Quebec Swimming Federation | In search of the winning recipe

Less than two years after the Paris Olympics, the new general manager of the Quebec Swimming Federation (FNQ) had no illusions. Representing Quebec will still rest on the shoulders of Catherine Savard and Marie-Sophie Harvey, the only two eligible in Tokyo in 2021.

Posted at 6:00 AM

Simon Darwin

Simon Darwin

“I hope the two girls are OK!” Francis Menard bluntly responds when asked about his expectations for the Olympic trials in May 2024, which will take place in Montreal for the first time in 12 years.

The new general manager of FNQ, appointed in July 2021 to replace Isabelle Ducharme, who left to lead Sports Quebec, knows his work has come to a halt. In anticipation of his job interview, he never fails to read an article before Journalism Published at the same time with the title: “Announcement of the bottom of the wave”.

Not only was Quebec absent from the Canadian national team at the World Championships, it also did not put any swimmers in the World Junior Championships.

“As a league, I think we’ve had one of the best summers in terms of performance, with medals at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, both in the paragraph and in the general division,” Maynard notes, though. We had athletes [Championnats] Junior Pan Pacific Games and Canada Good Games. This is excellent, but is it a harbinger of the future? I have great doubt. »

Judging that union work is often misunderstood by the media, Maynard recently asked a few journalists to explain an approach taken a few months ago at FNQ.

Inspired by a similar path to that of Baseball Québec, whose general manager Maxime Lamarche befriended, Ménard commissioned an outside consulting firm to analyze the inner workings of FNQ, conduct a review of the relevant scientific literature, and document the modus operandi of similar organizations that are achieving success, such as the Swimming Federation of Ontario and Australia and offers a series of recommendations.

“There is a remark, also made by the middle, according to which things do not necessarily go well in high performance. On the other hand, there are leagues, such as Baseball Quebec and others, for which things are going well. They put forward innovative projects.”

Why not also do this kind of internal analysis, setting benchmarks, and turning to science? Don’t take anything for granted, after all. It was my reaction.

Francis Menard, Director General of the Swimming Federation of Quebec

Better Sport has been commissioned to lead Quebec’s Andre Lachance and François Rodrigue, coaching specialists. They have joined the services of Marc-André Duchesneau, a physician in psychology, an expert in individual support at the National Institute of Sport in Quebec, and above all a former coach and swimming enthusiast. Their report is expected in March.

Analyze everything

For Maynard, former water polo player and CEO of Parasports Québec, “everything is on the table”: ways of doing things in clubs and the federation, athlete development, training hours, number of competitions, etc.

Among his initial findings, he cited the professionalization of nearly all coaches, a rarity in the sports world in Quebec.

“It is an undeniable and very positive achievement, but it requires money,” he notes. So clubs must “sell” training hours and competitions, most of which are profitable, precisely to fund this structure. Athletes train a lot and compete a lot. But is this good for them? Optimized for their development? I ask myself ten thousand questions like these. »

In the same way, the general manager questions what he considers the absence of the union in the progress of his best swimmers.

We leave a lot of room for the clubs and they do their job very well. But why not produce more successful athletes? I don’t think they have been given the kind of development path that would lead them to compete on the Canadian and international stage. We delegate everything to our clubs without giving them the federation tools.

Francis Menard, Director General of the Swimming Federation of Quebec

Maynard regrets the absence of a “permanent or temporary” team from Quebec and the poor relations with specialists at the National Institute of Sports (INS). “We make selections and don’t organize a lot of training camps. The Canadian swimming company closed its national center in Montreal in 2013 to focus its resources in Toronto, where Quebecers currently do not train.

One of the “first projects” mentioned during a shoulder-to-shoulder meeting with Technical Director Nicholas Zazzeri and COO Jonathan Owlette is the creation of a central team.

“We collect the best athletes, give them the best coach and provide high-quality services with an NS that can compete, for example, with Toronto Central. But can it work? Is it a good idea? Will the environment follow? How is this organized, how much Once? ”

Maynard noticed a certain reluctance of clubs to give up their most successful elements, and admitted that this did not happen. “It requires a culture change.”

He calculates that he would need an additional $400,000 to $600,000, out of an annual budget of $2.2 million, to bring such an idea to life. The growth of philanthropy, as in athletics, is an avenue he would like to explore, but a minimum staffing presence is still necessary to carry out such an operation.

Continuous training of trainers is a priority. “We have good athletes, good coaches, good clubs, good volunteers, and there is just a little something missing in the recipe,” Judge Francis Menard. How can these ingredients be mixed together to produce enviable results?”

The CEO of FNQ aims that the years 2028 and 2032 begin to see swimming in Quebec participate in the wave of success in Canada. Until then, Savard and Harvey, who will be in Toronto for next week’s World Cup, continue to hold them at arm’s length…

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