By Rita Mingo
Be it the little kids, Masters level swimmers or university-aged athletes, Laura Taylor is, as a coach, learning to adapt to each and give them just what they require.
Taylor, in her second year helping out the swim team at Memorial University of Newfoundland, earlier this week made the grade in the 2021-22 U Sports Female Apprentice Coach program. She was one of 18 women selected to the program, with the aim to increase the number of female coaches at Canadian universities.
“I think it’s awesome,” Taylor enthused. “It’s great that they’re bringing in women coaches and making a big deal of it. I’m grateful for being selected. I’ve been helping out with the university the past two years. Now I get to do a little bit more.”
As a competitor, Taylor specialized in the butterfly and competed mainly in eastern Canada, a couple of years at the U Sports level with the Memorial Sea-Hawks. She was drawn to coaching early on and has for a number of years tried to better her skills. She also is part of the staff of the Mount Pearl Marlins, a club based south of St. John’s, and has helped guide the Legends, as well.
“I think you need to be able to communicate,” suggested Taylor, pointing out one of the most important qualities a swim coach must have. “At the beginning of the year, I really try to build a relationship with my swimmers. I coach with the Marlins right now and I do try to spend a lot of time on team building and relationship building at the beginning. I think that’s really important because if your swimmers don’t trust you and they don’t know you, it’s going to be hard for them to succeed and get better at what they’re doing.”
Her mentor with the Sea-Hawks is head coach Duffy Earle.
“She’s very enthusiastic,” Earle said of Taylor. “She’s an excellent organizer; she knows how to make things fun and get people excited and buy into her enthusiasm.
“She’s been working with younger kids for a long time and we just see that she can take her skills further to working with high performance kids and older athletes. That’s why we tried to get Laura; she’s someone who always wants to do more and we felt she was a good person to bring along.”
The difference between coaching the novice as opposed to the more experienced is a key ingredient in Taylor’s growth.
“Laura’s strength with the younger kids is understanding how children learn and how they’re able to develop,” said Earle. “But then, with the older kids, we’re hoping that she’s able to transfer those skills into training them more than teaching.”
“I have a little bit of background dealing with athletes who are older but not at this level,” admitted Taylor, who works as a special education teacher. “What I’m doing right now is a lot of technique based. So when I work with my younger kids I’m working a lot on technique. That’s going to be a big change for me, the different speed. The sets I’m doing will differ, pace times will differ.”
As a female coach, Earle is aware of the fact that there just aren’t many in a lot of sports, including swimming. Thus, she is all in where the apprentice coach program is concerned.
“We all know the difference in the number of female and male coaches,” she began. “But for me, I find that the women and the men bring different things to sport. We have males on our staff, as well, and to have both sides of the coin, two different viewpoints, helps make everybody more well-rounded for sure.”
And that, in essence, is Laura Taylor’s ultimate goal: to become a well-rounded coach, hopefully at the elite swimming level.
“You don’t see a lot of female coaches at the high performance level,” the 27-year-old Taylor noted. “Females bring a totally different presence to the team.
“There’s a different comfort level, a different connection there. I think both men and women bring different things to all athletes. Our team next year, with both men and women on the staff, I think will really build on that.”