Although I was born in Montreal, I was raised in Calgary where I completed my education. I did my post-secondary education at the University of Calgary (B.Sc) and my medical degree from the U of C in 1974. In the fall of 1978 I came to Red Deer and have had a successful career here practicing anaesthesiology at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. I retired officially at the end of 2007 although I had worked less than full time for several years before that.
I have been married for 29 years to Lynn. We have one son, Matt who is 28. Lynn and I share our passion for horses. We have 2 Morgans and an Arab half blood. I show my Morgan and will show the Arab next season as well.
Although work and family dominated so much of my working life, I tried to remain physically active. For too many years, I wasn?t very successful. There just never seemed to be enough time to do anything on a regular basis. I found this very frustrating because in my youth I participated in a few sports with variable success. These included hockey (terrible player but I love to skate), golf (mid 80?s on easy courses as a teenager), hiking, mountaineering, and most notably bicycle road racing. I was the fittest when I was cycling but again, the workload got in the way of the training. I still love the bike. You can?t beat pounding the pedals listening to Willie Nelson on the Ipod. Do I hear a groan?
Swimming has come to dominate much of my recreational time. I enjoy the technique that translates into efficiency in the water. Swimming seems to fit my psyche and my physiology. Being part of a Masters club adds the motivation and the social aspects that keeps me coming back for more.
As well as been deeply involved in our swim club as President, I have commitments in other areas of the non-profit sector. I like governance and to that end I have or am currently sitting on Boards that serve Persons With Developmental Disabilities, MSC, and the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery. One Board seems to lead to the next. Lynn is very supportive of my time-consuming community interests. She is a volunteer at the Red Deer Hospice.
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec; raised in Calgary
Number of Years in Swimming: 13 years of swimming, 12th year of swimming Masters
First Swim Club: Red Deer Silver Sharks Masters Swim Club
Favourite Stroke/Event: Freestyle, but I enjoy the process of learning/improving all of the strokes.
Least Favourite Stroke/Event: Butterfly
Preferred Training Toy: Pull Buoy
Favourite Post-meet Food/Beverage: Beer and nacho?s with club members at our favorite bar almost every Thursday night after our workout.
Hobbies and/or Other Sports: Many. My wife Lynn and I enjoy our horses a great deal. As well, I love cycling (come from a road racing background in the distant past) as well as cross country skiing in the winter. These activities plus my swimming are my main athletic endeavours. Fly fishing, paddling canoes, working with my pointing dogs also keep me outdoors most days.
Current Reading: I just finished a book by Dr. James Orbinski, former President of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). It is a disturbing look at the unimaginable misery inflicted on innocent people in too many countries around the world. Prior to that, I read a collection of short stories by the great American author, Wallace Stegner. I will return to Stegner for my next read.
Favourite Sports Movie: The one that jumps to mind is Bull Durham starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. I am a great Sarandon fan (Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking, etc.)
What initially attracted you to swimming?
About 13 years ago, in my mid forties, I was looking for an activity that was easy on the joints, year round, and a challenge. Swimming is all of that and so much more. It has become a lifestyle issue for me. I have come to understand that aquatics in general and Masters in particular offer so much to the community. Really, there are aquatics activities for people from ?cradle to grave?. Starting essentially as a non-swimmer, I am pleased with my progress. I think I am indicative of the fitness, health and wellness-driven Masters swimmer.
What is your training schedule like?
We provide 4 sessions/week (all coached). I try to make as many as I can but usually get 3 Masters workouts/week. I also swim shorter workouts on my own twice a week. In the summer I will exchange a bike ride for a swim and in the winter, a cross country ski for an elective swim. I rarely will miss a Masters workout unless it is unavoidable. Although I work hard at the practices and can usually make the interval times, I am not too worried if I fall behind. I don?t want my swimming to be so goal oriented that I am driven to achieve an end (i.e. a specific time) at the expense of having fun and socializing. It is all about the journey not the destination.
What has been the greatest accomplishment of your swimming life thus far?
I think the fact that I started as a mature athlete and a non-swimmer and have progressed to the point I am now is an accomplishment in my eyes. To me, it is noteworthy that I am still as passionate about swimming now as when I started.
Do you compete?
No, I have no background in competitive swimming. I have been to a couple of Masters meets which were OK. I do enjoy trying to stay with a lane mate or a younger swimmer in the next lane but that friendly competition hasn?t translated into the need to go to swim meets. I certainly recognize the benefits of meets as one measure of progress as well as the potential for socialization, etc. As well, Masters swimming has a long competitive history worldwide. I see the meets as a ?means? rather than the ?ends?. I have done one open water event that I enjoyed and can see myself doing more.
Your club has doubled in size over the past year ? what has that been like?
We now serve 100 swimmers in various options from all sessions, 1 day/week, to Saturday and Sunday only for the Waiting List folks. It has been exciting to see the club grow so fast and to be recognized in the community as one of the venues of choice for people seeking an active lifestyle. It is also so rewarding to have swimmers with no swim club background join and enjoy the experience in the same pool as former competitive swimmers. We are now sadly near the limit of available pool time so expansion will be slow, if possible at all, in the next few years. I am afraid that we will have a very large waiting list again next season. It is very disappointing to turn people away. We rented additional pool time on a Sunday this season for the Wait List folks so that they could get at least 1 hour/week of our swim program. As well, the large increase in numbers has necessitated a look at how we do business. The goal is to spread the management workload out a bit and to provide for a seamless succession of officers. The City of Red Deer has been very supportive of Masters and is our strongest partner by providing optimal pool times for our club. We just need more lanes.
