Jennika Efford is a firm believer that if you want people to act a certain way, you have to set the example.
That is the motto the 26-year-old Fernwood resident uses when she coaches young swimmers with the Tyee Aquatic Club at Crystal Pool.
“I’m a firm believer that if you show people how you want them to act, they can follow that lead,” said Efford, adding she enjoys setting up team meetings as well.
“I show up on deck, I’m always there early, and make sure I’m sending a lot of communication emails to the parents, because the more they’re involved, the easier the process.”
Efford’s passion for swimming began at a later age than most.
Originally growing up in California, her family moved around a lot so as a way of getting her out of the house, Efford’s mother enrolled her in swimming lessons at the age of 12, when she improved quickly and joined local swimming clubs. While she admits she didn’t like the racing aspect at first, she enjoyed the team atmosphere that came with racing longer distances
“I really like training, I was a distance swimmer. I wasn’t a natural racer, but I really got into the team atmosphere and working hard,” said Efford, adding she specialized in the 400, 800 and 1,500-metre freestyle.
As Efford grew, so did her love for swimming. Through her four-years attending the University of British Columbia, she continued to hit the pool with the university team. It was here Efford learned junior coaches were needed to help the little kids on the club team.
When she was younger, Efford enjoyed being around kids, baby sitting children in the neighbourhood and teaching younger kids how to swim, so she decided to volunteer.
And eight years later, Efford hasn’t looked back and still enjoys the challenge of coaching.
“You always have to come up with new ways to explain things to them because not everyone understands things the same way,” Efford said. “It’s always a good challenge. It’s not the same day twice.”
Recently, Efford, along with five other coaches from across the province, were recognized as part of National Coaches Week for being a mentor coach at the B.C. Summer Games — a recognition she calls an honour.
This year, Efford is taking on a new, older group of swimmers at the Tyee Aquatic Club, coaching 16 swimmers in the 11 to 15 age group, who hope to make regionals or provincials.
While she admits, there is more politics involved in coaching than she would like, at the end of the day, it’s the kids who always put a smile on her face.
“The smallest part of my job seems to be the on deck stuff with the kids, but it’s also the part that keeps me going,” she said.
“At the end of the day, my kids always make me laugh. It’s just swimming, it’s kids in the water.”