A lifelong St. James resident who’s been making waves in neighbourhood pools since he was a child is the new head coach of the St. James Seals Swim Club.
Josh Koldon, who mentored under previous head coach, Ian Grunewald, said he’s excited about the opportunity.
"It was really nice to go full-circle," said Koldon, who will be bumping up his poolside attendance from five days per week to six in light of his new role. "It’ll be an exciting time to be an athlete in St. James
Koldon specialized in short-distance freestyle and competed at the provincial championship level during his teen years.
The 24-year-old graduated this year with a degree in kinesiology from the University of Winnipeg - swimming casually throughout his post-secondary studies.
As head coach, Koldon is responsible for overseeing the club’s other instructors, managing sign-ups and classes and upholding the club’s vision.
"Everyone loves him. The kids trust him. He really shined through as the right candidate," said Jeff Rerie, the Seals’ vice president. "We’re really excited to be a part of his head coaching career."
Rerie has connections to the competitive swimming community going back as far as he can remember. Close family members swam competitively, and his children have picked up the sport. Both Rerie and Koldon describe the swim scene in Winnipeg as "tight-knit," particularly in St. James.
"There are hundreds or more swimmers, but to run a swim meet locally, it’s all run by volunteers, and it always takes all of our clubs - collaboration - to come together and run the sport," Rerie said.
St. James Seals Swim Club develops athletes as young as six. The club runs a high-performance senior group, which Koldon trains. One swimmer from this team earned an invite to the Canadian Olympic trials this summer.
Dealing with the closing and openings of the swimming pools has been challenging for the club organizers, parents and athletes alike, Rerie said.
Club membership fluctuates year to year, Koldon said. Right now, 80 to 100 participants are enrolled, which is a small dip from last year, Koldon said.
"(Swimming) is like any kind of other sport or exercise at a high level - you stop, and you lose it pretty fast," Rerie said. "After some hard work, it does come back. It’s going to be a rebuilding year."
St. James Civic Centre is home base for the Seals, but the pool - which Koldon said he knows like the back of his hand - has been closed for renovations since last year. In the meantime, club members have been floating around other pools around the city, including the St. James Assiniboia Centennial.
Public health restrictions have been keeping the Seals on dry land since May 8.
"It’s definitely been weird not being there," Koldon said. "Obviously you’d like to get back to the pool as soon as possible, but you want people to be safe."
When swimmers can once again suit up and dive in, Koldon plans to split his efforts as head coach equally between developing new athletes and helping the advanced swimmers reach their full potential.
"It’ll be an exciting time to be an athlete in St. James," he said.
The Metro community journalist
Katlyn Streilein is the community journalist for The Metro.