Coach Mike Freimark prepares his group of RiverMonsters for their next task, at a 2017 practice. Freimark has been recognized as community coach of the year for 2019 by Viasport. (Barry Stewart photo)

Coach Mike Freimark prepares his group of RiverMonsters for their next task, at a 2017 practice. Freimark has been recognized as community coach of the year for 2019 by Viasport. (Barry Stewart photo)

Mike Freimark is Viasport’s community coach of the year

RiverMonsters coach recognized for time with athletes, mentoring junior coaches and growing the club

Mike Freimark has been recognized as Viasport’s community coach of the year.

Freimark, who coaches the Hope RiverMonsters Swim Club, was one of three coaches across B.C. recognized for their efforts. The awards were for the 2019 year, yet due to the coronavirus pandemic the presentation was postponed.

Freimark’s achievements include logging hundreds of hours each year, including 900 hours in his first year with the swim club, during weekly practices and swim meets. The club had been struggling to find enough volunteer coaches to ensure a steady practice schedule, Viasport stated, until Freimark got involved.

The club’s success has a lot to do with Freimark, Viasport stated, including his individual connections with athletes as well as his expanding coaching knowledge. Freimark has been involved in coaching conferences and clinics as well as mentoring junior coaches and developing a five-year plan with the RiverMonsters board to ensure sustainability.

And one thing Freimark said he has learned and passed on to fellow coaches is this: always be prepared.

“Picture an outdoor swim meet on a sunny day. The six and under swimmers are coming on deck to race 25 metre freestyle. Most of the coaches are in the water to swim the length with their young prodigies,” he said in Viasport’s announcement. “My assistant coach Emma is walking an adorable, stubborn little 5-year-old swimmer to the edge of the deck. Looking at Emma I ask, “Do you have your swimsuit on?”

Emma replies: “No, she wants to go by herself”. I ask Emma to give me her phone. Confused, Emma passes her phone to me. The starter says, “take your marks”. Our adorable swimmer freaks out. The buzzer goes and the swimmers are off. Our swimmer won’t move. A fully dressed Assistant Coach Emma does what any good coach would do and jumps in the water swimming side by side with encouragement. I met Emma at the other end of the deck with a towel and reminded her why “coaches need to be prepared”.”

Recognized alongside Freimark were competition coach of the year Richard Stickel, of the Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club, and high performance coach of the year Janice Fowler of the Vancouver Phoenix Gymnastics Club. The coaches were nominated by their sporting community and were then selected by a panel of experts.

Viasport acknowledged the enormous impact coaches have on their local sporting communities and athletes. “They follow their athletes through their journeys, providing mentorship and critical support, especially in challenging times such as these,” Viasport stated. “They are the heart and soul of our communities and have helped athletes create the very first memories of the sports they love.”

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