Duncan Stingrays Swim Team head coach Leanne Sirup (nee Wilkinson) is the recipient of the Albin & Georgina Falt Memorial Coaches’ Recognition Award for 2021-22.
The award honours the significant contributions of coaches who have shaped the development of athletes in the Cowichan Valley and Sirup has been doing that for many years. She has received numerous honours both for her coaching and as an athlete, but never takes anything for granted.
The coaches’ award means a lot to Sirup coming from her home community.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s one of those things you do as a coach, you don’t go looking for the glory yourself.”
Sirup has Inuit background. She’s originally from Caycuse and grew up in Lake Cowichan.
“I played hockey as a kid,” she pointed out. “I liked being in the water and we found out there was a swim team.”
Her dad Al put her into swimming at the age of eight in 1983 with the local swim team known as the Duncan Admirals at the time and the rest is history. “I found my passion,” Sirup conceded.
As a young swimmer, she made her first provincial team at the age of 11 and national team at 12. Sirup’s first provincial record came at the age of 12 in the 200-metre butterfly and first national record in the 400-metre individual medley at the age of 14.
She stopped playing hockey at age 12 to concentrate on swimming that continued until the age of 17.
Sirup returned to boys’ hockey for a while and played a part in Lake Cowichan & District Minor Hockey Association’s Midget team winning the Island championship.
She came out of retirement from swimming to compete in the 1997 North American Indigenous Games in Victoria where she raced to five individual gold medals and three relay silver medals for a total of eight and the distinction of being B.C.’s Premier’s Athlete of the Year.
She’s been involved in each of the NAIG games since then as Team BC head coach in Denver, Colorado 2006, Cowichan 2008, Regina 2014 and Toronto 2017.
In 2001, Sirup swam 25 kilometres on Cowichan Lake with Laura Harris and then completed the entire 34 km length the following year in nine hours and 17 minutes.
Sirup’s foray into coaching began in 1999-2000, working with Stingrays’ head coach Gary Vandermeulen, and took off from there.
Her resume includes: head coach Cowichan Stseelhtun Swim Club 2002-2007; head coach Cowichan Aquannis Masters Swim Club 1999-2007; head coach Duncan Swim Team 2007-present; head coach Aboriginal Team BC 2004-present; selected to Team BC Staff Canada Summer Games 2017; and Swimming Natation Canada’s select coaches education and training 2021 and 2022.
Six coaches from B.C. are selected annually for SNC, with the explanation, “the strategic aim is to enhance the development of a sustainable stream of world leading High Performance coaches.”
Sirup won a national coach award presented by the Aboriginal Sport Circle in 2007, a national coach award presented by Petro Canada and the Aboriginal Sport Circle in 2021 and was just recently inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.
She’s also a BC Sports Hall of Fame member, Cowichan Lake Sports Wall of Fame inductee and Premier Sports Award winner.
Prior to becoming the Duncan Swim Team head coach, former head coach Bruce Clarke coached the only two swimmers ever from the Cowichan Valley to the Canadian Senior National level – the highest level of swimming in Canada: Stephen Shumka and Leanne Wilkinson.
“Since becoming the Duncan Swim Team head coach, I’ve had the pleasure to work with six swimmers who have also achieved Canada’s highest swimming standard, the Canadian Senior Nationals,” noted Sirup.
They include: Amanda Leslie (2008), Tamara Garriock (2009), Veronica Reid (2010), Natalia Garriock (2013), Savanah Van Nieuwkerk (2016) and McKinley Thomas-Perry (2019).
Sirup is currently one of two Learning Facilitators in B.C. and one of four in Canada certified to teach the National Coaching Certification Program for Swimming Level 2, Level 1 and Community Sport coach courses.
“As well, I’m expanding my own education and taking the Advanced Coaching Diploma program out of the Canadian Sport Institute: Ontario,” added Sirup. “Coaches who have completed their NCCP Level 3 certification must be endorsed by their NSO to be accepted into the program.”
She’s in a class of nine coaches from across Canada from a variety of sports. None of the others are swim coaches.
Many young boys and girls from around the valley have benefited from Sirup’s expertise and Theresa Bodger is pleased to present the coaching award that’s named after her parents to Sirup.