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As a coach, Clifford Barry was known as an innovator dedicated to ensuring his swimmers performed their best in the water, but he also wanted them to experience life and culture, enjoy good food and music.
Encouraging coaches to develop skills that will help athletes both in the water and outside the pool is the goal of the Clifford Barry Follow Your Heart Project.
The project, in partnership with Swimming Canada and Swim Ontario, was the idea of Barry’s wife Susan and daughter Carling. They see it as way to continue Barry’s legacy.
Susan Barry said the aim is to help create the “softer skills” of being a coach.
Before his death last year due to a rare and aggressive cancer, Clifford Barry had been reflecting on his ideas about the principles of coaching.
“He spent a lot of time thinking about what was important to him, what shaped him and what were his fundamental beliefs around coaching,” said Susan Barry.
“Cliff was always very adamant the coaching certificate process in Canada is very much based on technique. His feeling was while technique is important, the approach to training is also important. He really believed in the value of the individual within the team setting. He felt that was missing.”
Former swimmers who Barry coached talk about him being a passionate, cultured man who during meets would search for restaurants serving different kinds of food. He wasn’t afraid to show his emotions and encouraged athletes to live their life to the fullest.
Carling Barry wants the Clifford Barry Follow Your Heart Project to continue a legacy started by her father.
“I think it’s important to do this because there’s not many coaches who coach like the way my dad coached,” she said. “It’s not just how to be an effective coach, it’s also being an effective person and how to relate to people.”
The project launches June 1, which is Barry’s birthday, with the application process on the Swimming Canada website. ( The intent of the project is to provide funding awards to support and encourage Canadian swimming coaches who pursue excellence in coaching as a long-term profession.
A six-member committee consisting of Susan Barry, Carling Barry, Dr. Mike West, Alan Swanston, John Vadeika and Dean Boles will oversee the application process. The project is aimed at coaches in small, grassroots programs.
“The grassroots (swimmers) benefit from the coaches that impact them,” said Susan Barry. “The values you learn in those grassroots set the path for most ex-athletes.”
Clifford Barry was a three-time Swimming Canada Coach of the Year who was instrumental in the development of Olympic gold medallist Victor Davis.
He was born in 1946 and grew up in Montreal’s East End where he swam competitively as a youth before turning to water polo. For several years Barry was considered one of the world’s best water polo players and represented Canada at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.
Barry began coaching at the East End Boys and Girls Club in Montreal. After the 1976 Olympics he began his professional swim coaching career in Guelph, Ont., where he met Davis.
From 1981 through to 1991 Barry was either the head coach or assistant coach with Canadian swim teams at Olympic, Pan Am, Commonwealth Games or world championships. His swimmers won gold medals at every major Games.
Barry is a member of Swimming Canada’s Circle of Excellence and the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Ontario Aquatics Hall of Fame in 1994 and has been nominated to the Canadian Water Polo Hall of Fame.
Barry also was the founder and chairman of the Victor Davis Memorial Fund, which assists young Canadian swimmers to continue their training, education, and pursuit of excellence at the international level of competition.
Carling Barry said athletes often talk about how her father influenced their lives past swimming.
“Not just on the pool deck but as a person even to this day,” she said. “They would not be who they are without having him. The passions that he had changed them.”
To donate to the Clifford Barry Follow Your Heart Project or for more information, please visit