Nigel Kemp, current president of Masters Swimming Canada, is a Canadian swimming icon ? for 27 years he coached varsity swimming at Dalhousie University leading the team to 21 Atlantic University Athletic Association championships and 63 Canadian Inter-University Athletic Union championship medals.
A high point in his career came in 1975/76 when he coached a young Nancy Garapick to a world record and two Olympic bronze medals; she was inducted into the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame on November 5th, 2008.
In 1998 Nigel received the Distinguished Coaches Award from the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union Swimming Coaches Association and was the recipient of the prestigious Dalhousie Award for contributions to Nova Scotia sport. In 2004 he was an inaugural inductee into the Dalhousie University Sport Hall of Fame.
Nigel is also a Master Course Conductor in the National Coaching Certification Program and a contributing author to Swim Canada and FINA technical manuals.
Not only is Nigel a multiple award-winning coach but he is also a ten-time Canadian Masters Swimming champion who swims and competes regularly. He is currently the head coach of the Halifax Trojan Masters Aquatic Club, a position he has held since 2000.
Birthplace: Southampton, England
Number of Years in Swimming: 55 (I learned to swim when I was nine!)
First Team Coached: Southampton Swimming Club (Canada?s most successful coach Deryk Snelling was Head Coach at that time)
Favourite Stroke/Event: 400 IM
Least Favourite Stroke/Event: 200 Breast
Preferred Training Toy: Rubber tubing for increasing stroke cadence!
Favourite post-meet food/beverage: Chili / dark beer
Hobbies: Masters Swimming Canada; woodworking; gardening
Number One Tip for Masters Coaches: Always demonstrate, in whatever ways you can, that you care about the swimmers you coach.
Brown, Jim (2006). The Imperfect Board Member ? Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence. Jossy-Bass
Hill, Declan, (2008). The Fix ? Soccer and Organized Crime. McClelland & Stewart
Salo, Dave & Riewald,Scott (2008). Complete Conditioning for Swimming. Human Kinetics
What initially attracted you to swimming?
Parental encouragement and at twelve years of age winning the Club 50 yards freestyle handicap race with a shaving set as the prize!
How did you come to choose coaching as a career?
After completing a Masters degree at the University of Oregon I was hired by Dalhousie University to teach Anatomy, Human Growth and Development, and Swimming in the Bachelor of Physical Education Program and also to coach the Men?s and Women?s Varsity Swim teams. Coaching was indicated as one third of my workload! I also agreed to coach The Halifax Trojan Aquatic Club in my spare time! (I recognized that without age group swimmers there would be no varsity swimmers).
As a developing coach, who was your biggest influence?
You?ve been involved in the world of competitive swimming since the 1960?s ? what are some of the major changes you?ve seen in our sport over the years?
The increasing role of sport science in the planning and preparation of swimmers in high performance training and competition would have to be the most significant change allied to increased federal funding for the wide range of support services available to such athletes. The introduction of scholarships for female swimmers at the varsity level in the US in the wake of Title IX legislation in the late 70?s and early 80?s significantly increased the swimming career span of women. The professionalization of the sport has allowed top male and female swimmers to make swimming their job, particularly if modeling a LZR Speedo suit!
What do you enjoy most about coaching Masters athletes?
I particularly enjoy the wide range of challenges that Masters swimmers present to the coach. I also take pleasure in the fact that the swimmer has chosen to be at the pool themselves and wants to learn how to improve their swimming skills.
You?ve been a swim coach for over 40 years - how do you keep it fresh?
Whilst many see the role of the coach as a motivator, the fact that coaches also need motivators is sometimes overlooked. I have always attempted to introduce something different into my coaching environment in order that I can truly say I have 40 years of experience versus one years experience repeated forty times!
You not only coach the Halifax Trojan Masters but participate as a swimmer with the club as well - what do you enjoy most about competition as a masters athlete, and what personal benefits have you derived from it?
