Glorious and infinite smiles flashed by coaches and swimmers told the whole story for Kevin Dennis.
That’s when the technical coordinator of Swim Alberta knew that a collaborative camp for 18 swimmers and 12 coaches from all four western provinces was a great success.
“Having them all together was positive for the development of the Para-swimming community,” Dennis said. “You could tell that a positive impact was made and everyone was very happy with what was accomplished.”
Swim Alberta was one of 25 organizations across the country to receive Canadian Paralympic Committee grants announced earlier this month.
The Variety Village Aquatic Club of Scarborough, Ontario also shared in the $200,000, which came from the 2019-20 Paralympic Sport Development Fund to support para sport programs across Canada.
Karen O’Neill, CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Committee said it is critical “that we continue to nurture the development of athletes from the entry level up and that requires resources and strong programming.”
Swim Alberta organized a camp for swimmers and coaches from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba from Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2019 in Richmond, B.C. and a similar camp is being planned for 2020.
“We appreciate this grant because it goes to support our athletes,” Dennis said. “The funds allowed us to bring their coaches to the camp and the (14 to 24-year-old) athletes responded positively to their attendance.
“It was also a key component in the development of Para coaching,” he added. “They worked with Swimming Canada staff and other associations. Para coaches are often isolated in their coaching roles and this will serve as an opportunity for them to collaborate with each other in a setting that provides structure and learning.”
Some of the participants have been identified as NextGen athletes and a few could even qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Younger swimmers could be looking at competing at the 2024 Games in Paris.
“Having a camp supported by Swimming Canada and receiving a grant from the CPC has generated a lot of enthusiasm from the athletes and their coaches,” Dennis said. “We are going to continue to build on the success we’ve had so far.”
In Scarborough, Ont., Variety Village is organizing a training camp for seven young swimmers, who will be training in order to graduate to the competitive stream. The camp is scheduled for March 20-22, 2020 at the Variety Village pool.
The Variety Village Flames host weekly lessons for the swimmers, who are between six and 11 years old.
“There is going to be a lot of one-on-one training so we expect to see a lot of development,” said Ryan Jones, head coach of the Variety Village Aquatic Club.
“There are going to be sessions in the pool and in the classroom. These are swimmers who are making a step up to the next level and they still have much to learn. Some will learn what it is like to be part of a team for the first time and what is expected of them.”
There will also be sessions for the parents so they can be told what to expect from a more competitive environment. A coach enhancement session is also planned.
“It’s a great time for the swimmers, coaches and families to be educated,” said Jones, who has been coaching at Variety Village for five years and helped national team rookie Aly Van Wyck-Smart qualify for this year’s world championships.
Jones will be joined by assistant coaches William Kerr, Katherine Ambos and Patricia Altobello from Variety Village. Janet Dunn and Mike Edey of Swimming Canada will also be on hand to help the athletes and coaches.
“Swimming Canada has been very supportive and we appreciate the grant (from CPC),” Jones said. “The kids are going to use the camp to improve their skills and we’re going to see a lot of benefits at the club, too.”