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Swim coach dives in with Chilliwack Special Olympics

Chilliwack Progress - 1/23/2019

Barry Stewart,

Black Press

Some people move into a new community and treat it like one might approach a swimming hole in early summer: dipping in a toe or finger before choosing to retreat… or slowly and carefully moving toward full immersion.

Not so for Rachel Simes, a first-year teacher at Hope's Silver Creek Elementary, who is also in her first year in B.C.

Naturally, a displaced Saskatonian would gravitate toward the local curling rink, and she's now curling in a Thursday night mixed league.

But it's water sports where Simes has really jumped in with both feet.

"I'm coaching the (Hope) Mini-Monsters (under six swimmers) and assisting with the RiverMonsters at their winter training sessions," said Simes. "The Minis are so much fun to work with. It's the best job!" she enthused.

Simes' lifeguard and coaching certifications helped her land a part-time job at the local rec centre, on weekends and some week nights.

"I applied at the rec centre when I learned how expensive it is to live in B.C.," she explained.

Wednesday nights are always kept free, though, for a volunteer position she began when she was living in Saskatchewan: coaching Special Olympic swimmers.

For this, she travels to the Chilliwack Landing Leisure Centre.

"When I was in Saskatchewan, I was coaching Special Olympics curling for a couple of years, and I coached the swimming for one year," said Simes. "Then they offered me the head coach position — but by that time, I already had the teaching job here."

By good fortune, there was a head-coaching role waiting for her in Chilliwack, working with swimmers from age 8 to over 55.

Last Wednesday, Simes was on deck, checking in with her five teenaged coaches and putting a couple of swimmers through their workouts.

All the coaches had to be on their toes for Kyle, with his squirty water bottle.

"This young athlete is a dedicated swimmer, who knows how to bring a smile to everyone's face," said Simes. "He brings so much joy to our practices, with is lighthearted attitude. When he's waiting for a coach or talking with a coach he'll attempt to splash them — and sometimes he gets the best of us.

"We joke around but we get down to serious work, too," said Simes.

"Our program is good for the swimmers, because it gets them physically active and it gives them a community outside of their homes, so they can develop relationships with coaches and other swimmers," added Simes.

"They spend about an hour and 15 minutes in the water in our sessions but some come back with their families or support workers during the week," said the coach. "A lot of them are in multiple sports, like power lifting, bocce, bowling, hockey or club fit. I just really enjoy doing this. It gets me out in the community — and it's also nice that I can be a mentor to the younger coaches, who are working toward coaching certificates and high school credits.

"I would encourage any youth to become a coach for a sport they are passionate about," she added. "This will allow them to give back to their community and be a positive role model for all. With being a coach, youth will learn valuable life skills, like cooperation, organization, and working with others in a collaborative manner.

"I've found with any position I have held, I continually refer back to my coaching experience and training for assistance, and this is includes my position as an educator," said Simes. "Being a coach has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. It has aided me in becoming the young adult I am today — and I'm grateful to be able to give back to my new community and to be a member of some incredible teams."

The Special Olympics club attends meets in November, January and March and some swimmers may qualify to go on to BC provincials and summer meets.

"At the meets, only one or two are swimming in each heat, so the rest of us are cheering them on," said Simes. "It's amazing, to see the camaraderie and how everyone builds everyone up."

 
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