It’s National Coaches Week in Canada, so we sat down to ask Dallas Ludwick, Head Coach for the Manitoba Regional Diving Centre and one of Canada’s National Team Coaches, about her coaching journey.
Dallas began her athletic career in gymnastics and loved the sport, but a knee injury ended her gymnastics career abruptly. She started diving with a group of gymnasts also transitioning to diving and took to it quickly. “I think after one week, it was love for me. I just loved the sport. I love the environment. I had a coach that was really positive and really great for my insecure teenage little brain. He really built up our confidence and he was just a really great coach in that way,” recalls Dallas.
While Dallas’ diving career as an athlete only lasted for four years, her gymnastics background helped her rise through the ranks quickly, competing at Junior and Senior Nationals and the Canada Games. She realized she would never podium at an international level but wanted to coach. “I do remember very clearly being at the Canada Games thinking ‘this is the end for me but the next time I’m on this pool deck I’ll be coaching’.” She attended Junior Nationals back to back, one year as an athlete and the next year as a coach.
Can you tell us about your first time at Junior Nationals as a coach?
Dallas: I remember that first Junior Nationals, watching it very differently, watching it with a coach’s eye. Seeing what it took to have great results, what it took in terms of the quality of the movements, and who is producing what across the country. And I remember setting a goal- there was one coach that was coaching all the young boys that were the competitors of my young boys and I remember setting the goal to beat them. It took me about four years, but I did it!
Photo: Red Bull content pool @redbullcliffdiving
You started coaching as a side gig while in university. When did you decide it would be your full time career?
Dallas: I had planned on being a physiotherapist and went to university with that goal in mind, but I ended up volunteering at a physio clinic and decided it was not for me. Around the same time, I did my NCCP level three theory and was told, “I think you’d be a great candidate for the Coaching Diploma Program.” So I did end up going into the coaching diploma program and by the end of that I just sort of knew that coaching was for me. It was way more exciting and interesting and fun and challenging, in a good way, than anything else I could think of. I feel like it used the best of me. I’m pretty high on strategy and structure, but also on creativity. I really love working with the young people and helping to raise the next generation to be courageous and do what they want to do in life and kind of challenge themselves in healthy ways. And I really love that aspect of the job.
As a coach, you value the human above performance. Can you tell us more about that?
Dallas: Don’t get me wrong, I’m competitive. I love winning as much as the next person. I love seeing the look on my athletes face when they achieve something really monumental, but to me, it all has to come from a healthy place and I want it to be a really empowering experience for the athletes through all the highs and lows.
Dallas (red Canada tee) watches Manitoba diver Zita Bernatsky at the Red Bull Cliff Diving Under My Wings training camp in Mostar, Bosnia, Sept 2023. | Photo: Red Bull content pool @redbullcliffdiving.
I think most of the athletes I work with are pushing themselves really hard in sport, but they’re also high achievers academically or in other interests. And I think this notion that you have to put 100% of your life into your sport and become basically obsessed with it has got to evolve. I think variety in life is important. I mean, obviously there’s still a tremendous amount of energy and effort put into this sport, but I do think that if you put every single thing in your life into your score, and then it doesn’t work out in the end… then what do you have left?
What does a successful day look like for you as a coach?
Dallas: Something being learned. Sometimes it comes from a step forward, and sometimes it comes from a step back.
What advice would you give other coaches?
Dallas: Don’t try to mirror what’s been done to you. First of all, expertise is always evolving. Don’t just repeat what’s been done, but use your brain and experiment and do different things, and also stay true to your own style.
What advice would you give to new athletes?
Dallas: Just try. I think you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.
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