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Cambridge Aquajets head coach ready to retire

'At the club, it’s always been positive. We all work together. We're a very cohesive group, and everyone feels valued'
2022 0701 Aquajets Coach BL 1
Ron Campbell at W.G. Johnson Centre in Hespeler.

After 36 years, Ron Campbell is retiring as head coach of the Cambridge Aquajets.

The 64-year-old has coached thousands of swimmers at Galt’s John Dolson Pool and at W.G. Johnson Centre in Hespeler.

“Over the years, I worked with all age groups but mostly I coached the older kids, teenagers, and that’s my favourite group. I absolutely love them. I like to see the transition from listening to their parents who first encouraged them to swim. Then they begin to look for inspiration from other people to see how the world works. You can see the change where they rely more on themselves and their judgment of other people, not just their parents, and you can see that change,” Campbell said.

“I want them to take ownership of their career. I think it’s important that they make decisions on their own. and it’s interesting to see them become their own people who want to tell me what they think, especially when they disagree with me.”

Campbell said it was a unique experience being the only head coach in town.

“When coaching, you’re on your own for most part, so it’s a little different," he said.

But there’s just something about swimming that has kept Campbell in it for all of these years.

“The kids work hard, and they just want to get in there with their friends and do a good job and then go home. It’s a great group to be around,” Campbell said.

“It’s kind of a weird lifestyle with swim meets on weekends and that kind of thing is tough, but the kids make it worthwhile. They just really appreciate what you are trying to do, and they are awesome.”

Growing up in Montreal, swimming was a big part of Campbell’s life.

“Part of the culture was that there were summer pools in every neighbourhood and back then, that’s what we did. You could not stay home. You would just see everyone migrate to the pool and you would stay there all day,” Campbell said.

“That was our summertime. And that’s how I got used to the idea of swimming. I was a terrible swimmer when I was young. I was awful actually, but my siblings were very good, and so I just got drawn in.”

In the early '70s, Campbell’s family moved to Waterloo, and he became part of the swim team at the Kitchener YMCA.

“As I grew, I got better. I was a good swimmer in high school and then I was on the national team for four years,” Campbell said.

“I travelled and it was great fun. It was around the time that the Montreal Olympics was happening. So, there was a lot of money in amateur sports. We had a lot of opportunities.”

After retiring from competitive swimming, Campbell became head coach of the Cambridge Aquajets in 1986.

The swim club is a non-profit club run by a volunteer board of directors elected from the club’s parent membership.

The Cambridge Aquajets has about 150 swimmers who participate in many levels of training from 6 to 18 years of age.

“You try to make it a very positive culture in the swim club. This can be tough. Everyone is working hard, swimming up and down and in close proximity and things can go off the rails if not managed properly and that’s what we try to do. We want to have a positive atmosphere and have them feel they are valued no matter how good they are.” 

The club has produced many successful athletes including Olympians. Campbell says, as amazing as that is, the club isn’t focused on making Olympic swimmers.

“I remember some of the experiences back when I started. When we travelled, the coach would take the kids and that was it,” Campbell said.

“I remember going to Ottawa for 10 days and we went skiing. It was a lot of fun. The kids had to rely on themselves, and some would take leadership. That probably helped them to mature.”

Campbell says he often runs into the kids he once coached, now all grown up.

“Some are doctors, some are lawyers. And that’s great. I ask them how old they are, 18? But of course, I know how old they are,” Campbell said.

“I’ve been getting lots of texts and messages over the years from people saying that it’s so great that I’m still coaching, and they’ll often mention some of fun times.”

While coaching, Campbell also taught math at Conestoga College for 25 years.

“When I was coaching, we had morning and afternoon practices and swim meets. With that lifestyle, you have to be flexible, and your family has to be flexible,” Campbell said.

Campbell is now ready to pass on his coaching duties.

His son son Trevor, a former Aquajets swimmer and assistant coach for seven years, is taking over as head coach.

“My son has been coaching with me and he’s ready to take over. He really enjoys it. He’s going to change a few things and he’s ready to give it a try,” Campbell said. 

“It really is a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. I’ll help him out a bit, but he’s the one, and he will make all the decisions,” he said.

Although ready to retire, Campbell will be there to help his son through the transition.

“I play hockey and we have a cottage at Sauble beach. I don’t mind trying other things, and maybe catch up on some reading, but whatever Trevor needs with swim meets and practices, I will be there,” Campbell said.

“At the club, it’s always been positive. We all work together. We're a very cohesive group, and everyone feels valued.”

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community. She joined CambridgeToday in 2021
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