By Mike Gregory
Plenty of more wake is churning up at the pool as the Ladysmith Chemainus Orcas Swim Club has doubled its roster since the beginning of the season under a new head coach.
On the pool deck at the Frank Jameson Community Centre, coach Brandon Gonzales enjoys imparting the skills he’s learned to the swimmers of all abilities.
“As long as it’s safe for the kids to be in the water then it’s a good place for them to learn,” he said of the Orcas program.
The club has six groups of swimmers aged five to 18 years old.
Practices can be anywhere from one hour to upwards of 12 hours weekly for those on the team travelling to swim meets across the island.
The club has doubled its membership since the beginning of the season and currently boasts 40 swimmers.
Gonzales said he has a passion for teaching, and combined with his love of water, coaching is a natural fit.
“I really enjoy seeing someone learn something – that light bulb moment,” he said.
“There’s so many different opportunities like that in a single day and so you spread that over an entire season and it just makes it so it’s enjoyable to go to work.”
A competitive swimmer in Kelowna and Edmonton for 12 years, Gonzales started coaching a decade ago with teams in Alberta and Merritt, B.C., which is an hour and a half west of Kelowna.
His family then moved to the island and he took on a position as a junior coach with the Orcas for the past three years.
He now lives in Ladysmith with his wife and two boys.
Gonzales said his approach to coaching is always to keep the basics in mind, whether it’s with his competitive athletes or when he’s in the water with newcomers to the sport.
He is supported by junior coach Aisha Alsop.
“One of the big things for me here is creating my own program,” he said.
“I’ve talked to other coaches about their experiences, successes and failures and am taking that and making it my own.”
Asked about what keeps him motivated as a coach, Gonzales said it’s all about being able to teach new skills.
“That opportunity to be able to do that is what keeps me going,” he said.
The Orcas have three upcoming meets before Christmas.