In a lot of ways, Marc Sze is a typical coach at the North Shore Winter Club. He grew up passionate about his sport of choice, he made sacrifices to compete at the highest level and he’s now giving those values back to his sport’s up and comers.
The difference, and the awesome aspect of Marc’s coaching abilities, however?
He’s not a hockey coach. What a breath of fresh air! Wait, no, don’t try to breathe underwater.
Anyways, Marc’s a busy guy, but he made time to sit down with me to share some of his philosophies on the upcoming Marlins summer swim season.
Kelvin: How long have you been coaching with the Marlins?
Marc: Four years ago, it’s a long time now actually, my fiancé got hired by the Marlins to coach and they had someone drop out right before the season started and I had some time to kill. We had coached together previously with another swim team. It was kind of a why not? thing. They didn’t know we were going out at the time, so the rest is history! Kind of a fortuitous event, right place right time.
Nice work, now you’re engaged! What are some of the highlights from last season for you?
Last year was awesome because I got to coach my own group again. I was coming from a club where I had my own group before, and for the first three years with the Marlins I was an assistant. Last year I coached the Senior Group, between 12 and 17 years old, it's based on ability rather than age. You won’t necessarily be in the higher group just because you’re older.
So anyways, having that control was really nice again. Watching the whole group swim at our regional championship was a great memory. One of the things that stands out at the Regional meet was Kendra Kerr basically dislocating her shoulder in an individual race.
That doesn’t sound like a good thing at all.
(Laughs) No, but the thing was, the race right after was the relay and we had a really good chance at provincials if we were one of the top two relays, so we had a good chance for both our relay teams to qualify. I didn’t put an alternate to Kendra down, so if she didn’t swim then we would scratch the relay. We told her it was fine but she decided to swim the relay anyways and we qualified. The whole team came together right from that moment. From the moment where she popped her shoulder out to the point where she swam in the relay was really special. Everyone was crying when her shoulder got hurt, Jamie Demers was sitting there and watching this group of 15 girls crying, let’s just say he got caught up in the moment as well.
The other moment doesn’t involve the whole team in the same way, but at provincials it was nice to watch Buzz Mallender win four golds and break two individual provincial records, some of them very old records. Laine Tadey won her first ever gold medal. Laine’s been swimming since she was six years old and she’s never won an individual medal and last year she won a bronze, a silver and a gold. That was quite special. She’s Div 7, so she’s 17 or 18, I can’t remember.
As a team and as individuals, how important is it as a coach to focus on those goals?
As a coach it’s just so cool to see the hard work pay off, for our athletes to see the results of all of it. The senior group last year qualified everyone for provincials in one manner or another. The season is short, May 1st until mid-August when provincials happen. It’s an intense season. I come from a very heavy competitive swimming background, and there’s not a ton you can do in three months in such a short time frame. So because of that the intensity is magnified and amplified at another level. You have such a short amount of time to work with the kids and a lot of them are doing other sports. You spend the first month catching them up, so it’s rewarding when they get results.
What should swimmers be doing in the offseason?
Most kids are quite active with other sports so we’re ok with that. It’s the ones who really are deciding to get serious about swimming, they’ll have to make a tough choice sooner rather than later. There’s summer swimming and then there’s winter swimming. Winter season is longer, September until August. It’s not as intense, we don’t have to cram everything into such a small amount of time. When I did winter swimming, I was doing nine practices each weak as an 11 year old. Two hours in the pool and a half hour the gym, starting at 11. I did this until I was 23. It’s a huge commitment and once you decide to go that route then you have to put as much into it as you can.
So this is a conscious decision swimmers have to make?
Yeah. One of the winter teams here will still allow other sports and other commitments, but by the time the girls hit 14 they would have made a firm decision. The guys would have to choose by 15 or 16. It’s different because of the way the body matures, when puberty hits. Girls physically mature earlier than guys. A female Olympian is on average two to three years younger than an average male swimmer.
What’s your favourite event to coach?
That’s tough to say, they’re all so different and require different training. For instance, people rag on Michael Phelps, they don’t say it’s impressive, all the medals he’s won because he’s so athletically advanced. So for instance, mid distance is 200-400 meters, so that’s a whole different set of body type and training. Then there’s the distance swimmers, those guys don’t do a lot of weight training, so to have Michael Phelps win medals win in all these different strokes that take people 10 - 20 years of training and specialization is off-the-charts impressive. It’s like a person being able to be a goalie and a forward and a defenseman. A hockey player good enough to be drafted in all three positions.
The season to come, will be your 5th year. What’s your focus going forward?
This is my last hurrah, after this season I plan on training and working somewhere else. I’m a PHD candidate so I’ll most likely be in the states. The co-coach I’ll be working with, Patrick, is really excited to be coming back. The idea is to make sure everyone transitions well for the new coaches coming in. I want to see if we can continue the success of last season without missing a beat. It’s a really talented group of coaches coming in. We have great people like Nicole Hufsmith on board to help too. Most of our seniors are older and moving on so we’re in a younger phase, so it will be exciting to see if we can continue the success from last year into this year. Our Div 7 swimmers out-pointed the entire North Van Cruisers swim club last year, they brought 60 people to provincials. Our Div 7 girls and guys, that’s seven people and we scored more points than them.
What’s the message you’re leaving for the returning coaches?
It will be tough to duplicate what we’ve done, but I want to see if our swimmers decide to commit this year, because we’ve seen what happens when you truly commit. We did really well last season and I want to see it continue. The new coaches understand the culture we have here and the transition will be very smooth. And I think we have coaches we’ve recruited are ready for that and that will be here for the long haul.