After four seasons with Stettler swim club, coach Jana Brooke-Gray is in the process of packing up in preparation for the next challenge in her career.
And during the four years she spent here, she has experienced a satisfaction that every sports coach may not have the chance to taste: A very visible and measurable success.
Brooke-Gray takes pride in having led the way for many swimmers of the club to reach levels allowing them to compete at provincial meets.
“Seeing the success of the swimmers of the club was the most rewarding experience,” she said.
“When I got here there were just a few swimmers at the provincial level, and this year we had 10 swimmers at the provincial level, competing at provincial meets and more than that number with provincial times.”
Brooke-Gray says her passion is for coaching in competitive swimming rather than fitness swimming.
“I like to work with kids who are highly motivated and who really want to push themselves to the highest point they can go.”
“The science of it, actually, is probably what I find the most interesting, the different ways of training and then back off of training a little bit and then push really hard to get the results,” Brooke-Gray says.
“I think the most rewarding thing is seeing a kid’s face when they reach the goal and achieve a new level.”
She says over the years she has been working as a coach, she has discovered for herself new ways of motivating her trainees and bringing the best out from them.
Brooke-Gray is also happy that she could be a friend or a sister as well as a coach to many of her students.
“I found with older swimmers, 16 to 18 year-olds that they really need somebody who will be ready to listen to them, talk to them about concerns that they may have in their lives outside the swimming pool in their difficult times of growing up. They have things they feel they can not tell their parents and I liked to be able to be that person for those kids.”
She says she likes to try new ways of motivating her students of different ages and sometimes arranging gimmicks and games to ensure that all her students keep their focus on swimming.
“The main motivating factor, is when they work hard to get good results, then I talk to them about how far they could go and encourage all the swimmers to dream big and not limit themselves.”
She says coaching with a small town swimming club like Stettler has a big challenge in that she has had to accommodate the needs of new beginners, talented swimmers and “super elite” swimmers.
But she says it was still fun.
“I liked seeing eight-year-old girls jumping on the back of 14-year-old boys and having a conversation about swimming.”
But her most favorite has been the group of youngest swimmers “because they always have success, they are growing so much and they develop so fast, every time they race, they improve.”
Brooke Gray started coaching 10 years ago with the Nanaimo Special Olympics and then in the university I coached rugby and then when I moved to Stettler, I started coaching the swim team in December 2005.
In response to questions about her plans into the future, Brooke Gray says all options are open.
“Mostly, I am trying to do something international, in another country or possibly somewhere else in Canada,” she says.
She says she will be very happy coaching 10- and-under category of swimmers in a bigger swim club.