HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
During her almost 20 years in paddling as an athlete and a coach, Cheyanne Farquharson has had the opportunity to see specific events in her sport from two different perspectives.
As an athlete, she represented Ontario at the 2009 Canada Summer Games and won a bronze medal in the women’s K4 race. As a Rideau Canoe Club coach, she attended the 2017 Games as part of the Women in Coaching Canada Games Apprenticeship Program.
When she was a university student, Farquharson was recruited as a part-time coach for Rideau’s busy summer programming, which she did for four years. Now as the club’s head coach, she’s recruiting student-athletes as seasonal coaches.
“I liked that. You get to know the athletes as a coach,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday about being a part-time, summer coach. “It was nice. You were in-between being a friend and an authority figure. At the same time you were influencing them, you were teaching them skills.
“It’s rewarding. They (coaches) want to give back and have the next generation have the same experience.”
Approaching her first-year anniversary as Rideau’s head coach, Farquharson has taken on the extra responsibility of recruiting coaches for five Rideau programs.
“In any given year, we’ll hire 30 to 50 part-time coaches for various programs,” she added. “We have a staff training week to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of professionalism, goals and values.”
The summer sprint program requires 15 to 20 coaches for 100 paddlers. Then, there are eight to 10 coaches assigned for 48 canoe kids in the weekly camp program. Coaches also are needed for the recreational adult, masters and dragon boat programs.
Farquharson, the former U14 and U16 age-group co-ordinator at Rideau, was recently shocked when she learned she had been awarded Canoe Kayak Canada’s Coach Developer Award. It’s presented to a coach who contributes to the training of new canoe and kayak coaches.
She was selected for the award ahead of Madison Hamilton and Emily Parsons, both of Abenaki Aquatic Club, Fiona Vincent of Marathon Racing Council and Graham Schiebel of Calgary Canoe Club.
“I was super surprised. I didn’t know anything about it until someone sent me a text message saying I had won the award,” Farquharson said. “The Coach Developer Award is not about coaching athletes, but about coaching the coaches.”
Recruiting part-time coaches might be one of the easier tasks Farquharson, 29, has on her plate. The club has a large membership and is one of the best in the country, having won the last three Canadian sprint canoe kayak championships. Ottawa also has two universities, which allow student-athletes to stay home in the summer and work as a coach.
Rideau paddlers often come up through the various summer programs, become seasonal coaches after high school and stay for three to five years.
“Almost all of the athletes who become coaches are from the club,” said Farquharson, who won the Good to Great honour during the 2019 Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards. “Coaching is a way to keep the athlete involved in the sport, the community and with friends. Not everyone wants to do high-performance (racing).
“It’s almost like this is how they can have balance between sport and other stuff.”
After being a part-time coach during most of her university days, she travelled to New Zealand one winter for more professional development and was a coach at the Poverty Bay Kayak Club in Gisborne. She returned to become the Carleton Place Canoe Club head coach before returning to Rideau in 2015 for various leadership roles.
Besides leading Rideau to a third straight national sprint title in August, Canoe Kayak Canada was impressed with Farquharson’s leadership, recruiting and mentorship of new female coaches, which was “instrumental in creating a supportive and inclusive environment.”
“Taking on the head coaching position at a large club brings with it a great number of challenges at the best of times (and) over the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic countless more were imposed,” the Canoe Kayak Canada press release stated. “Cheyanne impressed Ottawa Public Health with our protocols (and) we were identified as a model for other organizations.”
Farquharson, who was selected to the Canadian coaching staff for the 2021 world junior and U23 canoe kayak championships in Portugal, also has developed coaching training and safe sport resources that have been distributed through the paddling community.
Rideau’s high-performance co-ordinator Reid Farquharson, who is Cheyanne’s cousin, was one of nine nominees for the Club Development Award. He’s the club’s high-performance co-ordinator and responsible for all the equipment, including the recently purchased articulated floating docks.
Diane Tam of Vancouver’s False Creek Canoe Club won the Club Development Award.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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