Coaching Association of Canada

Diving Coach Dallas Ludwick: Living Up to Expectations

October 4, 2011

Dallas Ludwick knows a thing or two about diving as evidenced by her rapid rise up the coaching ranks. The head coach of the Manitoba Regional Diving Centre (MRDC) and a senior national team coach with Diving Plongeon Canada (DPC) talks with Sheila Robertson about her career to date, the impact of CAC’s National Team Coaching Apprenticeship Program (NTAP), and her latest venture.

As an athlete, you switched from gymnastics to diving. What was the attraction?

I loved gymnastics, but at 13, I tore cartilage so that ended. I don’t remember choosing diving; I just remember walking through the change room at the Pan Am Pool (in Winnipeg) and being smitten the first day. Les Hansen, my first coach, made diving so exciting and was so encouraging.

When and why did coaching enter the picture?

I started teaching Learn-to-Dive classes while still diving myself. In my last year, I had a nagging shoulder injury  and decided to retire after the 1997 Canada Summer Games and started coaching with the Pan Am club in September.

Did you intend for coaching to be your career?

Not at all. I was attending the University of Winnipeg, planning to become a physiotherapist, but I loved coaching from the first and had a group of kids who, after only four months with me, progressed enough to move to a higher level. Then, two of my new group of 10- and 11-year-olds qualified for the 1998 age-group nationals. I wasn’t expecting that kind of success so quickly, but coaching at those nationals really motivated me to bring divers to that level and it spiralled from there, although for several years, I still planned on being a physiotherapist.

What changed your mind?

Several things such as doing well at nationals that first year. In 2002, Cameron McLean won the 3m for 12- and 13-year olds and the bronze on platform and all my kids made finals on at least one board. When something like that happens, people take note. In 2003, Cam won on 1m and qualified for the Junior Pan American Games in Brazil. A professional development grant from the Coaching Association of Canada and other funding enabled me to go to the competition, which was fantastic. Being on that team with coaches like César Henderson, Tommy McLeod, Andrée Pouliot-Deschamps — I learned so much, the team atmosphere was very supportive with the right combination of people.   Cam won a silver medal, and we beat the Americans! In 2004, I was named Age Group Coach of the Year.

Were you taking coach education courses?

In 2000, David Telles-Langdon, the director of the National Coaching Institute Manitoba, urged me to enrol after marking my National Coaching Certification Program Level 3 Theory so I began that fall. While there, I became good friends with Patti Howes (fencing) and Lainie Wintrup (ice hockey) and we talked a lot about lifestyle, about coaching’s trials and tribulations, and the good things, too, and celebrated each other’s accomplishments. Once I graduated, I became serious about coaching full time. However, I left it in 2006 after I realized my environment wasn’t working for me; saying good-bye to my kids was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

My boyfriend and I took a year-long trip after which I went to photography school, something I had always wanted to do, but couldn’t while coaching.

I knew I would return to coaching; I just didn’t know how or when. After the trip, I let DPC know I was available. This coincided with the transition to Competition – Development and I was project manager/consultant for three years. I feel that I improved a lot as a coach even if I wasn’t working with athletes at that time because I was able to talk about all kinds of things with the best coaches in the country and consolidate all the material into a logical manner that could be taught to other coaches.

Did this experience confirm your desire to return to coaching? 

Yes, and upon the request of an athlete, I returned to the Pan Am facility as an independent coach.

When did NTAP enter the picture?

When DPC said I was an ideal candidate. It was an exciting opportunity to develop relationships with other female coaches and I appreciated the confidence DPC was showing in me. I love working with my mentor coach, Michel Larouche. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people in the world, a serious student of the sport, and an experimenter. He’ll try things, he’ll go for it, he’s always pushing the envelope so whenever I have an idea, he says, “Try it and see what happens!”

How has NTAP helped your progress?

Financially it was a big help in the first year because it allowed me to get to all the competitions with my athletes and work with Michel. It included several international meets so I became familiar with the senior Grand Prix circuit. That was huge.

When I wrote my report of my first year to present to the other NTAP coaches at the Women in Coaching workshop, I found it really helpful to look back, reflect on all that had happened, and note how much I had progressed. I had developed a new system of phases to correct technique; it was quite a different approach, but NTAP encouraged me to stick with it and do it my way. It was great to be part of the NTAP community and the workshop was amazing, talking with the other apprentices and listening to great coaches, as well as all the great activities – it was non-stop great!

Would you encourage other women to pursue coaching as a profession?

Certainly, and don’t be shy. Go to conferences. Meet people. Sign up for everything relevant. Get all the information possible.

Mitch Geller, DPC’s chief technical officer, has described you as “relentless”.

I guess most people would say that about me; I’m a ‘go hard or go home’ kind of person. Right now, everything is very exciting — I have the opportunity to build a club the way I want it because in September 2011, my program, Revolution Diving, also known as the MRDC, amalgamated with the Pan Am Diving Club.

How do you explain your success?

I’m sequentially oriented, a stickler for doing things the right way, and try to be as creative as possible; I come up with a million ways to get something to be done correctly. With the amalgamation, I’ve gone from five athletes to 30 and a staff of three assistant coaches who are enthusiastic and willing to learn. Everyone is very excited about our future.

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