Sport is always changing, especially an artistic sport like synchronized swimming. Over the last 5+ years, both Synchro Ontario and it’s member clubs have begun using social media. At first, social media was another free and easily accessible way for synchro clubs to market their programs. However, much like the sport, whose techniques and choreography change from year to year, so has its use of social media.
John Ortiz is the head coach of KW Synchro as well as a judge in Ontario. As a coach who started his career in the US, he noted that “In Canada, there are many things that are secret and not allowed to be shared, but what is forgotten is that development, in any means, is all about sharing: sharing knowledge and expertise, techniques, programs and structures. It’s something we need to do more of and we need to voice the want to do more of [it].”
John is right, the willingness to change is slow. His point of view is shared by provincial judge and Kawartha-Trent Synchro master swimmer, Maria Shuwera. “I understand the excitement and pride in competing and winning. I also sometimes see the ‘competitiveness’ between clubs and athletes (and unfortunately sometimes parents) and worry that it sets up barriers between parties who are all passionate about the sport.”
Although Synchro Ontario clubs are always in competition with each other in province, when they compete nationally or internationally they are representing our province and our country. Sharing with each other, especially on social media where sharing is instantaneous and allows them to do more with less opportunity to get together for clinics and learning conferences, helps Ontario be more competitive when they leave the province for bigger competitions. As Mr. Ortiz points out, “the more interactions the Americas have, and the more education we offer, the better our programs will be to compete against the Europeans. We need more crossover.” Social media accounts and pages like Synchronized Swimming Coach (Leilani Torres, Chile) or The Online Synchro Coach (run by Canada’s very own Alberta Synchro coach, Vanessa Keenan) are where John feels social media plays it’s biggest role. “They post fun experiences and ideas for practice, new techniques to try out and drills. This just proves that individuals from South and North America want to make the sport better for everyone.”
Maria does her part as well. As a judge, “I have ‘liked’ ALL the synchro clubs in my area, whom I judge at many events. When any club posts pictures of winning routines, funny challenges, motivational quotes, upcoming water shows, etc., I ‘LIKE’ them all and/or SHARE them. This is my personal commitment to supporting the passion and cohesion of all athletes, coaches and clubs. It is my measured intent to show support to all parties in an unbiased platform, that we can all celebrate, encourage, emulate, share, praise and collaborate to build the best synchro althetes and routines within our shared physical, and virtual, geography.”
Waterloo Synchro was a pioneer synchro club in the province last summer when they ran their very successful #WRSCballetleg social media challenge. Rather than focusing on their own swimmers, “we wanted to highlight our sport and connect with clubs across the province, the country and around the globe by showcasing them on our social media accounts” says club president Erika Lindner. This social media campaign prompted Nepean Synchro to join in. Each month this season they have a new hashtag and a new challenge. Using the hashtag gets clubs featured on the Nepean Synchro Instagram and Facebook pages. Both the Waterloo Synchro and Nepean Synchro campaigns are great examples at the collaboration beginning between clubs. This collaboration is being taken even further, and off social media and into the pool, when these two clubs share a training camp in Aruba later this month.
Social media is also helping connect various groups within synchro clubs, including parents, swimmers, coaches and executive. Jennifer Koptie, coach of Synchro Canada’s Regional Training Center in Ontario has notice that their Instagram account “has allowed us to stay connected with the youth in our sport. The ability to shift with the changing delivery systems in social media is essential to getting out there and being viewed by our supporters and by future Regional Training Centre members! Sport is insipiring and our athletes are inspiring! We want everyone to know the amazing talents they have and to connect with synchro as a sport.”
This is the same thing Katherine Frost, head coach of Guelph Synchro, has noticed. Her swimmers “love Instagram to follow our National team as well as international clubs and athletes.”. However, the coaches and swimmers also us their Instagram account “as private group chats where we can share training ideas, quotes, figures, make up ideas, etc. They love being able to share videos and ideas they want to try at practices and I can use it as a reminder for anything for them too.” Guelph Synchro uses Facebook “for sharing club events, results, any neat links parents or coaches find, drills from other clubs, etc. Our members find it a great second way to stay up to date with the club happenings.” Katherine personally prefers Instagram to Facebook because “it feels more fun, and our younger swimmers are allowed to have accounts [on this platform]. It’s great to be able to see what other clubs are up to or what programs they are running in their clubs. It allows for us clubs to connect with each other and the swimmers to follow each other”.
Burlington Synchro Club‘s head coach, Elly Van Fleet, also sees the benefits of using social media, not only with her club, but as a tool to learn and grow for herself, her fellow coaches and her athletes. “Social media has helped widen our horizons when it comes to our sport. Finding new drills, new inspiration for ways to make things fun or challenging. It has helped us feel more connected with this sport beyond our own club and take pride in what all of the clubs are doing to help promote healthy lifestyles in young people (especially young women) in this province”.
As social media across Synchro Ontario clubs grows with the sport, so will its use as a tool to be used for collaboration. The more is it used for cross-club collaboration, the more we are going to see improved performance of all athletes. Sharing with each other will make day to day practices more effective, and improve the quality of the sport.
Lessons for Others
Embracing the changes in social media trends is important. As the popularity of a platform changes, so must our use of it. Stay current and encourage use across all divisions/groups within a company or organization. Sometimes, social media connections become real-life connections, like this picture of Brant Synchro and Waterloo Synchro working together and learning from each other.
Industry: Youth Sport
Name of Organization Contact: Katherine Frost, Jennifer Koptie, Elly Van Fleet, John Ortiz, Maria Shower, Erika Lindner
Authored by: Carey Brooks
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