Contributed by Angie Abdou
Elk Valley Dolphins
This December, members of the Elk Valley Dolphins Swim Club bid a sad farewell to much loved head coach Aidan Chudeigh.
Having originally planned to be in Fernie and with the swim club for only one season, Chudleigh led the team for four and a half years. Under his leadership, the Dolphins grew from just thirty-eight swimmers to over one-hundred keen and committed athletes.
With Chudleigh’s superb coaching, the Fernie club had two swimmers qualify for nationals (Fernie’s first swimmers ever to do so).
The club also maintained a retention rate of over ninety-percent, vastly increasing the number of athletes who compete in swimming straight through to high-school graduation.
Asked to share his most memorable moment with the swim club, Chudleigh replies: “In terms of racing, there are two that stand out. The first is Olivia Howse winning the club’s first provincial gold medal in 2017 in Victoria, BC. The second is seeing two of our swimmers (Olivia Howse and Leah Soetaert) qualify for nationals in 2019! In the last four years, we have won over twenty provincial gold medals. I don’t think in any sport, a small club team has made an impact on the provincial scale like we have.”
Chudleigh is also pleased with the wide range of swimmers included on the Elk Valley Dolphins’ roster. “I am extremely proud that we now offer high quality lessons from the age of seven to sixty-plus. In my time, nine swimmers have graduated through the program and some have been offered scholarships to different universities. Being able to open up the opportunities our swimmers have in the future is really gratifying,” he said.
As Aidan returns to Australia to pursue a full-time coaching career, he will miss Fernie’s supportive community.
“When we achieved our goals as a club, the support shown throughout the community was amazing. It felt like everyone in town was cheering us on.” Chudleigh’s impact on the club has been tremendously positive and will be long lasting, as the Dolphins carry his lessons about sport culture into the next generation of Fernie swimming.
While sadly saying goodbye to Coach Aidan, the Dolphins are also thrilled to announce that Tara (Higgins) Beck is ready and willing to step into the role, transitioning from assistant coach to head coach in January 2021. She will continue Coach Aidan’s emphasis on positive sport culture. “Culture fosters success,” said Chudleigh, “and creating a supportive and positive environment makes success inevitable.” Tara Beck has learned a lot from working with Aidan, and she especially admires his “great balance between hard work, discipline and fun.”
Coach Beck swam at the national level for the Region of Waterloo Swim Club during high school and was a member of Team Ontario for the 1989 Canada Games. She then earned a full scholarship at the University of Michigan, and was an All-American swimmer, Big Ten Individual and Team Champion. Her most memorable swimming moments include “narrowly missing the Olympic team in 1992 (less than 0.5 seconds) and being voted co-captain of the NCAA Division 1 team at University of Michigan.”
After university, Tara Beck continued competing in master swimming, and she still holds national records at the masters’ level.
She has been on the Elk Valley Dolphins’ coaching staff since 2009 and is excited for the future of the “Best Little Swim Club in BC.”
Reminiscing about her love for swimming at all ages and all levels, Beck says, “As a kid, swimming was fun just because you were in the water, and there was a lot of learning and playing. When I was a teen and young adult, swimming was what kept me focused – taking a break from studying to swim let all the knowledge cement into my brain. I also had to manage my time in order to find my balance of school, work, swimming and friends. Now, swimming is my meditation. Working hard in the pool gives me a feeling of accomplishment and a reminder of the fun times in my past.”
In the post-COVID era, Coach Beck sees EVDSC continuing to grow as a competitive swim club for all ages (seven to ninety-nine) and all levels (beginner to elite). Beck is excited to work with the City of Fernie, the EVDSC Board of Directors, and local parents to get as many swimmers back in the pool safely, and create some local racing opportunities because swimming fast is fun!