Coaches the backbone to Olympic success

The value of a coach’s work is immeasurable. But when it comes to the field of play, they are often in the shadows. Coaches don’t stand on the podium or receive a medal, but these selfless individuals remain as leaders, motivators, support systems, parental figures, friends and mentors.

And for the four-time Olympian and 2012 bronze-medal winning coach Nicolas Gill, these kinds of relationships have to be built on trust.

“Trust is the biggest thing for me,” said the two-time Olympic medallist Gill about his relationship with his athletes. “You need to have trust and confidence in your coach.”

Gill says he always knew his body would not allow him to be a judoka forever and that coaching would be the next obvious step to be around the sport that he loved. Gill wanted to teach up and comers and develop the trust that is an essential component between an athlete and their coach.

“You can’t second guess them and you have to believe in what they say,” he says. “But this is something that is built along the way and pays off in the end.”

With the recent creation of the coaching reward program, the Canadian Olympic Committee is putting coaches at the forefront of their sport and telling them ‘thank you’.  The aim of this program is to keep these coaches in Canada by financially rewarding them for Olympic podium performances of Olympic medal winners.

The coaches of Olympic medallists will receive $10,000 per gold medal, $7,500 per silver medal and $5,000 per bronze medal, per sport discipline.

Coach Gill will benefit from this program thanks to the incredible run that his star judoka Antoine Valois-Fortier had at the 2012 Olympic Games.

“This is really Antoine-Valois Fortier’s award since he accomplished this great success,” he said about his bronze-medal winning athlete.  “It’s a positive fallback from his great performance. I played a small part in this act and all the hard work and merit should be his.”

For the recently named head coach of Canoe-Kayak, Scott Oldershaw, the event is an opportunity for coaches to receive some merit for all the hard work that they do.

“It’s always good to be recognized even though that’s not why you do it,” commented Oldershaw during a phone interview.

Oldershaw, an Olympian in 1984, comes from a long lineage of Olympic paddlers and has represented Canada in the sport with his two brothers, Dean and Reed, and their father, Bert, is a three-time Olympian.

Scott said he had an itch for coaching as an athlete and would later take it on full time at the Burloak Canoe Club in Oakville where he helped guide athletes like Adam van Koeverden to four Olympic medals including a silver medal  in the K-1 1000m in London.

“I have the most humble coach in the world,” said van Koeverden after his podium finish at the Olympic Games. “He takes no credit for what he did and he deserves a ton of it. He’s the winningest coach in Canoe-Kayak history.”

This summer, Oldershaw also coached his son Mark to bronze in the C-1 1000m earning the first medal for the Oldershaw family and delivering one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 Summer Games.

“It was extremely exciting and nerve wracking and I was obviously very proud of him,” said Scott. “There’s always going to be different emotions involved when you’re coaching your son and there will be times where you will switch between being a coach and being a father without having the two interfere.”

An emotional challenge, indeed.

Dealing with emotions is something that all coaches must learn to master to be effective. This is especially true when coaching a team of athletes according to the Tanya Dubnicoff, the coach of the bronze-medal winning cycling pursuit team.

Dubnicoff states that every team has its own dynamics and a coach needs to be know when to step in and when to let the athletes figure things out for themselves.

“You give a lot of the reins to the athletes to guide the team. The team is its own nucleus so they contribute to that dynamic and it’s taken care of within the group,” said Dubnicoff while at a recent training camp in California.

Dubnicoff knows all about the pressure and the ups and downs that come with competing at such a high level of sport. A three-time Olympian herself and a decorated cyclist, Dubnicoff said she thought she could transfer many of the life lessons and skills she learned during a career that also included the 1993 world sprint title and four Pan American Games gold medals.

Coaching always piqued her interest while growing up in the system and Dubnicoff said she felt like it would be a natural transition into a new career where she can help mold the latest crop of cyclists.

Her women’s pursuit team of Gillian Carleton, Tara Whitten and Jasmin Glaesser won bronze in London and her passion for reaching that goal was clearly undeniable.

“The biggest thing for me is to be there for the athletes and to be the buffer between them and everything else,” said Dubnicoff. “It calms down the athletes and we reassure them that we are giving them everything that they need to succeed.”

A total of 24 coaches in 11 different sports will be awarded cheques at a COC luncheon on Thursday, November 8th in Montreal, Quebec.

The recipients of the awards are:

Sport Coach
Aquatics – Diving Aaron Dziver
Aquatics – Diving Cesar Augusto Henderson
Aquatics – Diving Yihua Li
Aquatics – Swimming Randy Bennett
Aquatics – Swimming Ronald Jacks
Aquatics – Swimming Thomas F. Johnson
Athletics Jeff Huntoon
Athletics Joel Skinner
Canoe/Kayak – Flatwater Frédéric Jobin
Canoe/Kayak – Flatwater Scott Oldershaw
Cycling – Track Tanya Dubnicoff
Cycling – Track Richard Wooles
Football Simon Eaddy
Football John Herdman
Football Robert Sherman
Gymnastics – Trampoline David Ross
Judo Nicolas Gill
Rowing John Keogh
Rowing Michael Spracklen
Weightlifting Walter Bailey
Weightlifting Guy Marineau
Wrestling – Freestyle Martin Calder
Wrestling – Freestyle Paul Ragusa
Wrestling – Freestyle Leigh Vierling

–    George Fadel