I felt like curling up in the fetal position and crying at one point and this video really summed up several moments of my morning, but I gradually felt better and was able to make it to finals that night. My athletes still swam well and nothing catestrophic happened... also, I didn't have a roommate so there was no guilt or embarrassment of directly exposing someone to my sickness.

This experience taught me this about myself:

a.) Yes I can be a big wuss when I get sick, but I can handle it when I have to (reinforced lesson that I learned this winter with my children being sick every week).
b.) I more fear losing control than actually getting sick - something for me to work on.
c.) Getting sick at a meet is not at all on my list of favourite things, but it is no longer amongst my biggest fears.

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 Awesome Tweeters In The Swimming World

Twitter has become a pretty major part of the news scene... proof of this is that I often learn about breaking news from Twitter before I hear it on the radio - and I listen to a 24 hour news station most of the day. If you're not using it or if you don't "get it" here is your opportunity. Even if you are on the cutting edge, here is a quick guide to 10 people who provide great swimming related content on Twitter (besides myself). 

10 People To Follow:

@Swimswamnews+SWIMSWAM is the swim news network that basically covers EVERYTHING. Live tweets of events and inside coverage of almost everything. 

@BAC_swim: Our own +Jocelyn Jay, who routinely posts interesting links and videos.

@Lalih0: Tom Rushton of the Montreal Training Centre. Tom usually has great stuff to say about Sports Science and specifically about swimming - pretty cutting edge with technology too. Alright fine, I'll say it - I wish I was Tom Rushton.

@Goswim: Glenn Mills of  often posts information about his website but also posts interesting sports based (and sometimes technology or general interest based) links. 

@mikelgustafson+Mike Gustafson is a writer for USA Swimming and often has articles on their website. He is very witty and can craft surprisingly insightful and funny things in 140 characters.

@swimontario: You cannot possibly miss any news, information or deadlines in Ontario swimming if you follow +Swim Ontario. No excuse - Lindsay Taylor, who runs the account, is excellent in getting information out and live tweeting provincial events!

@Gwebbergale: American Olympic Gold Medlist, +Garrett Weber-Gale is a "foodie" and nutrition activist. He is always posting links to interesting food and pictures of what he is cooking.

@lcansdale: Lance Cansdale (who recently apperared on #coachmikepodcast) is the head coach of Dal. He often finds great articles about sports like this. Good follow.

@teravb: Canadian Olympic athlete, Tera Van Beilen, often posts amusing Vine videos, Instagram pics and updates about what she is doing (currently in Kazan, Russia at #FISU). 

@frankdespond: U of T athlete, Frank Despond. I'm trying to get this guy to 100 followers. Please help.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Open Water

3 years ago I decided that Open Water Swimming was a great way for athletes to finish their season and to score some recognition. Simply, Open Water swimming is not everyone's cup of tea... even distance swimmers... some people just don't like it. Enter your tough kids - the athletes that are willing to scrap and be uncomfortable to compete for a placing rather than a time. In Ontario, there is even a Championship meet with no entry standard - just show up and duke it out for the title of Provincial Champion. I figured that it would serve to finish these athlete's season well with a sense of real accomplishment (top 10 finish at a Provincial Championship) and excite and focus them on the next season.

I was not wrong. My club became one of the largest at the championship and even held their own Open Water meet this June. I have been told that this is a niche sport, but have found that it is a great way to empower an athlete (or a club) that hasn't quite found their niche.

Congrats to everyone that competed today (especially all of the HHBF and OAK swimmers). HHBF results can be found here. Congrats to medalists Britney Dortona, Lauren Monhemius & Michael Jans. Sorry I couldn't be there to take the picture (below) myself.

Full results can be found here.

Links of the day with Jocelyn Jay

The advantages of setbacks...lessons learned from Olympic champions.

Does Shaving Improve Swim Performance?: There is no ritual in competitive sport like the pre-meet shave.

Kids seem to need reminding of this frequently - Taking Pride in the Agony

SNC has chosen their new CEO

OTTAWA – One of Canada’s best-known and most accomplished leaders in aquatic sports is diving into a new challenge.

After five strong years at the helm of Water Polo Canada, Ahmed El-Awadi will become the new CEO of Swimming Canada, the two organizations announced today.

Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors has chosen El-Awadi to lead the organization after an extensive search process. No stranger to the water, the Beaconsfield, Que., resident was an Olympic water polo coach and has been executive director of Water Polo Canada since 2008.

“My sports journey began with swimming many years ago and I am thrilled to reconnect with these roots,” El-Awadi said. “Even though it feels strange to leave behind my water polo family of fifteen years, I could not be more excited to join Swimming Canada’s team.”

El-Awadi was assistant coach and manager of the women’s national team through the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and the 2005 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Montreal, where they won a bronze medal on home soil. On the business side, El-Awadi has been instrumental in developing and carrying out Water Polo Canada’s strategic plan and establishing a sound organization from a structural, financial and ethical perspective. He has also served as chair of the Canadian Team Sport Coalition since 2012.

“We are really excited by the hire and about where Ahmed can take us,” said Swimming Canada President David de Vlieger.

After years of a combined CEO/national coach leadership model, Swimming Canada made a decision more than a year ago to split the roles. El-Awadi will work as the organization’s top executive, while John Atkinson, who was hired as high performance director in January, will oversee Canada’s competitive teams.

“We are very pleased by the hire of John Atkinson to lead us on the high performance side and Ahmed will provide strong leadership on the business management side,” de Vlieger said. “Having capable people in both of those positions should allow us to meet our future goals.”

El-Awadi, who is fluently bilingual in English and French, is also an accomplished large enterprise software and services sales executive, most recently with SAP Inc.

