Long­time Yar­mouth White­caps coach re­tires

Swim­ming coach Ginny Smith joined lo­cal team in early 1970s

South Shore Breaker - - SPORTS - ERIC BOURQUE TRICOUNTY VAN­GUARD edi­tor@southshore­breaker.ca

As her last meet as coach of the Yar­mouth Y White­caps swim team was com­ing up, Ginny

Smith was asked how she ex­pected to feel at the end of that fi­nal com­pe­ti­tion.

What would it be like say­ing good­bye to some­thing that has been a huge part of her life for more than 45 years?

“I think I’ll be lucky not to cry,” she said. “Ev­ery­body on deck is go­ing to know I’m re­tir­ing and I’m go­ing to find that very chal­leng­ing.”

The meet was held July 5 to 8 in Hal­i­fax.

How many trips to the city — among other places — did Smith make in four-and-a-half decades of coach­ing? Too many to count. And while she says she has great mem­o­ries of trav­el­ling with the swim­mers, she won’t miss the grind of be­ing on the road for all those week­end meets, ar­riv­ing home ex­hausted.

It’s the swim­mers them­selves she will miss the most, Smith said.

“I love to see them ex­cel and I love to see the beauty of their strokes evolve over time,” she said. “Then to de­velop that per­sonal re­la­tion­ship.”

Think about it, she said. All those kids who took up com­pet­i­tive swim­ming at an early age and stuck with it, Smith would coach them for a decade or so. That’s a long time, long enough for her to get to know the swim­mers pretty well.

“They get to know me, too. They know how they can get away with things,” she said, laugh­ing.

Smith was not a paid coach. It was as a vol­un­teer that she de­voted so much of her time and en­ergy to the White­caps.

Orig­i­nally from Colorado, Smith lived and stud­ied in dif­fer­ent places in the U.S. and Canada be­fore com­ing to Yar­mouth County in the early 1970s with her hus­band, Andy. She quickly be­came in­volved in the White­caps. Smith re­calls ap­proach­ing Hugh Sproule, CEO of the Yar­mouth Y back then, who was coach­ing the lo­cal swim team at the time.

“I went in and in­tro­duced my­self to Hugh and he said ‘Well, why don’t you come and help me’ (with the team) and the next year he said ‘Well, why don’t you take it over?’”

Smith re­mem­bers teams from all over At­lantic Canada com­ing to Yar­mouth to com­pete.

“I re­mem­ber one meet called the in­ter-y meet,” she said. “We had peo­ple sleep­ing in the gym. We had peo­ple all over the pool. The gym was not the gym we have now. It was pre-1982, so it was the old (fa­cil­ity). We had peo­ple from Maine.”

Yar­mouth would get a new YMCA in the early 1980s and Smith re­calls tak­ing her swim­mers to Church Point to use the pool there while the Yar­mouth fa­cil­ity was shut down due to con­struc­tion.

And for decades, of course, there were all those longer road trips for week­end meets, fol­lowed by late Sun­day nights when Smith would write up re­sults from the lat­est com­pe­ti­tion for the lo­cal me­dia.

All that trav­el­ling was tir­ing enough in the best of con­di­tions, but it could be con­sid­er­ably more stress­ful when the weather was bad. Cit­ing one par­tic­u­lar trip, Smith said, “There was nowhere to stop and nowhere to call and we didn’t have cell­phones, so I’d fol­low the big trucks be­cause it was so dan­ger­ous to drive and I was just thank­ful I got home. I don’t miss that.”

As she re­flected on her coach­ing years, Smith said it was great to see her swim­mers make their mark in the sport — many of them be­com­ing stand­out com­peti­tors — and she hopes ev­ery kid who takes up swim­ming makes it a life­long ac­tiv­ity, just as she did.

It’s also grat­i­fy­ing, she said, so see for­mer ath­letes of hers ap­ply­ing what they learned as swim­mers — things like self-dis­ci­pline and a good work ethic — to their adult lives and ca­reers.

Smith also is grate­ful to those for­mer com­peti­tors who re­turned to the White­caps to lend a hand in a coach­ing ca­pac­ity.

“I wish I could re­mem­ber all of them that helped me coach,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I’ve never been in need. There’s al­ways been some­body, and even the coaches that are re­plac­ing me now were all swim­mers that I had, that I coached.”

Then there are the par­ents, with whom Smith says she had a great re­la­tion­ship.

“I love the par­ents,” she said. “The par­ents have al­ways been very, very sup­port­ive. I’ve had so many peo­ple — par­ents — who’ve been on the (White­cap ex­ec­u­tive) board who’ve done ex­tra­or­di­nary things.”

Eric Bourque

Ginny Smith at the Yar­mouth YMCA, home of the White­caps swim team, which Smith coached for four-and-a-half decades. She is now re­tired. The White­caps are plan­ning an event for early Au­gust to cel­e­brate Smith’s coach­ing ca­reer.

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