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Building confidence, faster times: Catching up with the Laurentian Swim Club

Randy Pascal chats with Coach Dean Henze and swimmers Ali Bertrim and Daniel Ortiz

The grind of near daily training sessions can be frustrating when the end results are not yet reflecting the effort.

It's a reality that Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club head coach Dean Henze understands all too well. And even though she is easily a couple of decades his junior, veteran SLSC swimmer Ali Bertrim also acknowledges the value of patience and persistence.

"I think personally, I've been training really well," said Bertrim, a Grade 10 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. "I haven't quite seen it in my performance, yet, but that's what we're working on right now. My strength is up, I'm stronger than ever, I'm practicing more than ever — now I just need to execute that, but I think it's coming."

Henze gets the frustration the swimmers feel, because he can feel it, too.

"There are some frustrations, because we have a couple of kids who deserve to swim faster, and they're not quite doing it yet," coach Henze agreed. "It's not that they swam horrible. It's just that you keep expecting these big drops."

Managing those expectations, though, is a big part of growing as an athlete in general and as a swimmer in particular.

"I am way better at dealing with it now," added Bertrim. "I still want to go to every practice. Something will come out of it, it will pay off eventually. I just need to stick with it."

And, of course, continue to garner the support of the coach, who can easily see the work ethic being displayed in practice. "I certainly take a huge responsibility for that, to try and change what we do, from a physiological standpoint, and also make sure about the psychology," said Henze.

"To me, sports psychology comes down to confidence. So it's a matter of what can we do, on a daily basis, to help that build and build and build. The easiest part of their swimming should be the race, because they've done everything at practice, so it's just a matter of getting it done on race day."

As Henze noted, there have been signs, including the performance of many of his swimmers at the Youth Cup in mid December. "I had a couple of good races there, and one not so good race," suggested Bertrim.

And though she may well be aware of the setting that might differentiate those two results, aligning everything in a positive direction, for every single race, is certainly not as easy as it sounds.

"There is a feeling, when you're in the pool," explained Bertrim. "When I have a good race, I feel super strong, and excited to finish the race. When I have one of those not so good races, when I dive in the pool, it's just "oh no"."

"I think it's super mental for me, and I'm still figuring this out. I know that I am doing the right things, so the performance should be there."

Daniel Ortiz is much newer to the SLSC competitive swim scene, having moved to Sudbury from Bracebridge, a little over a year ago, with his family, and now completing his grade 12 year, also at Lo-Ellen Park.

"It's a whole different level," Ortiz admitted, regarding his move to the senior training group of SLSC talent. "A lot more metres, a lot harder stuff, better stuff." Trained consistently with all four strokes in his youth, Ortiz tends to now excel in sprint freestyle events, which creates a need for a hyper attention to his launch off the blocks.

"For me, my starts are pretty decent," he said. "You have to be fast off the blocks, and then underwater, carry your speed, because you will be faster underwater than you will be above the water."

With Ortiz gearing up to make a run at standards for provincials and easterns, by the end of the year, and Bertrim targeting Olympic Trials, for her age group, Henze cannot let his foot off the gas.

"I am seeing the progress to this point, but also understanding that everyone is doing it," he said. "I can't get complacent because they are swimming well. I've got to keep raising my bar and make sure that they are still chasing."