Young Guelph Marlins spend PD day with Olympians
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH — The Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club’s PD Day Olympic Extravaganza was almost as fun for the four participating Olympians as it was for the 80-plus participants.
The Marlins held the PD Day camp Friday at the Gryphon Pool and the Olympians enjoyed the experience as much as the young Marlins.
“It’s basically the first time that I truly miss swimming since I retired,” Guelph native Andrew Ford said. “To see these kids hustling for free because they love the sport is inspiring.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” Marlin and Guelph Gryphon swimmer Evan VanMoerkerke said. “It’s fun teaching the ones that want to learn, the ones that are excited about it and are really listening to every word you say. You kind of mention just one thing for them to focus on and you can watch them completely just focus on that one thing spot on. Even if everything else falls apart, that’s the one thing they’re focusing on. It’s that mindset that they have, that whatever you say is definitely the way to go. It’s a lot of fun that way.”
The pair were joined by fellow Olympians Maria Fernanda Far and Martha McCabe for the camp. Ford competed in the 2012 Olympics at London while VanMoerkerke and Far (representing Panama) swam in this year’s Olympics at Rio de Janeiro while McCabe competed at both London and Rio. McCabe’s stop in Guelph was the first stop of her 26-day tour that is to see her visit swim clubs in 19 cities in eastern Canada.
For Ford, the camp marked a rare visit to the pool he trained in numerous consecutive days to get ready for the London Olympics.
“It’s especially fun to be back home,” he said. “I’ve done a number of elite age-group camps around Canada and the comfort that these kids have in their own pool sort of breaks down the initial barrier. They are more willing to listen and they’re kind of like sponges to the corrections I’m giving.
“I like that there’s a bit of a range in skill level. It challenges me as a coach and the time restriction challenges me as a coach, but if you can see the smallest amount of correction in any range of that skill.”
Ford swam competitively for one year after the London Olympics, then stepped away from the sport to concentrate on making music.
“Something that I learned coming out of swimming, I had always thought that by choosing to do another year of swimming, going into the Olympics and then especially the year after going into the world championships when I was still able to better my times, I always thought I was making the hard decision,” he said. “I’m not trying to talk down to anybody who is continuing in the sport, I think that’s a great thing, but afterwards I kind of realized I was more or less making the easy decision because I was already good at swimming. Trying to build something from the ground up is harder even than I thought it would be. But it’s the same sort of thing. I guess I’ve become obsessed with trying to master skills. I’m still only a master of one, which I guess is better than being a master of none.”
The camp brought back memories of early days in the sport for VanMoerkerke.
“It’s fun to see them at that age and just kind of remembering back to when I was at that age in the groups and kind of the way I was and the way they are and how similar it is,” he said. “Sometimes some of the weakest swimmers out there will end up sticking with it and be the best one day. That’s kind of where I came from. I was back of the pack my whole life basically until high school. It’s not necessarily the best now that are going to be the best then. It’s always interesting to see where they’re at now and being able to watch them grow and develop over the years.”
VanMoerkerke, now in his fifth year at the University of Guelph, is stepping up his involvement in coaching with the Marlins.
“Growing up with my home club I did a little bit at home before I came here for university,” he said. “I was kind of with the intro group there, but ever since being at the university I haven’t done too, too much of it. Now with a little more time, I’m going to do some teaching with the swim school. This is kind of just the beginning of what I’m going to start doing a little more this year.”
Although he’s concentrating on his music right now, Ford hasn’t ruled out the possibility of getting into coaching swimming a little more than just at camps.
“Never say never,” he said. “In my experience through 20 years of swimming, I kind of noticed that upon retirement there tends to be two different kinds of swimmers — the type of swimmer that just never leaves the pool in some capacity and the type of swimmer that wants nothing to do with it.
“I’ll admit that a couple of years ago when I was just getting out of it, I was definitely thinking more so the latter. I just thought that there were so many other things to do and I still do have all these goals. I’ve been heavy into music since I retired, but it’s such a natural place for me. I just can’t help but be happy when I’m at the pool. I can’t help but be happy in trying to help somebody see the sport the way I did or like the sport a little more at the end of the day or be more confident in themselves at the end of the day. So maybe.”
While there’s a Japanese flag hanging in the rafters at the Gryphon Pool and a clock in the lobby counting down the time until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, VanMoerkerke isn’t sure he’ll try for a spot on the Canadian team for those Olympics.
“Right now I’m just kind of focusing on my OUs and CIs this coming February. I have short-course worlds in Windsor coming up in December so that’ll kind of be another main focus for me,” he said. “It’s just kind of one year at a time. I’m in my fifth year here so this is my last year at Guelph. I’m not sure where I’ll be after this year so I don’t really want to make any commitments either way.”