A coach’s journey is never over. They are always looking for new ways of learning and experiences where they can grow, so that they can continue to help their athletes.
Thanks to the High Performance Coach Development Grant, Dana Brass and Chris Baraniuk have taken advantage of coaching opportunities across Canada and the world, exposing them to different strategies, skills and knowledge and turning them into better coaches.
Between the two of them is more than six decades of coaching — including stints with Cirque du Soleil — and it’s led both to their current positions at Marian Gymnastics in Saskatoon. Brass, who has been coaching since 1986, is the facility’s head coach, while Baraniuk, who transitioned to coaching after a successful career as a national team gymnast, is the assistant head coach.
Though their lengthy careers have involved coaching athletes at the provincial, national and international levels, the two coaches believe there is important value in gaining new experiences to improve their own skill sets.
“Even at my age, you think you’ve learned everything and it’s kind of over, but you’re always learning and bringing new ideas to the table and those aren’t possible without getting outside of your comfort zone and outside of your four walls,” said Brass.
“You’re isolated in your gym for the most part so to go outside your gym and see the top gymnasts in the world, you come back more inspired and more energized and with some different ideas,” added Baraniuk.
That’s where the grant has come in particularly handy. Administered by Canadian Sport Centre Saskatchewan, the grant supports Saskatchewan coaches who work with high performance athletes and are committed to upgrading their coaching skills and abilities through education, training and certification.
Coaches can do that in any number of ways, including participating in workshops or conferences, attending major competitions as a coach, mentoring with a Master Coach, upgrading their NCCP or by consulting with a recognized sport expert.
“This grant supports Competition-Development certified coaches to attend courses, conferences, and high-level competitions to observe and learn. This grant will also provide financial assistance to coaches who are taking the next step in coach education through the Advanced Coach Diploma program,” said David Robertson, Canadian Sport Centre Saskatchewan’s High Performance Coach and Athlete Services Manager.
Brass has made use of the grant three times, twice to coach at competitions, including the World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal in 2017 and an international competition in France in 2021. She also attended a training camp with eight of her athletes in Houston at the World Champion Centre, owned and operated by multi-medal Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.
“Each of those opportunities provided that chance for me as a coach to experience something new, which trickles down to my up-and-coming coaches and my gymnasts and province,” said Brass.
The feeling is mutual for Baraniuk, who noted the benefit of bringing back strategies to his own athletes after seeing how other athletes trained and competed at high-level events. He utilized the grant to also attend the Montreal World Championships, competitions in France and Belgium in 2021 and the Elite Canada selection camp with several of his athletes in 2020.
Both coaches acknowledge that without the support of the grant, covering all the expenses associated with attending these competitions and training opportunities out of their own pockets would be cost prohibitive.
“Sometimes you have to turn down opportunities because the money just isn’t there so the grant is pretty important to getting coaches out to those competitions or other developmental opportunities so we can be competitive with the rest of the country,” said Baraniuk.