A long-time Red Deer swim coach is one of a handful of Canadians who will take advantage of a great opportunity.
Mandi Smith, who heads up the Catalina Swim Club, was selected to be a part of the inaugural Select Coaches Group program.
“It was an application process and the coaches had to meet specific criteria in order to apply like having athletes at a certain level, having coached nationally or internationally or a junior team,” she said.
She got onto the short list and went through the interview process which resulted in her being selected along with four other coaches from across the country.
Smith is into her ninth year with Catalina, six of those as the head coach and she felt the program had reached a point where the hard work of her swimmers should be recognized nationally.
“I wanted to learn and develop as a coach to better improve my athletes so that we are better prepared for national and international competition.”
Being involved in this initiative means Smith will be soaking up plenty of knowledge and taking it back to Red Deer to share with her swimmers.
One of the perks of this program is a mentorship component which features Randy Bennett of the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre and two-time Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane.
Smith said this program is a good example of how invested Swimming Canada is in the future of the sport, ensuring our swimmers are prepared for competition at any level.
“He (Bennett) is going to help us kind of look at the programs we’re developing in our own clubs at home and look at the process we take when we take athletes on tour,” she said.
Another bonus is being able to have a couple of her swimmers evaluated by the experts to see what direction needs to be taken as the athletes progress in their careers, she said.
“Plus I get to collaborate with some pretty great coaches from across the country. Being in Red Deer and being the only major swim team in Red Deer I don’t have a lot of people to bounce things off of so it’s cool to have that network of people that are willing and want to see us succeed as a nation.”
Smith said this opportunity could be just the thing to help lift Catalina to the next level as well as the provincial teams she coaches. It’s not as if the local club hasn’t performed well in the pool in the past however.
Catalina is already the best medium-sized team in the province and competes on a regular basis with larger teams from Edmonton and Calgary, she said.
“We were 14th nationally at age group Nationals last year so our seven athletes competed against 137 other teams and we came out in 14th place which is pretty cool.”
Smith said this recognition for her is a result of the hard work her team puts in when they show up at the pool.
“I just hope that I can use that experience and really make sure that I give what’s best of me every day so they can get to that next level, what ever that is.”
Smith admitted she’s very excited about the program and a little nervous at the same time but she’s ready for the challenge and what will come of this collaboration.
“It’s for the athletes moving forward, not just the one or two that are identified right now by Swimming Canada but all of the kids get to benefit from the education and experience I’m getting.”