Swimming Coaches Express Disapproval of Appointment
JAMES CHRISTIE, Sports Reporter
Tuesday, June 13, 2000 Globe & Mail
Toronto – The controversial appointment of Canada’s first female Olympic swim coach has prompted the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association to intervene with a letter of disapproval to the Canadian Olympic Association in a bid to keep Shauna Nolden from going to the Sydney Games.
Swimming Canada’s head coach, Dave Johnson, who orchestrated the addition of Nolden, 26, to the Olympic squad, stands firmly behind the selection of the Toronto Torch coach.
And Nolden issued a press release through a lawyer’s office yesterday, listing some of her qualifications and indicating she has no intention of stepping aside.
“I do not wish to comment on the selection process other than to say that I believe my experience and qualifications demonstrate that I am clearly very well qualified for the position of female coach for the Olympic swimming team,” Nolden’s statement said.
Johnson and Swimming Canada have been under fire since the end of the Canadian Olympic trials in Montreal on June 4. At that time, because the team was larger than anticipated, an extra coaching position was declared. Six men had been selected via strict criteria, but Johnson and Swimming Canada chief executive officer Harold Cliff believed it was time to fast-track a female coach. Both men admit the criteria used to select other coaches were not applied, and critics claim that other well qualified female coaches were bypassed in the “arbitrary” appointment.
“People are hung up on process, not the personalities,” Johnson said. “We looked at it carefully and thought about it and made the decision to move in this direction. It will be a positive thing for coaching, for women in coaching and for the national-team program.”
He said he did not know how much weight the directors of Swimming Canada and the COA would give to a letter of disapproval. Swimming Canada formally nominates a list of athletes and staff for the Olympic mission and the COA can approve or reject them.
“We have to wait and see what it is they’re [the coaching association] saying,” Johnson said. “It’s not clear to me where they want to go with it, but the CSCA feel they have a responsibility to their membership to let their feelings be known. They want better transparency in the future – and I understand that.
“They [CSCA] want to craft a statement that basically says they’re not happy with the way in which the selection developed. We understand…”
Swimmers can still qualify for an Olympic berth until the summer nationals championships in August and Johnson said he considered delaying the appointment of the extra coach until that time. But he elected to add Nolden to the roster to get her working on the Olympics as soon as possible.
“My point is, the previous initiative we had placed women in token coaching roles on the team,” Johnson said. “I wanted this coach involved at the very start of the cycle, right after trials when we did the assignments of swimmers to specific coaches. I felt it was important the coach be involved at the beginning of the day.
“I have no qualms about their concerns vis-à-vis the process.
“We could have done it better, but I still think it’s the right position to name a woman – this woman. Her credentials hold up against other women considered for the position.”
Nolden has no swimmers from her Torch club on the team. She was assigned five Olympians – team captain Shannon Shakespeare, Owen von Richter, Janet Cook, Tara Taylor and Mike McWha.
In citing her worthiness for the post, Nolden said: “I am currently the personal coach for Ms. Tamara Wagner, who is the highest-ranked swimmer coached by a female coach in Canada. Tamara is currently ranked 54th in the world in her event: the 50-metre breaststroke.
“I have dedicated my professional life to attaining experience on an international scale. I was the only female coach who attended at every international swim meet for the 2000 World Cup Circuit in Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. In addition I coached swimmers at the World Championships in Athens, Greece, this past March and coached at the US Open in San Antonio, Tex., in December 1999.”
Nick Thierry, one of the world’s top swim statisticians and publisher of SwimNews magazine, played down the significance of having a 54th-ranked swimmer. “The 50-metre breaststroke is not an Olympic event, not really a serious event,” said Thierry, a former head of the CSCA. “A ranking is valid at a point in time. Tomorrow, that same performance may rank 105th.”
The swim coaches’ association also has an issue with the Canadian Paralympic team over a female coaching addition and cited that in the letter of disapproval as well. A team source said Janet Hyslop of Thunder Bay and Joanie Maerten-Sanders of Woodstock, Ontario, were candidates for a spot created on the Paralympic team staff, similar to the Olympic place that was made for Nolden.
The Paralympic Games are worldwide competitions for athletes with physical disabilities. They mirror Olympic competitions and usually take place in the same city as the Olympic Games.
The COA has its own criteria for Olympic coaches, requiring Level 4 certification, although one-time exceptions are made. The Coaching Association of Canada said Nolden has completed Level 2 and most of Level 3. Nolden says she is enrolled in Level 4 programs.