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Duncan swimming legend earns coveted Rubber Boot Award

Leanne Sirup B.C.’s best, according to peers

After an outstanding swimming career in her own right, for many years now Duncan’s Leanne Sirup has led successful teams as the head coach of the Duncan Stingrays Swim Club. Her athletes have been recognized as being some of the top individual and team swimmers in their classes. This Sept. 30, however, Sirup was recognized not for the success of her swimmers, or of her team, but for herself as a coach.

The BC Swim Coaches Association honoured Sirup with the coveted “Rubber Boot Award” as the top coach in the province during the Swim BC Awards Banquet on Sept. 30.

Just the second woman ever to have received the award since its inception roughly 30 years ago, what makes it special is that Sirup was selected for the honour by her fellow coaches — close to 600 of them on 57 teams across B.C.

“It is a huge honour just to be recognized by my peers for the contribution that I’m able to provide to the community,” Sirup said. “It’s such a small community of coaches. We know each other and we see each other at meets. We know we’re all just down in the trenches at home doing the work, and we all have similar successes and challenges and similar efforts that we have to put in to produce the athletes that are coming through and performing, so it’s definitely a huge honour and I appreciate [it]. I so appreciate the respect that it’s given to me from my peers that, hey, you’re doing good.”

Though there’s no real tangible criteria a coach must meet to earn the title, B.C. coaches nominate peers who have stood out during the season and the Rubber Boot is given to the best of the best.

“For the coaches to recognize on the pool deck that I personally am making a significant change in our community, it’s a huge, huge honour.”

And while the award goes to the best coach, Sirup said it’s the result of a total team effort.

“I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my team, the volunteers that support the swimmers, and the team,” she said. “This is not just a ‘me’ award this is definitely a Duncan Swim Team award and seeing that the province is recognizing that the Duncan Stingrays are moving forward and us as a team are being recognized by the rest of the province.”

When Sirup first began coaching the Stingrays, it was a considered a small club with roughly 36 swimmers in the program.

“We have traversed into the medium-size program within the province with nearly 150 members, and so it does take a lot of attention and a lot of, I guess for lack of better description, a lot of love by everybody that’s involved,” she said.

As one of just four swimming-specialized educators with the National Coaching Certification Program, Sirup said she teaches coaches at every level that their job is not just to train athletes, but to support their families as well.

“We try to help the coaches understand that as coaches we coach, but we have to do it in support of the parents who are supporting their athletes as well,” she explained. “If we have a challenge with the support system for the athlete, it comes out in the performance of that athlete. And so when the athlete’s doing so well, I think it’s just the testament to the support that we have from our volunteer parents in supporting the staff to let us do what we do.”

Honestly, Sirup says, her athletes and their parents push her to be better.

“I’m so proud of the Stingrays team,” she said. “They’re striving for their goals, and with them being so dedicated I have no other choice than to be dedicated with them or else I’m doing them a disservice. And I give credit to our families. They are so good. They’re getting their kids to the pool on time and ready to be engaged. They’re making sure that they’re having their proper meals so they have the energy that they need to train hard. They’re making sure that their lives are in order and they’re staying on top of their studies and their chores and they are just producing good humans and it makes my job so much easier.”

Always thinking of someone other than herself, Sirup hopes her award helps the Stingrays organization.

“I recognize that my name is a bit synonymous with the sport of swimming in the Cowichan Valley and my hope is that this exposure will bring greater exposure to the Duncan Swim Team and the stellar staff, volunteers, and membership that we have,” Sirup said. “Without their support, I could not do what I do. We want to do the best for the athletes in our program, and we know that it pays dividends for them not only for their performance but also for their futures.”

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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