As a Masters coach and swimmer I am committed to the creedo of ?Active for Life? for the promotion of health and well-being. Indeed some have said ?It?s not the years in your life but the life in your years?! Whilst these goals are met through swimming training, participation in competition provides further motivation and the setting of a wider range of goals to pursue.
What do you see as the role of competition for Masters swimmers?
The majority of the members of Masters Swimming Canada do not choose to compete. For those who do compete, be it over short course, long course or open water, race participation represents an opportunity to pursue personal challenges and the chance to learn more about ones-self. At the present time Masters meets are not restricted to only those who have achieved qualifying times and are consequently accessible to all members.
You recently retired from teaching at Dalhousie University ? how has that changed your approach to swimming and coaching?
The two main changes I am aware of are firstly that I have more time to be an effective coach, swimmer and volunteer. Secondly my energies are spent more equitably in these areas in achieving personal and professional pride. As a grandfather I feel I also have a more balanced life!
Any thoughts on the new suit technologies?
The suit has been banned for use in age-group swimming in the USA for economic reasons. The number of world records set in 2008 in the LZR suit speaks to its biomechanical and psychological effectiveness. On the other hand Nike has withdrawn from the manufacture of like suits as well its support of competitive swimming!
What are the top three strategies Canada?s National Team needs to do to prepare for London 2012?
Swimming/Natation Canada has five Strategic Imperatives which focus upon elite performance, partnerships, a sport system that optimizes individual potential, people development including the implementation of a robust coaching certification program, and business management. In this environment SNC?s declared tactics in pursuing three medals (including one gold) in 2012 are to annually define and implement its 2012 Olympic strategy including a published calendar that identifies camps, tours competitions etc. At the same time it plans to define and implement its National Senior and Development Team programs in compliance with Long Term Athlete Development philosophies (see www.ltad.ca). This will be done in association with a National Training Centres strategy for the 2009-2012 quadrennial. For all of this to be effective I believe that SNC CEO Pierre Lafontaine will continue to foster a climate of optimism and positivity on the shoulders of his team?s performances in Beijing (including 28 national records and one Bronze medal) and galvanize Canada?s coaches to work together in pursuit of their defined goals.
What would you say is your greatest achievement in your coaching/swimming life?
The opportunity to play a significant role in the development of swimmers who are healthy and happy contributing members of society.
What are your goals for MSC this year?
To facilitate steps to move MSC towards its Vision of becoming ?a world-leading adult swimming organization, influential, recognized and valued by Canadian swimmers, clubs and partners? by 2011. It will do this guided by its Values of ?Fun and Friendship, Health and Well Being, and Participation and Achievement?. It will also be mindful of its Mission: ?MSC will be a valued partner in the delivery of national programs that enhance the swimming experience for adults of all abilities?. Further, to initiate plans to move forward on our recently formulated Strategic Plan encompassing new governance strategies, partnerships, club development, coach development, website leverage, facility advocacy and competition. This will also be accompanied by the development of a comprehensive range of policies with the assistance of the Canadian Centre for Sport and Law.
What words of advice would you give your fellow masters swimmers?
?Not only does swimming slow down the aging process in terms of respiration, muscle mass, bone density, cardiovascular activity and neurological function there?s also evidence to suggest that it increases mental health and even spiritual and social health. Fact is, swimmers lead happier, healthier lives than those who don?t get in the water.? - Joel M. Stager PhD. Indiana University (July 2006)
What would you say to someone thinking of joining a masters swim club?
?Just about every part of the human body benefits from swimming. It improves the cardiovascular health as well as muscle tone and overall flexibility. There?s simply no exercise like it ? the only activity we know of where you can say that if that?s all you do for exercise , you can be almost perfectly fit.? - Joel M. Stager PhD. Indiana University (July 2006)
Who inspires you?
Jaring Timmerman who at 100 is still setting Canadian and World Masters records. (www.seniorscope.com/spotlight_6.html#timmerman)