The lord of the lanes


Pineau looks to turn Cougars swimming team into winners

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

Sylvain Pineau and his family are still getting used to life in Regina.

Pineau, a 38-year-old swimming coach born in Sherbrooke, Que., last coached in Scarborough, Ont. During the summer, he decided to make the move to Regina. He is now primarily the head coach of the Regina Optimist Dolphins Swim Club, but is also the head coach of the University of Regina Cougars swimming team.

“We’re freezing … just kidding,” said Pineau with a laugh. “September was a bit difficult. However, I like the size of the town – I like the people.”

For his wife, Aletha, Pineau admits the move has been a “culture shock.”

“[Aletha’s] been in Toronto for 31 years, so it’s been a bit different for her,” Pineau noted of his wife, who is a teacher. “She’s going to go back to Toronto and will spend a couple of months here and there.”

It has been a more positive experience for Pineau’s two-year-old son Noah.

“He’s loving it,” explained Pineau, whose wife is pregnant with their second child. “He didn’t really feel the difference. He wants to go outside all the time. He always wants to go play in the snow.”

So far in his career, Pineau has been building winning swimming program after winning swimming program. Coaching since he was 18, Pineau has found success coaching in Quebec and Ontario. He is also a certified Level 4 coach, which is the highest position in the Coaching Association of Canada.

What has been the key to Pineau’s success?

“My philosophy is fair and very straight forward,” noted Pineau. “I try to make it extremely simple in this new society where everything is fast. I like to break things down, so each swimmer can grab something daily they can improve on. Fitness and commitment are very important. My background in science helps a lot, because I can back up what we do in the water with some science behind it.

“I think that every year I coach I should be better than the year before. I always said I was going to retire if I don’t learn anything one year and I’m still here, so that means I’m still learning a few things.”

While he is always learning new things, it will be Pineau who is hoping to teach the Cougars squad a valuable lesson this season: any team can have success, regardless of their past.

“Right now, the swimmers feel like, ‘well we’re only the Cougars. We’re 32nd in the country and that’s OK,’” observed Pineau. “I can’t stand that. I’m either going to quit the Cougar project or we’re going to make a statement and start beating some teams along the way. We’re aiming for six or seven swimmers competing at the Canada West Championships and I’d like to have at least three at CIS.”

To start making some statements, Pineau is expecting a better effort from each swimmer.

“I’m still not happy with [the commitment level],” admitted Pineau. “For most of them. it’s their past experiences – their past habits that they’re still fighting. I come from a swimming background where you will never train hard enough and my demands in terms of hard work were a lot higher than what the kids were willing to do off the start.”

While Regina fields a relatively inexperienced squad – seven of the nine swimmers this year are in either their first or second year – Pineau does have a strong veteran presence to work with in fifth-year swimmer Maggi Pettit.

“So far, she’s buying into the new regime,” assessed Pineau. “She’s training very hard and is as fit as ever. Now, we’re slowly getting into the competition season and we’re trying to get her faster. Hopefully, she’ll make the CIS Championships for the first time in her five years swimming with the Cougars. It’s unfortunate that she’s done after this year because she loves it.”

Having a swimmer like Pettit makes the loss of Linda Duarte to graduation easier for Regina. Duarte had a successful career with the Cougars. Pineau did not work with Duarte, but knows of her accomplishments.

“That would have been nice if she had an extra year, that’s for certain,” said Pineau. “You want to start a new project with as many good swimmers as you can. There are a couple of recruits that have talked to me for next year, so I think the future is bright. This year is definitely a transition year.”

Between both of his coaching jobs, whether he is spending time on deck or doing paperwork, Pineau spends around a total of 60 hours a week. That amount of time would seem crazy to some, but you do not get to be a successful swimming by taking it easy.

“It’s not overwhelming,” explained Pineau. “I’ve done tough jobs in Toronto in the past and I’ve been building clubs before. I don’t go to work thinking its going to be difficult. It’s just time consuming right now because there’s a lot of rebuilding.”

Time trials for the Canada West Championships run on Dec. 18 at the Lawson Aquatic Centre in Regina. The time has yet to be determined.

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