By Doug Kennedy
It has been interesting to find out that the Kincardine Kippers swim team was started by Ann Shar in 1965. She was from Michigan and was living here while her husband worked at BNPD. She had experience training American Marines how to swim. Former recreation director Keith Davidson remembers her marching down the beach by the south pier with her whistle in hand. Davidson says she was a tough coach and passed on that toughness and competitive spirit to her team. Everyone I talk to about the early days say the Borys sisters, Regan and Tawny, were at the top of the class and were amazing swimmers. Davidson compares the two young swimmers to the Olympic-class swimmers you would watch today.
Eighty-four-years young Dorothy Needham was a coach from 1973 until 1984. She told me it was hard for her team when it came to making turns in competitions. Sam McGregor offered his pool for the team to train in, which really helped them. Needham’s two kids, Larry and Janice, were on the team. She said Dale Dolson was also one of the original swimmers. Needham coached the eight and under and the nine and 10-year-olds.
The current president and head coach, David Kohut, has been involved since 1990. In the early years, besides Needham, Peter Dingle, Reg Milburn and Karl Mika were heavily involved. Les Booth, Kelly Young and Ian Driver formed the group that contributed many hours and days to the team.
Current president David Kohut says “it has been a real pleasure to work with the swimmers over the years and see some of those former Kippers return to sign up their kids with the team. The success we have and have had is because of the dedication of so many coaches and volunteers.”
Currently Joe Cascianno, Mike Specht and Ken Corbett help on the executive and have coached since the early 90s. I can tell from speaking with Corbett that he has such passion for this sport and organization. Other coaches include Brent Urie, Vy Waller and Heather Boetinger.
During a normal winter season, the Kippers would have 40-50 registered swimmers. The season starts in January and runs for 10 weeks, ending with a fun swim meet at the end of the term.
The spring season starts in April, runs 12 weeks and usually has 60 to 70 swimmers There are two qualifying swim meets, one hosted in Fergus and one hosted in Kincardine in late June. Elmira then hosts the semi-finals and then they all meet for the finals in Wilmot.
The Kippers receive a grant from the Municipality that really helps them out. Registration fees cover the other expenses. During COVID-19, they suspended the season.
The team hopes to start this month with a smaller session. They can only have 18 swimmers in the pool at a time. Over the years, they have had a number of swimmers set records that are still held today. Will Clements, Rhonda Breen, Brendan Ellenor, Matt Showalter and Steve Young are the ones who still hold records. Young won OFSAA gold in the 100 metre in 2009, OFSAA silver in the 100 IM in 2007 and was the CWOSSA champ in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Sarah Bruce was also a top swimmer who graduated from this program and went on to big things in swimming in university. She is on the Kincardine Sports Wall of Fame.
The Davidson Centre recreation supervisor, Sara Vinandy, says “the Kippers are a hidden gem in Kincardine’s available activities for young children of all ages. Head coach and president Dave Kohut and his team of dedicated coaches volunteer their time and passion for swimming for swimmers of all abilities. Coaches and swimmers train two hours a week to build endurance and technique. The transformation from the beginning of the session to the end is unbelievable.”
With the large number of young kids in the Municipality, this is a great program for our youth. A tip of the cap to Dave and his long list of volunteers over the years.