Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Canadian Coaches & Twitter

Here we go...  Time to point out some disappointment.  It's easy when something disappoints you to point the finger and drop a thumb.  Instead, let's actually call this observation a call to action...

The simplest of all "technology" is Twitter.  Web and/or mobile based micro-blog service that allows users to share just about anything in a 140 characters or less.

The roots of Twitter point to the technology really taking off in 2010 (as recognized by TIME magazine), so everyone should be familiar with from a branding perspective.  Thus I find that a troubling trend emerges when so few "high profile" Canadian coaches can be found on one of the most widely used social networks on the planet.

Let's do the run down...

John Atkinson... new High Performance Director... no Twitter
Pierre Lafontaine... recently departed CEO... no Twitter

Randy Bennett... Head Coach, Victoria Academy of Swimming... no Twitter
Benoit Lebrun... Head Coach, National Swim Centre - Montreal... no Twitter
Ben Titley...  Head Coach, National Swim Centre - Toronto... no Twitter
Tom Johnson... Head Coach, National Swim Centre - Vancouver... no Twitter
Joszef Nagy...  Breaststroke Tsar, National Swim Centre - Vancouver... no Twitter
Craig McCord... National Coach, Para-Swimming... no Twitter

OK... I'll give some love to Tom Rushton, assistant coach at the National Swim Centre in Montreal.  Tom uses Twitter, he Vines, he can be found on the Coach Mike Podcast... he shares and is one of few bright young stars in Canadian swim coaching.

But what about the Canadian Varsity coaches, who could use Twitter as a great communication tool for recruiting with the athletes they want in their programs...

Byron MacDonald... UofT (men's National Champions)... no Twitter
Linda Kiefer... UofT... no Twitter
Steve Price... UBC (women's National Champions)... no Twitter
Mike Blondal... Calgary...  Twitter! ... unused since Jan 20th, 2011 :(
Peter Vizsolyi... Victoria... no Twitter
Bill Humby...  Alberta... no Twitter
Paul Midgley... Western... no Twitter
Ken Fitzpatrick... Western... no Twitter
Andrew Cole... McMaster... no Twitter
Peter Carpenter... McGill... no Twitter
Lance Cansdale... Dalhousie... TWITTER!!
Nicholas Perron... Laval... no Twitter

Those are the top 10ish programs in the CIS... 1 real Twitter user (well done Lance).

But credit where credit is due, University of Guelph coach Don Burton and University of Waterloo coach Jeff Slater both can be easily found on Twitter, as too can be a few others.

I think all of this information illustrates the disturbing trend that much of the old guard of Canadian coaches are not evolving with technology.  If one can not find the time to grasp the ease of Twitter it makes one worry that more nuanced technology that can really add to a program.

Compare this to high profile coaches from our neighbour to the south...

Bob Bowman... NBAC... found time to coach Phelps, Schmitt, and be a Twitter regular
Dave Salo... USC... posts workouts and is very active on Twitter
Mike Bottom... Michigan...  Twitter weaves seamlessly through his program
Jackson Roach... USA Swimming National Jr. Team Head Coach
Jon Urbanchek... Head Coach at FAST, ex-Michigan Wolverines iconic coach
David Marsh... CEO/Director of Coaching SwimMAC Carolina is all over Twitter
Dave Denniston... Coach US Paralympics Swimming
Brett Hawke... Head Coach Auburn Swimming
Sergio Lopez Miro... Head Coach at The Bolles School is a fantastic follow
Todd Schmitz... Colorado Stars... has raised Missy Franklin to superstardom

.... and there are many, many, many other coaches, communicating, collaborating, and sharing on Twitter on a daily basis.

Why is it so hard for Canadian coaches to try and collaborate on a popular platform?  Is it that they are too high profile or busier then coaches such as Bowman, Salo, Bottom, or Marsh?  No.  It's an unwillingness to evolve and learn on the simplest of levels, which is an issue that is a deep-rooted flaw in Canadian swimming.  Canada, at it's highest level of leadership in swimming, is showing signs of not leading.

So it's not about Twitter (it would be absurd to think it is), it's about the trend.  The Americans are leading, they are collaborating, and their bonds are deepening as illustrated by their performances in London last summer and highlighted by being capable of putting together a YouTube video with over 11 million views.  Canada... well... we're here always willing to point a quick finger to our successes without taking a long look at where we fall sadly short systemically.

So that's the problem, what's the solution?  I think it starts with someone in the leadership of swimming in this country stepping up and recognizing the value of collaboration and how it can all start with a tool as simple as Twitter.

Swimming Canada could even be accused of trying a little social media experiment, they have a YouTube channel... horribly under-utilized (not updated since Fall 2012)... but at least an attempt is there.  A YouTube channel could be EXTREMELY useful, get some thought leaders to share.  All we need to do is copy of the USA Swimming model (regularly updated), their YouTube channel is pretty darn amazing.  The difference is pretty obvious.... Swim Canada has 477 222 views 849 videos posted (562 views per video) where as USA swimming has 14+ million views over 3560 uploads (4000 views per video).

Swimming Canada also has a Twitter account... 5851 followers, decently put together, regularly updated.  Someone at Swimming Canada has some sort of finger pressed to the pulse of social media... but it needs to be better.  The next step has to be identified and taken.

For now in Canadian swimming it's a culture of those who get it.... and those who refuse to get it and go to the level of mocking or even criticizing those who do make a next level effort.  This is not the way to go.

For those who have read this deep, well done.  Follow me @coachdling.

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