Chad Webb’s coaching career with the Williams Lake Blue Fins has taken him down many lanes in the swimming world.
The head coach of the Blue Fins since 2012, Webb says his swimming career has “kind of come full circle.”
Webb grew up in Penticton and began his competitive swimming career around the age of nine, swimming his way up to the national level by the time he reached his Grade 12 year in high school.
But shoulder problems forced him out of the sport at a young age.
“That led me out of swimming and while I was waiting to recover from those injuries I started coaching.”
Penticton’s coach at the time, Jack Ashton, took web under his wing as a mentor with the KISU Swim Club where he learned how to coach, at the time, athletes that were around the same age he was.
Upon graduating high school, Webb moved to Vancouver to attend college and university where, in 1994 at the age of 23, he garnered his first head coaching job with the Williams Lake Blue Fins, replacing Gord Robertson as head coach.
Webb spent five years as head coach as the Blue Fins before moving to Kamloops to complete his teaching degree — all the while helping coach the Kamloops Classics Swim Club in the Tournament Capital for two years.
“After that I found a teaching job and a coaching job and moved to Fort St. John and lived there for four years,” Webb said.
It was there he met a para-swimmer, Laura Jensen — a swimmer who had cerebral palsy — who helped open up avenues for Webb in the swimming world he never dreamed of.
“She joined the national team and I started travelling with them and learning more and more [about coaching], which was really cool,” he said. “We wound up having some really good success up there — a couple provincial records and I got headhunted by one of the top Vancouver clubs in 2005.”
That took Webb back to Vancouver where he coached with the North Vancouver Chenas — one of the top age group programs in the nation of about 250 swimmers — before moving on to an opportunity to work with the University of British Columbia’s varsity, university and national teams.
“Laura came with me to Vancouver where I continued to coach her, and in 2008 we won the national relay at the Olympic trials meet,” Webb said.
From there he was selected to go to the 2006 Para Pan Am Games in Rio, and was a coach for Team Canada at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, where Jensen finished just shy of bringing home a medal in fourth.
During the 2010/11 season Webb was named both the men’s and women’s swimming coach of the year at UBC.
Webb’s daughter, Abby, who is following in her dad’s footsteps as a swimmer with the Blue Fins, had moved back to Williams Lake with her mom, Rachel Davis, and when a job opened up with the Williams Lake Blue Fins, Webb jumped at the opportunity to live and raise his daughter in the same community. He was hired as the head coach in the lakecity in August of 2012.
“Abby had moved back and I was talking with Marilyn Haines, who was the coach at the time, and I knew the job was available,” he said.
Denise Beauchamp, a teacher and past president of the Blue Fins, helped Webb get settled starting a teaching job, but his family being in Williams Lake was the big drawing card.
“When I got here I saw such a good work ethic with the kids in the club, and a good group of parents that are so supportive without meddling. We have such a supporting parent group and board here. They let me coach and run the program and are great about dealing with all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on.”
Now, Webb has swimmers under his wing who are swimming nationally, winning provincial gold medals and shattering club records on a regular basis.
“It’s really neat right now,” he said. “We have kids breaking records and then other younger kids coming up right behind them and breaking those records. It’s a snowball effect.”
He pointed to swimmers Jaydyn Johnson and Taylor Fitzgerald as really raising the bar for the Blue Fins.
“They’ve definitely helped raise expectations,” he said. “They’ve really pulled up the next group of swimmers, and as a coach you’ll definitely see lulls, or ups and downs. Swimming’s not like school sports, and it’s hard. It’s just you out there by yourself. There’s no team and you’ve got to mentally and physically be prepared.”
Webb, meanwhile, is on deck with the Blue Fins six days a week, and also runs a dry land training program on the swimmers’ off day.
“I’m a big believer in quality over quantity,” Webb said of his coaching philosophy.
“I’m a stickler for technique, and we do a lot of technical work. We swim less metres and less time and less often than a lot of clubs, but we are seeing results.”
In the near future Webb hopes to start a junior swimming and lifeguarding combined program for youth who don’t necessarily want to focus solely on the competitive aspect of swimming.
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At first the program will run through the Blue Fins beginning in September of 2019, however, Webb is currently in the process of getting the program introduced as an elective for students in School District 27.
“I’ve got a great group of swimmers here, and Amanda Nemeth who has come on as assistant coach and Wally Saunders has done a phenomenal job for years,” he said.
“I’m lucky to be here and I plan on staying and coaching in the community. [My partner] Jennifer moved from Quesnel a couple years ago here with her son and we now have a blended family, as many do with Abby sharing her mom’s and my place.
“It will be hard with Abby moving next year but I don’t want to uproot Jennifer and the family to follow her for a couple years until she graduates as Williams Lake has treated me very well.”
Outside the pool, Webb enjoys many sports and outdoor activities including mountain biking, golfing, fishing, SCUBA diving and surfing.
“And, I enjoy doing renovations. To the spouse’s dismay, I always have something in the works,” he said.