Mourning a mentor

A friend and a mentor passed away this past weekend. As another Master official in Canada said in an e-mail to me, “A whistle has gone silent.”
Jim Brow captured my imagination to what competitive swimming was all about. He was my mentor and he coached me as we travelled across Northwestern Ontario in either buses or vehicles to Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake, Atikokan, and Thunder Bay, as well as to Warroad, Mn.
On longer bus trips to provincial championships, we often shared a seat and enjoyed the youth of the swimmers on the Fort Frances Aquanauts Swim Team (FFAST).
Jim had gained a great deal of on-deck experience at the Canada Games, Canadian Olympic trials, and the Pan Am games in Winnipeg, and enjoyed sharing that knowledge with learning swimming officials.
Becoming a Master official like Jim takes years of training, learning on the deck, and teaching courses to other people who are involved in swimming officiating.
Countless officials in our region and right across Canada learned from Jim. Standing on deck watching swimmers do their turns, Jim was a stickler to the details of those turns. And he expected officials to be as attentive to the swimmers in the pool as was he.
He often was black and white. The stroke either was done correctly or it wasn’t.
But Jim’s understanding of the rules also included the phrase, “It might not be pretty but it is not wrong.”
I can’t think of the miles that Jim walked on the pool deck with new officials–it would be in the thousands. Jim also was the master teacher. He had the patience to work with people, whether as a timer, a stroke judge, or compiler of times of every swimmer in every heat and every event.
Days on the pool deck often began before 7 a.m. and lasted almost to nine at night. But Jim never seemed to lose energy on those seemingly long days that might be three in a row.
I took the time early Monday morning to notify Swim Ontario and members of the Ontario Swim Officials Association of Jim’s passing. Within moments of sending out the word, officials from Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury, Kenora, and Thunder Bay had returned messages of the remembrances of Jim and his commitments to swimming across Ontario.
One of the decisions made by the Fort Frances Aquanauts after Jim chose to retire as an official was to create a special trophy awarded annually to a swimmer in Northwestern Ontario for excellence in the medley event.
It is the race in which an individual swims the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Each year it was awarded to both a male and female swimmer at the Fort Frances meet.
The age group for the trophy was drawn from a hat so no one knew who would be a contender.
Part of Jim’s decision on choosing that swim was that the swimmers had to be excellent in every stroke and be all-round, good competitive swimmers. It also meant the swimmers had to be mentally alert to every variance of every part of the swim.
Jim took great pride in awarding that trophy and continued to do so until his illness overtook him. He will be missed.