Imagine yourself as the owner of a pub on the waterfront. What would you do for fun? For Judy Baker, it’s coaching her Masters Swimmers. And she does it well: she received the 2012 MSC Excellence in Coaching Award.
Judy’s focus in life, as at the pool, is on friendships and relationships. It’s obviously working—her swimmers and assistant coaches are unanimous in their affection for the person they say is the glue that holds their team together. Her inclusion of swimmers of all ability and experience levels, motivating them to achieve more than they thought possible, defines her as a coach.
Judy describes the joy of working with her Masters in a creative way. “When I get home, my dog comes running to greet me, no matter where she is in the house. My Masters are like that!” There is a hint of disbelief in Judy’s voice when she talks of her swimmers thanking her at the end of workouts. She insists it should be the other way around and insists she’ll never stop coaching Masters.
Looking back, Judy credits each of her coaches with contributing to who she is on the pool deck today. But she admits she didn’t always understand them at the time. Today as a mentor of new coaches, she asks them to think about what makes a great coach. She acknowledges that technical knowledge matters, but stresses, “you have to understand your swimmers and form relationships with them.”
MSC’s Executive Director, Nancy Black remembers Judy as the funniest person on the team when they swam together under legendary coaches Don Talbot in Thunder Bay and Tom Johnson in Vancouver. They were tough, and so is Judy—but she’s also recognized as a loving, nurturing coach.
Judy is a level 3 NCCP swim coach and continually invests in her own professional development. Besides training the Winskill Otters Masters and Semiahmoo Masters, she has coached at various levels including age group and summer swimming, and she also works with Special Olympics athletes.
Judy’s swimming credentials are equally impressive. She figured into the world rankings as of 1978 and became a Canadian record holder in the 800m freestyle. She continued to perform well and received accolades through her university years. She traded in her goggles for a stopwatch in 1982.
– Robyn Ouimet