His official start date with Swimming Canada is Aug. 19. He plans to conduct an internal business review during his first 90 days on the job.

“I’m confident the organization is healthy and strong and will be looking to see where we can build on those strengths,” El-Awadi said.

Swimming Canada’s Board of Directors undertook a five-month search to hire the new CEO. A committee was formed including members of the board who worked in conjunction with such partners as Own the Podium and Sport Canada to identify top candidates. The board interviewed the final candidates and de Vlieger said El-Awadi stood out due to his passion for swimming and his knowledge of the Canadian sport system and aquatics world.

“Hiring a leader is one of most important things a board does,” de Vlieger said. “We’re very pleased with the results and confident we were able to identify the best candidates for the position.”

El-Awadi will remain with Water Polo Canada through the end of the FINA World Championships, which run from July 19 to Aug. 4 in Barcelona.

“Ahmed has been a cornerstone of Water Polo Canada in the last five years and will be greatly missed. We would like to wish him continued success in his new role and are convinced that he will dedicate the same energy, organizational skills and talent to significantly contribute to Swimming Canada,” Water Polo Canada President Conrad Hadubiak said.

“I would like to thank the board, staff, athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and partners with whom I had the privilege to work at Water Polo Canada over the years,” El-Awadi added. “The sport of water polo is moving toward a bright future and I am honoured to have been part of that community for such a long time.”

Interim CEO Ken Radford will return to his role as Director of Swimming Operations.

“We very much appreciated Ken Radford stepping into the breach to handle the reins as interim CEO and we thank him for his contributions and hard work on behalf of the organization,” de Vlieger said. “Swimming Canada is fortunate to have a strong team dedicated to excellence in Canadian swimming.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ontario Provincial Championships in Brantford

Psych Sheets Here.
Live Results Here.
Twitter hash tag #ONPROV

Post Secondary Journey Info for Parents - LINK
Friday July 5, 2013
Ken Fitzpatrick, Associate Coach Western Mustangs and 1984 Olympian will deliver an information session in choosing a post-secondary destination. It is never too early to start discovering your swimmer’s options for University. Come for a free coffee!
  • When to start the process
  • The options /The questions to ask
  • Scholarships

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Links of the day with Jocelyn Jay

Teammates in practice, but opponents in a meet -

Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for success -

The Secrets - Show Up, Work hard, Eat breakfast, Take care of your
body -

Breast Recovery Technique - which do you agree with?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Performance On Command

While reviewing entries for the remaining meets this season (and of course, discussions with parents), the thought occurred to me that Age Group Swimming has become pretty falsely fail safe. We set goals and pretty well offer unlimited opportunities to succeed... which isn't he way that life works... heck, it isn't even the way that our sport works. Ask any swimmer if they had multiple chances to make the Canada Games Team; no, they had to perform at Senior Nationals in April. No other chances. Kelly Aspinal was the dominant freestyler and backstroker in Canadian Swimming this year, but he will not be swimming in Barcelona at World Championships because he did not perform well enough at World Trials in April (same meet as I previously mentioned).

How are we making our sport falsely"fail safe"?
Over the years, younger swimmers have tended to use the "time trial" bail out system for qualification times; can't do it at the meet so we try again and again later. This is sort of asinine because it teaches athletes that there is always another chance... when in many cases there is not really.

Lets use Canadian Age Group Championships as an example; Ontario athletes have had all season to qualify for 3 events at CAGC and will have 1 final shot in Brantford this weekend at the Ontario Age Group Championships. I feel that athletes should really use this opportunity to swim fast and qualify. If they cannot qualify at this championship meet due to the pressure (or you feel that it is too much pressure to put on an athlete), what is achieving a qualification time at a later time trial going to achieve? There is no less pressure at the Canadian Age Group Championships than there is at the Provincial Age Group Championships. In reality, this athlete has really done everything that they can just to qualify for the event... what more can be expected at another meet in 2 weeks time? Especially when the athlete could not get the time in a stressful environment of a Provincial Championship. Yes the athlete will participate in the Canadian Age Group Championships... but is that what we really want..? I mean... I know that no one is happy when Ontario Athletes just participate in tour teams. I know that no one is happy when Canadian athletes just participated in NACC in the past. I KNOW FOR SURE that no one will be happy if our Canadian Athletes go to Barcelona just to participate in World Championships. We need to be teaching competitiveness. 

I hope that my message will get across properly and not misconstrued (as it often is) as being harsh or mean spirited. Yes, it is wonderful to allow people to participate in championships, and yes it may keep them interested in the sport for another season, but for the athlete that requires that gratification just to move forward with their career, another road block will very likely deter them sometime soon. There is purpose in failing your goal sometimes, and often, it serves some good. Learning to cope with disappointment can be very beneficial down the road if your athlete fails to make the Canada Games Team or make the World Championship team, or ends up as a coach whose athletes fail to make either.

Sport is great because its brings out the best in us. It make us want to see people succeed and warm our hearts when they do. It makes us sad and sympathetic when athletes don't succeed, especially when they are our own children. But never underestimate the determination of an athlete; under the tears and disappointment there is hope and the acceptance of a challenge. If parents and coaches are doing their jobs propperly, this athlete still enjoys competition, still enjoys racing and understands that the sun will still come up tomorrow, their parents still them them and the square rout of pi is still 1.77245385091 (I'm right on that one, trust me).

Our sport offers many opportunities to build successful people and athletes, but it also offers many opportunities to circumnavigate those opportunities and settle for instant gratification. Please use failure (especially failure to qualify) as a means to build a more successful and hungry athlete and person and not search for 20 more opportunities to get it right... because life and our sport beyond age 14 do not work that way. We need to prepare our athletes, the future of Canadian sport, to perform when it matters - to perform on command - and not teach them that there is always next week's time trial.