The Pacific Sea Wolves Swim Club had a high-profile visitor to their training session last weekend, as two-time Canadian Olympian Kierra Smith stopped by to provide some pointers.
Smith, a 28-year-old Okanagan native who competed in the women’s breaststroke at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, spent two hours at Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre with 60 PSW swimmers – split into two 30-athlete, one-hour sessions – where she taught what PSW head coach Jy Lawrence called “the basic fundamentals of breaststroke body position” as well as proper touch-turns, among other things.
For Lawrence, who organized the session through an organization called Head to Head – which aims to provide mentorship to young Canadian athletes – Smith’s visit was a way for PSW’s young swimmers to receive coaching from a high-profile athlete while also serving as a way to get them excited for the competitive swim season, which is only a few weeks old.
“I thought the kids needed a little bit more exposure (to high-level swimmers)… I was just trying to get them excited about their sport,” she explained.
“Because the last two seasons have been either virtual, because of COVID, or at least very different with masks and physical distancing, I also wanted to make sure we could do something that was in-person. The kids are all just done with Zoom… regardless of the value that (a Zoom session) might add. They can’t take it anymore of that technology, so that’s why I thought this was important.”
Lawrence also noted for young athletes, hearing a message delivered by an Olympian can be different than hearing the same message from a coach who you see every week.
“Maybe it carries a bit more weight, hearing it from Kierra. Maybe they (absorb) it a little better.”
Lawrence said the club has “a couple super strong breaststrokers” right now, “so having her come in and show them areas to improve on was just awesome.”
The session was useful for others swimmers, too, she added.
“Breaststroke is pretty hit or miss – you either have it or you don’t. But even for the kids who don’t (compete in that stroke), those skills can transfer over to something like the (butterfly), or even just how to improve their touch-turns,” she said.
“Everyone loved it. The older kids really learned something, the younger ones were just really keen to interact with her… and even the coaching staff, we hadn’t seen her (teach) before, so it was exciting for us, too.”