The fall will see the launch of the Ontario Para-swimming Academy at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre that will give Ontario Para-swimmers the resources needed to succeed on the international stage. The new initiative will be managed by Don Burton, the Head Coach of the Ontario Swimming Academy that was introduced in 2016.
“It’s a great opportunity because whoever the athlete-coach tandem is, we’ll do a lot of testing all year long to provide information back to the coach and the athlete to help them figure out how to make everyone swim faster,” says Burton. “We’ll use the same resources we have for the Academy here in Toronto which include strength and conditioning, nutrition, sport psychology and all the human kinetics standardized testing,” he added.
Swimming Canada hosted a Para-swimming summit earlier this year that brought together the top leaders and partners from across the country to chart the future of Para-swimming in Canada. It was recently followed up with a Swim Ontario summit to expand upon the topics and look at the pathway for Ontario.
The summit had several key focus points that included recruitment and talent identification, program development, cultural integration and competition model and framework.
James Hood, Senior Manager of High Performance Para-swimming programs says both the Swim Ontario summit and the Para-swimming summit were necessary in helping to identifying the needs and to close the gaps for our NextGen swimmers and coaches.
“We will be providing training space and access to world-class venues and coach mentors for our NextGen coaches and athletes,” said Hood. “They will have access to the facility, support from biomechanist Amber Hutchison, and targeted education and coaching work with Don Burton, as well as support from other integrated support team providers from the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario.”
Darin Muma, the Performance Programs Manager at Swim Ontario expressed the importance of formulating a link between Swimming Canada’s NextGen initiatives and the club programs to provide consistency in approach, skill development and performance.
“We looked at the gaps that exist between those programs and tried to come up with a way of bridging those gaps,” said Muma, “One of our important goals is to work hand in hand with the club coaches, taking all of the information from the Swimming Canada’s NextGen programs and find a way to reinforce it in an environment that has complete support of a full-time academy coach, and a sport science team.”
He emphasizes the importance of creating an environment of assistance and facilitation of the important resources that swimmers and coaches might not necessarily have access to in their club programs.
“We want to make sure we are all is speaking the same language teaching the same skills in a unified manner and reinforcing what’s being taught during Swimming Canada’s programming initiatives, all the way down to the club level,” he added.
The integration of the Para-swimming Academy is expected to help propel Canada’s Para-swimming program. While increasing the number of podium finishes for the para-athletes is the overarching goal, the long-term focus is geared towards coach and athlete mentorship and skill development.
“The goal is to use this program to create coach mentorship opportunities to help more athletes reach the podium in 2020 and 2024,” said Muma.
Don Burton is excited about the direction and potential of the program to produce athletes that can succeed at international competitions.
“Ontario and Canada wants to be on top of the world again in Para-swimming. We were there not long ago and it’s time to get back there,” said Burton. “We need to refocus and bring everybody together and have everyone collectively figure out how we’re going to get back there.”
“It’s going to be great, it’s exciting,” he concluded.
Story: Swimming Canada