Bailey Weathers is the new technical director of swimming in the Cayman Islands and, although he has only been here a few weeks, his initial impression is that there is a considerable pool of local talent.
Weathers was at the Foster’s Sea Swim with his wife Sue two weeks ago and marveled at the number of entrants and age range in the 800 meters event, the first open water swim of the new season.
“I really like it here,” he said. “There is definitely a lot of talented kids in Cayman coming from a variety of backgrounds. I like the fact that there is a lot of excitement among the kids and they work well together, which, compared to many countries, is very unusual.
“That spirit is growing and I want to enhance it within our national swimming programs for all ages.”
Weathers, an American, has a three-pronged approach to enhance the local swimming culture.
He wants to give each child a chance to learn to swim while also growing the competitive aspect of the program. He also wants to promote the sense of community and involvement in the sport of swimming for adults as well, whether recreational or competitively in the masters competition.
Hired by a committee headed by Peter MacKay, the president of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association in August to succeed Ian Armiger, Weathers wants to continue the momentum started by Armiger during his one-year tenure.
“The depth of experience which Bailey is bringing to Cayman is impressive,” said MacKay. “He has worked with swimmers of all ages and abilities.”
“Ian did a great job with the help of the CIASA board to lay out the strategic plan,” Weathers said. “We plan to continue implementing that plan but, like every strategic plan, there may be little tweaks along the way. We really have a great plan and there are not big changes needed that I can see.”
Weathers comes with a wealth of experience. His professional record is impressive, having spent 10 years coaching the women’s team at the University of Notre Dame, including capturing nine consecutive Big East Conference championships.
Then he worked for USA Swimming prior to becoming the executive head coach at Club Wolverine in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Club Wolverine was the home for such champions as Olympic gold medalists Allison Schmidt (London), Peter Vanderkaay (Athens and Beijing), Tyler Clary (London) and superstar Michael Phelps (Athens, Beijing and London).
The Foster’s Sea Swim was certainly an eye-opener for the Weathers. “It was a great experience for us,” he said. “I’m used to open water of longer distances, but few entrants. I’ve done some myself but this was really about the whole experience.
“I loved the community spirit, huge age range and whole families joining in. It goes back to what Frankie Flowers has tried to achieve down the years. It was wonderful.”
The building of an Olympic size swimming pool is a perennial issue. Weathers said he believes that with so much talent here, expectations rise and it would be a useful asset.
His targets in his first year are realistic. “We need to focus on really growth in our learn-to-swim programs, we have great instructors, we just need to make sure every child has access to their programs.
“We want to continue to develop and grow the competitive programs,” Weathers said. “As we do that, we will be able to give more children and adults the opportunity to compete and represent the Caymans internationally. And we want to continue to develop the swimming community at large.”
He also thinks Cayman already has a strong coaching pool that is steadily growing and, over the next couple of years, will enhance the overall sport across each of the islands.
“We’ve hope to also continue to build on the success of our team at CARIFTA and Island Games last year.
“We made big jumps there in 2013. The result is that we now also have swimmers who need to be pointing toward ever higher levels of competition.
“I think you will see a number now shooting for other competitions, such as the World Junior Olympics in China and the Commonwealth Games.”