Dear Keyano families, 

With the coming of a new season I would like to take the opportunity to introduce myself to you all as the new Head Coach for this fantastic Club and to let you all know how excited I am to be a Bear! It has been a big decision for me to move such a long way to join the program and has certainly been a big decision for the Club as well. I found each step of the selection process has been reassuring for me as I felt more and more comfortable that the Club was the right fit and that we had our goals and vision for the future  squarely aligned. In the brief period that I have been involved with the Club and it’s personnel I have become enamoured not only by their professionalism but their friendly and welcoming nature. The sense of ‘family’ within the Club is such a precious trait to possess and I think one of the most integral parts of a successful Club - and certainly one I would wish to continue. 

Perhaps by way of introduction I will give a brief summary of my coaching experience. My coaching career began in the early 1990’s whilst I was completing my undergraduate degree at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. I began, as I feel all junior coaches should, working as a learn to swim teacher and novice squad coach. Over these formative years I worked with several organisations and had the opportunity to witness a multitude of competitive swimming organisational structures from local swim clubs to private learn to swim businesses. Some of the most important coach lessons were learned in this environment as I acquired the most fundamental skills and understandings of how humans move in water and started the journey to discovering my own methods of teaching and communicating. 

After graduating in 1996 I spent 3 years in the USA coaching at a large swim club in California. This club had a membership base of around 400 swimmers which was quite a large club for the time. I spent the majority of that time as an assistant to a very prominent and successful national coach in the US. It was really in the US that my passion for coaching was developed. I worked with squads and swimmers of all levels within the club from the youngest swimmers in the 8 and under group in the early afternoon to the National group in the evenings and early mornings. Nearly every weekend was spent at swim meets for all the different level of athletes I was working with and this was where I first experienced the true joy of coaching - watching athletes achieve their goals and feeling a big part of their journey. 

After moving back to Australia in 2000 I settled in to a Head Coach role in a developing club in South East Queensland - perhaps one of the most competitive swimming regions in the world. I spent 7 years building the club into the largest program at the time in the region. Throughout this period I was constantly challenged with the twin responsibilities and often conflicting roles of developing the program as both a business and as a performance focused athletic program.   

In 2007 I was offered the role of Head Coach to the Malaysian National Swimming based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I remained in this role for over ten years prior to my joining EKSC. The experiences from the position in Malaysia have afforded me the opportunity of working within a high performance environment and coordinating effective training programs with a large sports science support staff. My role was as both coach to the National athletes and educator to the regional and state coaches. 

Whilst I very much valued my time in Malaysia and the opportunities it presented I had been feeling for some time that I wanted to return to club coaching. There is something special about a strong values based club program. A club is about developing a team and it is the unity that this provides that can be so memorable and fulfilling. This sense of unity and common purpose is not often found in the individualistic and often self centred world of high performance training programs. 

Having now spent many years coaching in both environments I feel a strong unified club can offer just as much if not more to an athlete and with my experiences both in the club and high performance environment I am looking forward to working to help create a program that will provide a pathway for athletes to achieve at the highest levels. 

I believe Edmonton Keyano Swim Club has such great strengths that can be leveraged going forward: 

  • we have access to world class facilities in the Kinsman, 
  • access to a very strong satellite and development infrastructure with huge potential for growth,  
  • a proud history of swimming success at the highest level, 
  • financial security and integrity, 
  • motivated and determined coaching staff 

A great deal of my time has and will continue to be spent with Chris Nelson in the planning and development of our combined vision for the Club. One of the key factors in my decision to join EKSC was the shared vision of the Club and Chris in initiating a General Manager role. I feel this role going forward will be crucial for the development of the Club and for it’s ability to become a national leader in swimming performance. Whilst I know it has been a very tough decision for Chris to step back from his incredibly successful coaching role within the club, his knowledge and passion for the Club will be invaluable in executing the General Manager and coach development roles. My long conversations with the Board and with Chris about the future for EKSC and our direction has only strengthened my resolve to see the Club become once again a dominant force in Canadian Swimming. 

The current success of the program, highlighted by the recent 5th placing at Junior Nationals, doesn’t suggest sudden changes to the club operational landscape is warranted. Rather we need to ‘hasten slowly’ and continue to refine and build towards our long term goal of becoming a top 5 club at both the Junior and Open National level. 

The next few months will be spent getting to know the athletes, coaches, parents and other key stakeholders in the Club.  I feel the main focus for the start of the new season is to observe and get to know the program and the people. 

Areas that will be given close attention initially: 

Development and Satellite Programs/Facilities

Without question a Club is only as strong as it’s base. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years running programs is that you can never lose focus on a club’s development program. The junior swimmers are the performance athletes of the future. It is critical for a club to maintain continuity in its development pathway. We must never lose sight of creating a sustained development program and feeder system. This will be an ongoing focus for the leadership team. 

We are keenly focused on delivering a program that will significantly increase our membership base in our junior groups. Whilst there have been some challenges related to the temporary closure of the Bonnie Doon and Jasper Place satellite pools we must be focused on ensuring our junior programs become a strength in the Edmonton and greater Albertan region. 

Coach Development

I look forward to spending time with the coaching staff over the next few months. I have met several of the staff already and can’t wait to meet all the staff in the satellite centres. I will be working closely with Chris to ensure we are providing continuity in our content delivered at the different sites. We have already discussed several ideas that we look forward to implementing over the next few months. 

iNational Squad

As direct coach for the iNational squad a great deal of my time will be spent with these athletes. It is always a challenging time for an athlete to settle in to a new coaching program. I would ask for your patience over the next few weeks as we start to understand our mutual expectations and start our plans for the season.  I am really looking forward to working with you all and am excited for what the future holds. 

In the first few weeks I intend to conduct an information session where I will outline my coaching philosophy, the science behind my philosophy and explain how I write my seasonal plans. 

Strategic Plan

We expect to complete a strategic plan over the next few months which will be delivered to the membership base as soon as possible. 

  

I would lastly like to thank all the members for their patience over the last few months. Unfortunately it has taken some time to finalise my time in Malaysia and to get things ready for my move to Edmonton. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the best for the upcoming season and to share in the excitement that I and the rest of the leadership team feel within the Club for the future. I very much look forward to meeting you all in person in the near future. 

Go Bears!! 

  

Paul Birmingham 

Head Coach 

Edmonton Keyano Swim Club