Van Koeverden confident firing won't create choppy waters
Just five months removed from the 2012 London Olympics, CanoeKayak Canada has fired their high performance director, Barney Wainwright.
It’s hard to say what impact – if any -- that is going to have on the team overall.
These athletes all work with their own coaches and any highly motivated individual – take Adam van Koerverden, for example – isn’t going to be deterred in the slightest as he prepares with longtime coach Scott Oldershaw of the Burloak Canoe Club in Oakville.
“It’s pretty big news. It’s pretty unprecedented in our sport at least,” van Koeverden said in an interview from the team training camp in Florida. “All I will really say is I wish Barney the best. He’s a good guy. I appreciate what he’s done in the past 14 or 16 months. At the same time, I think it’s the best thing for CanoeKayak and I’m supremely confident in our team’s ability to perform despite this change.
“I’m really confident in the coaches’ ability to lead the individual athletes. Unfortunately, it will be a small team in London. We know that already. That makes it less necessary to have a lot of administration. Obviously on paper, it looks bad but practically it’s the best thing to do.”
CanoeKayak Canada will launch a search for a new high performance director next month. They’ve got nine coaches on staff who can help plan for the Olympic selections and national team manager Christine Bain is described by van Koeverden as a “rock star” when it comes to logistics.
Wainwright’s selection in November 2010 wasn’t popular with all sectors of the team. Some questioned whether the British-born administrator's background in sport science made him a good fit for the role. It's also felt by some that he never really developed as a solid leader and the funding hit the team took this year from Own The Podium didn’t help him in that regard.
“Through joint discussions, we were unable to agree an alternative role for Barney to contribute to the team, and as a consequence he will be leaving within the next two months,” said CanoeKayak Canada in a statement. “We wish Barney success and thank him for his contribution to the National Team.”
Prior to coming to Canada to work for Own The Podium in August 2009, Wainwright was the senior sport scientist for the British Canoe Union’s Olympic programs (1999-2009).
He worked on the Great Britain support staff for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and was involved in developing their high performance system at the coaching and scientific levels.
His firing speaks to the leadership void among sports federations in Canada as there is a dearth of qualified and capable people to fill these types of roles. Own The Podium is working to improve the situation, but in the meantime it continues to hurt this country’s ability to develop overall as a sports nation.
(The photo of van Koeverden winning at last year's worlds in Szeged, Hungary, was taken by REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh)