Daily Dose — Head Coach of Nelson Reflections Artist Swimming Hangs up Swim Cap after 25 Plus Years
For Erin Fitchett, Head Coach of Nelson Reflections Artistic Swimming, giving children participating in artistic swimming good memories to take into their adult lives has been more important than medals.
“The medals were the icing on the cake. It was my goal for all these years to create athletes for life that don’t burn out,” says Fitchett.
A recent empty-nester is retiring to start a new chapter with her husband.There is no replacement in line for her yet, but Fitchett asserts her retirement doesn’t mean she is fully done with supporting the club.
“I’ll never be gone,” says Fitchett.
"For whoever takes over, I’ll always be available for consultations or to come in and help with routine development. You’ll never be able to pull me away fully. I truly do have a love for the sport and the community.
Before leaving, Fitchett & Company decided to change the name of the Nelson Reflections Synchronized Swimming club to Nelson Reflections Artistic Swimming.
Artistic swimming’s name was changed from synchronized swimming a few years ago to clarify the sport and enhance its popularity.
Fitchett was the Head Coach of Nelson Reflections Artistic Swimming Club, and she is a competition development coach, the qualification needed to coach athletes at the national level.
“I started coaching in the 90s, and I’ve been coaching pretty much straight through besides when our pool was shut down for renovations or a pandemic,” says Fitchett.
“I came from Alberta, where I swam with the Calgary Aquabelles as a national level swimmer and moved out here and started coaching quite soon after.”
There is so much that Fitchett says she loved about being the head coach.
“I loved taking a passion I had growing up and sharing it with so many families and helping the athletes reach their goals. I also liked working with all my coaching staff. A lot of them were athletes turned coaches, so I got to be part of their lives for quite some time. It’s been pretty cool to be such a big part of the community.”
Fitchett further explains her passion for coaching.
“One of my favourite parts of coaching is creating unique routines to fun music and getting to create something from scratch. Depending on which athletes we have that year, they move differently, and we can create different routines every year that are so fun to watch.”
But it’s also about watching athletes grow and have small moments of success.
“My all-time favourite thing about coaching is when an athlete accomplishes a skill, and there is a time when they realize they’ve done it and come up from underwater and have a smile on their face. Those little moments have kept me going all these years.”
Not to say the team hasn’t had success.
“We have very regularly been on the podium at a provincial level. Qualifying for the national level from a small town is certainly a difficult thing to do, and we’ve been fortunate to, in 2007 and 08, and this May when our duet represented Nelson at nationals,” says Fitchett.
“We just got back from nationals in May. They had the best swim of their entire career; it was the most amazing swim,” says Fitchett.
Growing up in Calgary and being part of the Aquabelles shaped Fitchett.
“It was amazing. I met so many friends growing up. I got to travel quite a bit all over Canada. It was my childhood, for sure. I really, truly love the sport.”
Fitchett’s connection to the Kootenays started way before she started coaching in Nelson.
“I have extended family in the Kootenays, so we spent every summer here since I was one years old out on the North Shore. Nelson has always been my second home.”
When she retired from the Aquabelles, Fitchett moved to Nelson and finished her last few high school credits here, graduating from L.V. Rogers Secondary School, then went back and forth for a few years for post-secondary studies in Calgary, and then moved to Nelson for good in 1998.
Fitchett recently received a huge honour for her coaching contributions.
“Sport BC recognized me as a community sports hero. They pick five a year from all over BC, which was a big honour. I got nominated by BC Artistic Swimming.”
Fitchett is in a transitional phase, and it feels like the right time to retire.
“I’ve always thought that when both my kids graduated high school, it would be the time to hang up my swim cap and start the next chapter of my life with my husband. We run a successful logging company, AF Timber Co.”
Former Nelson Reflections team member Cassie Wassick posted on Facebook of Fitchett’s retirement:
“Aw this is so bitter sweet… I will never forget the years I had you and how you took us to the 2007 nationals… You are a fabulous coach, awesome mom, and an all-around amazing person! So excited for you to take a ‘break,’ let’s be honest, you will always have a pair of leggings and flip flops in the back of the Ford 150 in case duty calls.”
Fitchett seconds that: she is far from done with the sport.
“I’m just really thankful for all the community support, and it’s been such a blessing to be part of Nelson’s sport community. And all the families I got to meet. Although I’m retiring, I’m not going anywhere. I still live here. I still love the sport.”
Head coach Erin Fitchett has enjoyed the many smiles on the faces of swimmers in the Nelson Reflections Artistic Swimming Club over the past 25-plus years. — Submitted photo