Ginny Smith, the former longtime coach of the Yarmouth Y Whitecaps, has been honoured with two volunteer awards – one from Swim Nova Scotia, one from Swimming Canada – in recognition of the many years she spent coaching the Yarmouth swim team.
From Swim Nova Scotia, she received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. This medal recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of individuals from across the country or abroad in a wide range of fields.
Swimming Canada recognized Smith as the Volunteer Contribution Award laureate for 2018. This honour goes to volunteers who have had a long-term impact on their swimming community.
Smith coached the Whitecaps in a volunteer capacity and was with the team for about four-and-a-half decades, going back to the early 1970s. She retired from coaching the team last summer.
Video courtesy of Neil MacKenzie
In announcing the awards, Swim Nova Scotia cited Smith’s devotion to her team and her “enthusiastic promotion of respect and camaraderie,” which “resonated with swimming communities throughout the Atlantic provinces.”
In a story published by Swimming Canada, Bette El-Hawary, executive director of Swim Nova Scotia, spoke of the significant and positive mark Smith left on the sport.
“Ginny has been such an important part of swimming in Nova Scotia,” El-Hawary said. “She has a wealth of knowledge and always shared her passion for swimming with so many swimmers across the province. She was a trailblazer for women in coaching and provided great leadership to many of our upcoming female coaches.”
Originally from Colorado, Smith lived and studied in different places in the U.S. and Canada before coming to Yarmouth County in the early 1970s with her husband, Andy. She quickly became involved in the Whitecaps.
In an interview with the Vanguard last year – when she was getting ready to coach her last meet – Smith recalled approaching Hugh Sproule, CEO of the Yarmouth YMCA in the early seventies, who was coaching the local swim team at that time.
“I went in and introduced myself to Hugh and he said ‘well, why don’t you come and help me’ (with the team) and the next year he said ‘well, why don’t you take it over?’”
As she reflected on her coaching years, Smith said it was great to see her swimmers do well in the sport – many of them becoming standout competitors – and she hoped every kid who takes up swimming will make it a lifelong activity, just as she did.
It also was gratifying, she said, so see former athletes of hers applying what they learned as swimmers – things like self-discipline and a good work ethic – to their adult lives and careers.
Smith also said she was grateful to those former competitors who returned to the Whitecaps to lend a hand in a coaching capacity.
“I wish I could remember all of them that helped me coach,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I’ve never been in need. There’s always been somebody.”
To read the full story the Vanguard did on Smith last summer -- along with some thoughts from people who swam for Smith or coached with her (or both) -- click here
Smith’s last meet as a coach was last July in Halifax, which is also where, on March 2 of this year, she received national honours in recognition of the almost-half-century she spent leading the Whitecaps in a volunteer capacity.
“I’m very appreciative,” Smith said. “There are many, many fine coaches who have contributed to the field of coaching without compensation. One thing I’ve always believed – and still believe – is that professional coaching is important and I never want to undermine that.”