Ultimately, the thing that has had the biggest impact on our growth and high satisfaction rating is our coaching. Mandi Smith (Head Coach) and Jana Peter (Assistant) have their Level II. Both have excellent technical knowledge and a strong swimming background. They are highly interactive with the swimmers throughout the workouts providing ongoing detection and correction comments as well as running clinics. Mandi and Jana have adapted to the challenges of coaching a Masters club and are THE biggest reason for our success. Each night they provide 3 workouts depending on the level of the swimmers. It makes the administration job far easier when you have a pool full of content swimmers.
What do you enjoy most about the club you swim with?
I?m sure I enjoy the same things as most Masters swimmers around the country. That is the challenge, the improvement in my swimming, and being involved in a club full of people with common interests - all having a good time in the pursuit of their goals. As one of the oldest swimmers, it is such a pleasure to forget age differences and just swim with the younger swimmers. It is also very motivating. Because the level of satisfaction of our swimmers is high, it is easier to try new things. We have tried to make our club a meaningful lifestyle venue and I find that you can count on our club members to participate in other activities. Last summer we started Bicycle Wednesday where a few of us met in the early evening, went for a bike ride and returned for refreshments. My guess is that it will be a hit again next summer with more participants. The level of interest in a proposed Open Water event next summer is high as well.
What made you decide to become a MSC Board member?
Because I feel that aquatics in general and Masters in particular offer a great deal to the community, I felt that MSC should take an increased role in promoting swimming as a lifestyle and health and wellness activity. I definitely fall into that mentality. The competitions are fine, but what builds and fills pools is the demand generated by the average citizen looking for an active lifestyle through aquatics. MSC, as a national body, should develop, promote and support initiatives to that end. Our draft Mission Statement says it all: ?MSC will be a valued partner in the delivery of national initiatives that enhance the swimming experience for adults of all abilities?.
You?re currently involved with a community health initiative ? can you tell us more about that?
Through the efforts of one of our swimmers, Lois Tallas, our club has formed a partnership with The Safe Harbour Society. The Safe Harbour Society provides supports for folks struggling with addictions, homelessness, and mental illnesses. They have nothing to do with swimming, but everything to do with health and wellness. They are a well-respected agency in our area and we are thrilled to be affiliated and wear their logo on our swimwear. By forming this partnership, we (Red Deer Masters) are sending a message to the community that we are more than just a swim club and that we strive to be a community player. We recognize that health and well-being extends outside of the pool. As well, we have raised a modest amount of money through donations attached to swimwear purchases. We are just beginning to plan for an Open Water event that will be a fundraiser for Safe Harbour.
What gives you energy to do this kind of work?
As a physician, I have always enjoyed the people part of medicine - both the patients and my colleagues. Now that I am retired, I have shifted my emphasis to this type of community involvement that is also very rewarding. I am used to being busy from early morning to late at night and I guess I still like that. The challenge of building the club and learning more about governance in the non-profit sector is also a driver. When things are moving in the right direction, it?s easier to get and stay involved. I feel that I have benefited greatly from our community and my work in the non-profit sector is a small payback for that.
As a retired physician, have your experiences with Masters swimming changed your views about health and fitness?
My views about health and fitness haven?t changed at all. I doubt if you will find any physician that doesn?t acknowledge that ultimately the most important thing in our lives is our health. What has changed for me with Masters is that I now realize that you can participate in a Masters program at any age and ability level in a pursuit of your health goals. I cannot think of any activity that has the universality of aquatics. After experiencing the upside to regular exercise first hand, I really believe that the Masters clubs, the provincial organizations, and MSC have an obligation to market Masters to the community. We owe it to the taxpayers that build and operate our pools.
What goals have you set for yourself over the next 5 years?
When I look at the websites from other Masters clubs, I realize that there are a number of programs that we could investigate to expand our swimming experience. We have a long way to go. Availability of pool space will be limiting factor in the short run but I am keen to try to include such programs as a Swimmers With A Disability session and a Seniors-only session, perhaps as part of a midday swim. I am always looking for ideas (best practices) to improve our product. I want our club to be a loud and credible voice in our aquatics community in the quest for a new aquatics facility in Red Deer. By building a large, vibrant club we are pushing the Demand side of the Supply/Demand equation. I think this is so important as the decision to build an expensive new facility will be ultimately needs driven.
What advice would you give to your fellow masters athletes?
The message is that you can start your Masters swimming at any age and any ability. I would suggest that within Masters swimming there is an opportunity to learn a skill (i.e. swimming) that has no end point. The increase in self-esteem from learning and improving your swimming is immense. By being a Masters swimmer, you are part of a worldwide group of motivated people. The mindset that develops with Masters swimming will carry you forward into other areas of your life.
What is your personal philosophy or credo?
I try to lead by example. I believe that to be a credible voice for our swimmers, I have to be available (never ignore a voicemail, email or fax), knowledgeable of the system, and never miss a chance to promote, lobby, inform anyone who will listen, and market our Masters swim product. This includes swimmers you meet during regular lane swim sessions as well as politicians and civic officials. I am very goal oriented and like a challenge. What better way to feed this drive than to build a credible community based club? I am not afraid to ask a dumb question nor am I inhibited to speak to what I know and believe. I believe that even a little bit of time devoted to a volunteer based organization can make a positive difference to the outcomes of an organization.
Who inspires you?
There are so many over the years. My wife Lynn is so levelheaded and patient in listening and commenting on the projects with which I am involved. Our son Matt, who is a Person With a Developmental Disability has taught me so much about the core values that shape our lives such as understanding, tolerance, measuring success in small stages, etc, etc.