THROUGHOUT the month of June, Swim Ireland have been promoting ‘Women in Sport’ and have run features on the female coaches, teachers, officials and administrators who work tirelessly for the organisation.
Fermoy swimming club is leading the charge when it comes to ‘Women in Sport’ as the club is coached by three incredible women.
The pool was built in 1972.
At the official opening, Bobby Molloy, Minister for Local Government at the time, recommended that a club be formed.
A group of volunteers got together and formed the club with a motto “Building a Tradition, One Stroke at a Time.”
Jackie Power has been the Head Coach at the club for a number of years, but in the current season, stepped aside from the senior squad to concentrate on the intermediate squad, the Sharks, which feeds into ‘The Torpedos’.
Jackie was born in England to an Irish Mother and New Zealand Father. She learnt to swim while holidaying in Ardmore as a child and graduated to swim in the river Blackwater, Fermoy when visiting her grandmother.
Jackie was a secondary school teacher in England for 12 years and although not a P.E. teacher, she coached and helped with various different sports, including teaching swimming through sign language. When she moved to Ireland, she could not teach due to a lack of Irish, which was a requirement at the time.
Fermoy Swimming Club asked if she would give them a hand. She set about getting all her Swim Ireland qualifications and is now a Level 3 Coach. She is also a Swim Ireland Tutor and has trained many teachers and coaches for Swim Ireland over the years.
With Fermoy Swimming Club she is also responsible for planning and organising the Learn to Swim (LTS) program. All the coaches are involved with delivering the LTS. She also helps with other squads and helps & supports the other coaches as it is “a team effort”.
“Fermoy has moved from strength to strength, improving performances year on year within the Swim Ireland competitive system and supporting other swimmers to achieve their goals also. An example being Owen O’Keefe, who became the youngest Irish swimmer to swim the English Channel. We have also helped swimmers get on the Irish youth teams with Triathletes and Tetrathlon.”
Jackie feels the most important thing for a coach is to “gain trust”.
“To do this you must have a thorough understanding of swimming, but also understand the person, so you can allay their fears and work on their specific needs. It is important to have empathy with the person and to work at a pace which the non-swimmer feels comfortable, whilst still progressing towards their goal and likewise with the elite swimmer to understand all their needs and try to fulfil them."
Joann Baker has taken over the responsibility of coaching the senior squad, the Torpedos, a mixed squad of 30 swimmers ranging from 11- to 17-years-old, where the focus is training to train and training to compete.
Joann learnt to swim in Churchfield and Douglas swimming pools and admits to always “loving swimming”, but that interest intensified when her children got involved.
Joann is relatively new to coaching but has worked with children in a school & sporting environment for many years.
“I believe my love for coaching came from teaching swimming lessons, predominantly working with non-swimmers or those not fully confident in the water, watching how they develop and providing them with a skill for life. This then gave me the drive to help swimmers grow and develop their swimming technique and skills. I hope that as a coach I can guide and improve their existing technical skills and guide those with potential, down a competitive swimming pathway."
Speaking of her goals for the future, Joann says she would like to “help swimmers improve their technical skills, inspire their passion for swimming and provide a safe environment for them to train as a team. Swimming can be hard work, especially when preparing for competition so ensuring a sense of enjoyment around the sport is important”.
In keeping with the ‘Women in Sport’ theme, Joann’s sporting hero is Sonia O’Sullivan. She believes “the World Champion & Olympian encouraged a lot of girls to remain in sport, especially around the teenage years”.
Paula Finn completes the coaching trio. Originally from Wexford, Paula learnt to swim under instruction from the late Mr. Jim Ffrench, considered a pioneer for the promotion of swimming in Wexford. She moved to Fermoy in 1995 and joined the Fermoy Masters club.
With her children involved in the club, she began to teach in the LTS. She qualified as a Level 2 Teacher and subsequently as a Level 2 Coach.
Her initial involvement with the competitive squads came about when she was mentored by Jackie Power. “This was an invaluable learning experience and gave me the confidence to coach all squads."
In 2014 she took on the responsibility for the Dolphin squad where the focus is on learning the skills required to compete in their first gala, concentrating on starts, turns and finishes while building speed and endurance.
Paula says her goal is “to be the best I can be to help swimmers be the best they can be”.
Interestingly she says her swimming hero is “Jackie Power who has taught me all I know about swimming. I am a huge admirer of her enthusiasm, dedication and ability and have benefited hugely from how unselfishly she shares her knowledge of swimming."