By Jim Morris
Martin Gingras brings excitement, experience and a little trepidation to his new job as Swimming Canada’s National Coach (Programming and Coach Development).
The long-time head coach of the Pointe-Claire Swim Club is excited about working with John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s High Performance Director and National Coach, to assist in technical programming and high performance coach development. He also will act as a mentor and advisor to coaches and athletes across the Olympic program.
“It means a lot,” Gingras said about joining Swimming Canada’s high performance team. “I think I’m going to bring some fresh, new ideas.
“I’m really excited to be part of the Swimming Canada community. I’m going to use everything I’ve learned since I started coaching to help John and his team reach their goals.”
The one regret Gingras has is leaving the day-to-day interactions of being a coach on deck.
“I’m a little bit scared because it’s going to be a change in my life,” said the father of two. “I’m going to miss it for sure.
“When you coach, you have an instant gratification. If a swimmer performs well, it feels good. Now my rewards will be a little bit more long term.”
Like a Swiss army knife, Gingras will have many functions. He will work with coaches already in the system while also trying to develop and mentor new coaches.
“A big part of my job will be to develop coaching opportunities or coaching programs to help the coaches grow and try to be better,” he said.
Gingras will ensure there is consistency in the technical priorities delivered across all the programs.
“Basically, being the liaison with all the organizations around Swimming Canada, bringing to the table the philosophy of Swimming Canada, what they want, what they expect,” he said.
His job will be to assist coaches, not critique them.
“If I visit a club and the coach has been there for 30 years and has had great success, I’m not going to tell them what to do,” he said. “I’m going to try to understand them. Maybe by asking a question we can create a conversation.”
Coaches often exchange knowledge and ideas in casual settings. Gingras would like to expand that process.
“My goal would be to try to learn a little bit more who the coaches are, develop a relationship, develop trust,” he said. “Create something that we can explore together.”
While working with established coaches, Gingras wants to identify and assist young coaches.
“We need to target them and work with them to put them on the fast track,” he said.
Besides coaches, Gingras will work as a main contact and representative with U SPORTS.
“The Canadian system is a good system but I think we can produce more,” he said. “My goal is to explore what we can do better (at) the university level to produce more swimmers.”
This part of the job will include supporting all aspects associated with Canadian team attendance at the FISU Games, including acting as team leader.
Gingras remembers attending the 2011 FISU Games in Shenzhen, China, and watching Hilary Caldwell earn silver in the 200-metre backstroke for her first international medal. She went on to a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I think the FISU Games needs to be used as a development team,” he said. “If Canada goes to the FISU Games and each time we have somebody who steps up (they) can be an X factor on the next national team.
“I think the investment is worth it.”
Gingras will also act as a liaison with Canadian swimmers competing at U.S. colleges.
“I want them to feel that Swimming Canada is behind them during the time they are in the U.S. and if they need anything, we can help them,” he said.
Gingras brings more than 30 years of coaching experience in both pool and open water swimming. He has coached at several international events including world championships, world junior championships, Pan Am Games, Pan Pacific Championships, Junior Pan Pacs and FISU Games.
During his 11 years at the Pointe-Claire club more than 20 swimmers have qualified for national teams.
“I learned a lot about how to develop kids,” he said. “I understand what needs to be done, what they need to learn and what kind of exposure they need to reach the top level.
“I intend to use that experience and share that with all the coaches.”
Gingras begins his new job in October. The Paris 2024 Olympics will be a focus but his priority will be looking ahead to Los Angeles 2028.
“I think the team for L.A. will be completely different than the team that we have in Paris,” he said. “This is good because the (current swimmers) cannot stay there forever.
“We need a new generation to push them a little bit to create more competition. I feel that a new generation is coming up.”
Gingras acknowledges it’s going to take him time to completely adapt to his new job. There will be plenty of on-the-job training.
“We all have the same goal, to make Canada better and help the swimmers to develop,” he said.
“I need to be patient. I need to have a long-term vision of the work I’m going to do because this is where I’m going to have an impact.”
Gingras already has a plan for those days when he really misses being a coach.
“I’m going to take my car, drive to the next club and say, ‘Can I coach with you today, just to be on the deck?’ ”