Swimming Canada and Partners Look Towards Future of Para-Swimming

Photo Courtesy: Vaughn Ridley/Swimming Canada

There is real excitement among Swimming Canada and its partners as they look towards to the future of Para-swimming in the country after the recent Para-swimming Summit in Gatineau, Que.

The 2017 Para-swimming Summit brought together the top leaders and partners from across the country for two days of strategic discussions and planning.

Leaders from every province, organizations that provide services to Canadians with impairments, coaches and athlete representatives, learn-to-swim partners and funding partners used the summit to chart the future of Para-swimming in Canada. They focused on key areas for the development of the activity and the sport of swimming for Canadians with impairments.

Swimming is recognized as one of the foundational activities every child should be involved in for the promotion of water safety, health and physical literacy development.

“While the end point of the summit’s key funding partners might be podium performances in the future, we recognize that to achieve that goal, more Canadians need to be involved in the sport,” said James Hood, Senior Manager of High Performance Para-swimming Programs for Swimming Canada. “Canadians of all abilities need to be provided the opportunity to participate and race to the level they choose.“

The Para-swimming Summit sessions looked at five key strategy areas with the goal of increasing participation and podium performances. Sessions and topics helped to strengthen and align the partnerships that will be integral to Swimming Canada’s success.

Hood was joined by other Swimming Canada senior leadership including CEO Ahmed El-Awadi, Director of High Performance and Sport John Atkinson, Senior Paralympic Coach Vince Mikuska, National Development Coach Janet Dunn and Senior Manager of Domestic Operations Michelle Killins. Other participant groups included the Ontario Blind Sports Association, Little People Ontario/Little People Canada, Canadian Red Cross, Parasport Newfoundland & Labrador, Sport Canada, Own The Podium, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Canadian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association, nine of Swimming Canada’s 10 provincial sections, and athlete and coach representatives.

Some key first steps have been identified that all organizations can move forward with:

Partnerships –  Whether a provincial swimming partner, learn-to-swim partner, or organization that provides services to Canadians with impairments, all participants recognized the need to collaborate. To ensure all Canadians have an opportunity to be water safe and pursue a podium, partnership and collaboration will be key to the recruitment and retention of swimmers.

Culture – Each group recognized that they can work on the cultures within their own organizations. This can include reframing how we speak and interact, and holding each other and our members accountable to decrease the barriers that exist in society and sport.

Alignment/Understanding – Partners left the sessions feeling like they had a better understanding of where and how they fit in to the “family of swimming” as we provide more opportunities to more Canadians and look to decrease barriers to participation and success.

Early participant feedback has been positive regarding the summit and its processes.

“I can’t say I always leave a strategy session or discussion with the feeling that things went really well and that there were actionable items for the future – but I certainly did with this,” said Swim Alberta Executive Director Cheryl Humphrey.

“What I think worked well is the mix of the group both by organizations as well as the technical/leadership staff of the provincial swimming organizations. I also liked that you and the process held us ‘capable’ as organizations to define actions/strategies that we could take back and build into our own business/strategic plans.”

All groups left with ideas and actions that they can start immediately, plus a solid list of action plans that the groups can start to implement and build in to their annual and quadrennial plans. The organizations will reconnect in six months to see how they have moved forward the actions that they created for themselves.

Swimming Canada is pleased with the progress and this session has spurred some partners to look at similar sessions so that they can better engage their counterparts inside their provinces. Swim Ontario and Swim PEI have both committed to partnering with Swimming Canada on similar summits at the provincial level.

Press release courtesy of Swimming Canada. 

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Author: Taylor Brien

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Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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