By Alex Rinfret-The Masset Eagles Swim Club is set to make a big splash this year, with a new swim coach who has just moved to the islands from Prince Rupert.
Michael McQuade, head coach of the Prince Rupert swim club for the past five years, said he’s excited about the coming season in Masset.
Eagles practices started this week, and Mr. McQuade said he is planning to “bring things up a notch.”
“The plan is this year to increase our membership, and increase the competitive base of the club,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll learn a bit from the islanders and they’ll learn a bit from me.”
Mr. McQuade brings 15 years of coaching experience to his new post. He swam competitively as a kid, eventually making the Canadian Junior National team, and representing Canada at an international meet in 1991. He then swam for the University of New Brunswick, where he graduated with a degree in kinestheology. After that, he worked as a swim coach first in Chicago, then in Prince Rupert.
“It’s been a fantastic program, I was really fortunate to work with Rupert,” Mr. McQuade said. The Rupert club increased its membership to 125 swimmers from 80 during his time there, and also produced a national champion.
Now, Mr. McQuade is hoping to bring that same revitalization to Masset. His first step has been to change the practice times to early evenings, instead of early mornings. Early mornings are painful for everyone, he said – the coach, the parents and the swimmers, who often end up exhausted in the middle of the day. He’s hoping that the early evening practice times will attract more swimmers, including those from other communities who will find it easier to drive to Masset in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning.
His goal, he said, is for the kids to have fun and enjoy the sport, and possibly be inspired to continue swimming while pursuing post-secondary education.
“I’ve always been a huge proponent of academic athletics,” he said. “I will always advocate for kids to go to university and swim at university.”
Mr. McQuade is hoping that some Eagles will have fast enough times to swim at the provincial competition in Victoria in December. There are two swim meets scheduled before December when swimmers will have a chance to make the qualifying times.
The decision to move to Masset, he said, was an easy one. He’s already worked with the Eagles swim club, having been invited here by former coach Jeff Hiltz for swim camps. The parents are awesome, the community has been welcoming, and he loves the surfing on North Beach.
“Masset is a beautiful, beautiful place,” he said. “Basically, I’ve committed to a year of working with the club, getting the program working.”
The swim club is open to any kids who achieved stage 2 in swimming lessons, or who want to come in and try out. Practices are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 5 and 6 pm, with dryland training starting at 4:30 pm.
The cost is only $150 per swimmer for the whole year, which Mr. McQuade said is an incredible deal compared to other clubs. The Eagles have an excellent fundraising program in place, he said, which covers travel to off-island swim meets and helps make membership affordable for everyone.
If you’re interesting in joining the Eagles, contact president Denise Collison at 626-3668 or secretary Karen Church at 626-5147.
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