Ladysmith-Chemainus Swim Club head coach Dusan Toth-Szabo admits he was trying to find his way in the world when he dove into the world of coaching.
“I had spent all my life in the pool, so it made sense to become a coach,” he said.
And now, more than 15 years later, after helping hundreds of children earn their water wings, Toth-Szabo has been awarded Coach of the Year (age 10 and under) by the B.C. Swim Coaches Association.
“I didn’t really expect this because it usually goes to the big club coaches,” he said. “But it certainly made me proud and happy.”
The announcement was made at the annual Swim BC and BCSCA conference held Sept. 14-16 in Vancouver.
“I would have been able to go this year, but I had to cancel the day before because my wife got sick,” Toth-Szabo said. “So Sunday night, I got an e-mail congratulating me, and I didn’t know I had won.
“So I called my friends who were there, and they told me what had happened.”
Toth-Szabo began his swimming career in his home country of Hungary. As a youth, he spent much of his time perfecting his best event, the 400 freestyle. When he turned 18, long-distance swimming became his event of choice.
After retiring from swimming, Toth-Szabo earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education, specializing in swim science and coaching. He then coached in Hungary for seven years before coming to Canada.
For the past four years, Toth-Szabo has coached with the Ladysmith-Chemainus Orcas Swim Club. He said thanks to the efforts of the executive, the club has tripled its membership. There are currently 58 members.
“We were on the verge of not having a swim club several years ago,” he said.
He said the increase is also in part due to people seeing that the swim club is open to both competitive and non-competitive swimmers.
“They come to have fun, and so many times, they become competitive later on,” he said.
One of the big changes he has seen in the sport over the years is that swimmers are retiring later.
“In Hungary, if you were over 20, usually you retired,” he said. “Now you can see even over-30-year-old swimmers that are still present and really, really good.”