By Jim Morris
Sometimes the most important aspect of getting a message across is making sure everyone understands exactly what you are trying to say.
Swimming Canada has sent a clear message it wants to develop athletes consistently capable of competing for medals at major international competitions.
Part of Martyn Wilby’s role as Swimming Canada’s new senior coach for the Olympic program is to ensure coaches and athletes across the country understand this objective and are committed to following the proper path to the podium.
“Communication is the key to all relationships,” said Wilby, who comes to Canada after 19 years at the University of Florida.
Making sure “everybody is delivering the message from the Canadian swimming offices to the coaches, so we are all on the same page and getting the same message.”
Wilby isn’t criticizing past methods and procedures. He just thinks there’s always room for improvement when it comes to developing world-class athletes.
“I’m not saying there was miscommunication,” said the native of Darlington, England. “I think we have to be in the field explaining this to the coaches and the direction we want to take swimming in Canada.”
John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s high performance director, said Wilby will pass his “wealth of experience” on to coaches and athletes across the country.
“He’s going to be the person out in the field, the technical link for the coaches, and having input into their training programs through the athletes’ coaches,” said Atkinson. “How are we going to get these athletes improving and swimming faster?”
Besides travelling to clubs around the country, Wilby will act as head coach at major meets, including this summer’s FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He also will oversee training camps, programs and budgets.
His new job has many similarities to his role in Florida.
“It’s the same but very different,” Wilby said. “I was working with a core group of athletes at Florida trying to produce world-class athletes.
“Now, hopefully, I am going to take a little bit of the knowledge I had over 20 years of doing that, plus the mistakes I made along the way, and help give that knowledge to the coaches.”
While at Florida Wilby worked with Gregg Troy, the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s head coach. The swimmers he coached include world-record holder Gemma Spofforth, and Olympic medallists like Conor Dwyer, Elizabeth Beisel and Caeleb Dressel.
During his time in Florida, the Gators won 330 dual meets, six SEC championships, 34 individual national titles, and over 900 All-American honors.
Troy said Wilby will be missed.
“The impact he’s left on the men’s and women’s swim teams will not be forgotten,” Troy said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have had his dedication, passion, and professionalism each and every day for 19 seasons.”
While proud of what he accomplished at Florida, Wilby sees plenty of potential among Canadian swimmers. A solid group of coaches – which includes Ben Titley, of the High Performance Centre – Ontario; Tom Johnson, High Performance Centre – Vancouver; and Ryan Mallette, High Performance Centre- Victoria – have already produced Olympic medallists and world champions.
“I truly believe you have got some of the best coaches in the world,“ Wilby said. “I really like the team. I think that John’s message over the years is that it’s about a process of getting better. I agree fundamentally with what he has to say.
“That is what attracted me. I have known quite a few of the coaches here. The support staff I know is a good core group that works well together.”
Wilby believes if Canadian swimmers want to leave their mark internationally, they must raise their expectations and standards. Simply being good isn’t good enough anymore.
“The message is that it’s not easy to be world-class and we can’t just look at being the best in Canada,” he said. “We have to move forward in order to be one of the best in the world.
“It’s no good just setting the pinnacle of it at domestic competitions. We have to look at international competitions and continually trying to get better as coaches, knowing there are other people out there that are working toward this. We need to share information and knowledge so we can all move forward as a nation and not just our own individual groups.”