NFL Combine style camp will develop future relay teams


VICTORIA – The Canadian Swimming Trials have come to a close, but the competition will continue for 29 of Canada’s top young male swimmers.

Swimming Canada will be holding a Junior Male Relay Take-Off camp today and tomorrow as part of a strategy to develop the next generation of Canadian men’s freestyle relay teams. The camp will focus on developing 4×100-m and 4×200-m freestyle relays, including anaerobic and endurance test sets as well as work on relay takeovers, strength and conditioning.

“The men’s relays at this point in time are weaker than the women’s so we had an idea and we’re talking about something like the NFL Combines,” said National Junior Coach Ken McKinnon. “They run the 40, bench press, broad jump and teams can interview players. We’ll be running quality and endurance sets and there will be measures on those sets – times, stroke rates, stroke counts – and we will rank them all. We will also be looking at behaviour, attention to detail, potential and leadership qualities.”

In addition to athletes aged 15 to 19 identified based on “tracking times,” 21 coaches will participate in the camp.

“This initiative will help us identify athletes with the talent, performance, attitude and commitment to be strong representatives of Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director John Atkinson.

From the camp, a team of 12 male swimmers will be selected to a Charlotte Relay Tour May 11-19 built around the US Grand Prix in Charlotte, N.C. They will be supported by two appointed coaches and integrated support team staff.

“We want to have a strategy in general in both the senior and junior programs to tackle relays and try to develop better relays for the future,” McKinnon said. “It’s about putting expectation on each other, working together and building camaraderie to build a relay. It’s team-building for the future.”

Brent Hayden won a bronze medal in men’s 100-m freestyle at the 2012 Olympics in London, but Canadian sprint freestyle times have fallen off since his retirement. McKinnon sees plenty of promise in the next generation, pointing to last year’s fourth-place finish in the men’s 4×100 free relay at the FINA World Junior Championships. Bryce Kwiecien-Delaney, Evan White, Stefan Milosevic and Yuri Kisil combined for a time of 3:21.06, less than a second off the senior team’s performance at FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

“We have the talent to improve what we are attaining in those events,” McKinnon said. “This is also part of addressing those events. If we can create some excitement and inclusion to that group of swimmers, we can get them interested in those events. We want to get them together and do some real work with them and their coaches, identify training weaknesses and needs so they can actually get better at it.”

A similar camp for female swimmers is planned following the 2015 Canadian Swimming Trials in Toronto.

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