Jaime Skeete: A highly-qual­i­fied swim­ming coach

Stabroek News Sunday - - STABROEK SPORT - By Noelle Smith

Learn­ing to swim was al­ways on Jaime Skeete’s bucket list and it was while do­ing work study at was then the Guyana Tele­vi­sion Broad­cast Com­pany (GTV) in 2000 - now the Na­tional Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work (NCN) – that he be­came in­volved with swim­ming.

“I took the op­por­tu­nity to say that I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in learn­ing to swim and the coaches who re­ally took me up were Aun­tie Steph (Stephanie Fraser) and Vib­ert Charles,” Skeete told Stabroek Sports in an ex­clu­sive interview.

It was com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Fraser that led to him learn­ing to swim at the Do­rado Speed Swim Club where his best events were the but­ter­fly and freestyle events.

“Be­ing com­pet­i­tive by na­ture I guess it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore the com­pet­i­tive thing fol­lowed and that’s how I got into train­ing with some of the big swim­mers,” Skeete, who has as­sisted in pre­par­ing the coun­try’s In­ter Guiana Games swim­mers said.

Due to the lack of events cater­ing specif­i­cally for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties dur­ing his com­pet­i­tive ca­reer, he would race against the swim­mers at the reg­u­lar Guyana Am­a­teur Swim­ming As­so­ci­a­tion (GASA.) sanc­tioned meets.

“When we used to have meets, I would be on the blocks lin­ing up against the other guys and it didn’t look pretty be­cause of the height dif­fer­ence,” he joked.

Things were a bit dif­fi­cult for him hav­ing be­ing born with the phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity os­teo­ge­n­e­sis im­per­fecta.

“You’re born with cal­cium de­fi­ciency which causes your bones to break very easy with peo­ple break­ing bones by sim­ply sneez­ing. The im­mune sys­tem is usu­ally weak so per­sons could die of dis­eases like pneu­mo­nia,” he ex­plained.

This con­di­tion has vary­ing de­grees. Skeete con­di­tion is a lesser one. “It didn’t stop any­thing ‘cause I was sorta wild,” he re­counted of his school life with his dis­abil­ity.

Be­cause he played cricket and was reg­u­larly fall­ing out of trees and off bi­cy­cles, go­ing to the hos­pi­tal oc­curred of­ten.

One is­sue he had with learn­ing to swim was that the shal­low end of the Castel­lani pool, where the ‘learn-to-swim’ per­sons would use, was deep, so he would have to bounce on his toes all the time to stay above the wa­ter. Peo­ple look­ing at some­one with Skeete’s con­di­tion may put lim­i­ta­tions on those in­di­vid­u­als and Skeete was aware of this from a young age and more so when he started swim­ming which is why he pushed him­self for dis­tance swim­ming.

Asked how know­ing peo­ple looked at him with the ‘you can’t do this or that’ at­ti­tude af­fected him he replied: “I al­ways felt the need to prove to my­self and ev­ery­one else that I could do what they say I can’t, whether it was join­ing scouts and go­ing camp­ing and hik­ing, or get­ting in­volved in sports. Com­pet­i­tive swim­ming was the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity I stuck to on a full-time ba­sis.

It was the dis­tance swim­ming where he would chal­lenge peo­ple to be­cause he knew that he could hold his own with his en­durance.

Skeete’s love for the sport and want­ing to give back is what moved him to as­sist the coaches of the Do­rado Speed Swim Club a lit­tle time after he learned how to swim.

“Coach­ing came along be­cause of the years of teach­ing swim­ming with the Saints Scouts and hav­ing them com­pete at the In­ter-House and In­ter-Schools meets and my swim­mers would be the ones to bring away the medals.”

His in­volve­ment with the St. Stanis­laus Col­lege Scout Group in­cluded him be­ing a swim coach. His swim­mers would rep­re­sent the school at schools com­pe­ti­tions and he was able to move from a ‘learn-to-swim’ in­struc­tor to be­ing in charge of com­pet­i­tive swim­mers. Upon re­turn­ing home from study­ing at the Univer­si­dad de Ciego de Avila, in Cuba, where he pur­sued a de­gree in Com­puter Engi­neer­ing, Skeete’s in­ten­tion was to ex­pand his knowl­edge of the sport with the main goal of be­com­ing a cer­ti­fied coach so he at­tained the FINA lev­els one and two cer­tifi­cates.

He wrote and was suc­cess­ful at the Amer­i­can Swim­ming Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion (ASCA) Level Three cer­tifi­cate.

“When I came back from school I planned on get­ting as much knowl­edge about the sport to go from be­ing an in­struc­tor to a coach. I wanted to go as far as I could and learn as much as pos­si­ble so that I would be able to Jaime Skeete

coach swim­mers.”

Skeete is the first and only swim coach with a dis­abil­ity in Guyana with the cer­tifi­cates to his name. Along with his FINA and ASCA cer­tifi­cates, Skeete, in 2014, at­tended the FINA Coaches Golden Clinic in Doha, Qatar. Prior to the Clinic in Qatar, Skeete ac­com­pa­nied the Cuban coach, and four swim­mers to the Olympic Fes­ti­val in Mex­ico.

He was also named one of the coaches for the Good­will team that represented Guyana against Trinidad and Tobago, Suri­name, Bar­ba­dos and St. Lu­cia in Bar­ba­dos and has coached teams at the Am­a­teur Swim­ming As­so­ci­a­tion of Trinidad and Tobago (A.S.A.T.T) In­vi­ta­tional from his club, a meet used by re­gional swim­mers to qual­ify for their na­tional teams at up­com­ing meets such as the Carifta Games, FINA World Cham­pi­onships and the Olympics.

When asked if he ever ex­pe­ri­enced any dis­crim­i­na­tion pos­si­bly as­so­ci­ated with his dis­abil­ity, he re­counted one in­ci­dent which was quickly han­dled by the head­coach of his club, Stephanie Fraser.

“A par­ent brought her child to the club to swim and at the level the child was at she would have had to be in my class. When she found out I would be the in­struc­tor she told Aun­tie Steph she does not what her in my class. Aun­tie Steph told her she ei­ther swam with me or not at all. It meant a lot hav­ing that kind of sup­port from the head coach of the club.” The way Ms. Fraser stood up for him meant a lot to him to know that he was not seen for his dis­abil­ity by the head of the club rather his ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Skeete pointed out that there are oc­ca­sional com­ments here and there about his coach­ing and his dis­abil­ity but he tries his best to not let them be a bother to him.

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