With the Coach is a weekly series featuring a conversation with a local coach.
Coach: Clifford Barry, 66-year-old Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue resident
Team: John Abbott College swim team
Years coached: Over 30 years
Playing experience: Provincial level
Best coaching tip: Coach the person, not the result.
Clifford Barry, who coached the late Olympian Victor Davis to the medal podium, took the reins of the John Abbott College swim team this past fall.
The John Abbott team is heading into a regional meet next week and then the provincial championships set for March 23-24. The certified level 3 coach also works as a high performance adviser with the Beaconsfield Bluefins Swim Club, mainly helping them with technical issues. He had been named Canadian swim coach of the year in 1982, ’84 and ’86. As a water-polo player, he participated in the 1972 (as team captain) and ’76 Olympics.
How did you get into coaching?
Barry: In my younger years I was a competitive swimmer, but then I started playing water-polo. After playing water polo then I went into coaching swimming. I loved the water and I loved people a lot. I had coached before, working in a boys’ club and also little kids. I knew I liked it and I knew I wanted to be near the water. There were no coaching jobs in water polo at the time, so someone told me there was a (swim coach) job in Guelph. They hired me and that’s where I met Victor Davis. I worked with him from 1976 to 1989 except for one year.
What is your coaching philosophy?
Barry: Caring is the key. If the kids know you care, they’ll jump over the moon for you.
My philosophy hasn’t changed, maybe my style has changed a bit, my intensity is not what it used to be. My philosophy has always been to treat people the way you wish to be treated and also to lead by example. If I say something, I’m going to do it.
What are the challenges of training college swimmers?
Barry: There are some really good athletes who have swam a lot and can train pretty hard and you also have athletes who are training for the first time in their life. So you have a big range to work with. They have education (commitments). You have to give a big picture about the whole thing, that it’s a good experience for them and you can help become as good as they can.
If you have a good environment, the kids want to be there not because they’re forced to be but because it’s fun.
What is key to inspiring college swimmers?
Barry: One is praising them, really making them feel good about themselves. Two is giving them goals. Three is really a good friendship between us. Building really good trust is also a key. I think they know from my experience that they can tell I’m someone who knows what they are doing.
Best part of coaching?
Barry: The one on one, working with motivated individuals. Making that connection with someone who is really motivated, sharing the same goals. It’s quite a wonderful process.