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Ron Jacks: Coach Emeritus

Ron Jacks will be moving from his daily role as Pacific Coast Swimming’s Director of Swimming to a new Coach Emeritus/Mentoring position.

When Ron Jacks stepped onto the pool deck for his first international competition in the 1960’s: pools were measured in yards instead of metres, the Canadian flag still included the British Union Jack, and swim goggles hadn’t yet been invented. Amidst decades of changes to competitive swimming in British Columbia and Canada, Ron’s presence has been a constant—from swimmer to coach, and now to a new role as Coach Emeritus for Pacific Coast Swimming.

As a youth, Ron swam with the Vancouver YMCA Swim Club, training his way through the years to gold at the Canadian National Championships, and qualifying for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics at the age of 16. He signed with Indiana University in 1966, where he trained under the acclaimed American coach James “Doc” Counsilman for the duration of his university career. 3 Olympic Games, 10 International Games medals, 7 Canadian records, and numerous National gold medals later, Ron retired from competing in 1972 following the Munich Olympics.

After spending 6 months photographing wildlife in Africa, he soon turned his focus to coaching. During his coaching career, Ron founded 3 swim teams across BC that are still prominent to this day, the most recent being Pacific Coast Swimming, which he started in 2002 alongside fellow coaches Rod Barratt and Mark Lancaster.

As the Director of Swimming for PCS, Ron’s mission was to instill a love for the sport and help guide athletes in their goals. In particular, he recognized that athletes need to be self-driven. “I want to help them reach their full potential, and if they’re willing to go for it, then so am I,” he said during a 2012 interview. Coaching was more than just a job for Ron; he dedicated extensive hours on the pool deck, writing workouts, and even driving swimmers to practice regularly if they couldn’t otherwise find a ride. From childhood through his tenure as Director of Swimming, he committed his life to swimming.

His accolades and commitment to the sport have earned him several awards, including inductions into the Canadian Swimming Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame, the Swim BC Hall of Fame, and the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame. During his induction to the latter in 2018, he explained why he chose to continue coaching after he retired as an athlete: “I wanted to be a small part of something more successful than what I was.” Considering his decorated career, this reference to creating success beyond his own speaks volumes about the faith Ron has had in the thousands of athletes he’s coached over the years.

During his decades in Victoria, Ron worked closely with the University of Victoria program, with many of his swimmers attaining the highest levels of success nationally and internationally. These athletes include Olympic bronze medalists Richard Weinberger and Pamela Rai, World Champion Greg Streppel, Paralympic Gold Medalists and World Record holders Stephanie Dixon and Mike Edgson, and multi-Olympic finalists such as Christin Petelski.

Building on his experience with Greg Streppel at the first FINA Open Water World championship in 1991, Ron found a niche in open water swimming. Between 2005 and 2013 he was the Swimming Canada's National Open Water Head Coach. Athletes Ron trained in open water included Streppel, Olympians Stéphanie Horner and Richard Weinberger, World Championship bronze medalist Eric Hedlin, and World Championship 4th place finisher Karly Stutzel.

Ron has coached athletes to the Canadian Olympic Teams in each cycle from 1976 to 2016. He is the only Canadian coach to have completed the trifecta of coaching Olympic Medalists in the regular pool, the Paralympics, and Open Water disciplines. His ability to continue coaching across a multitude of ages, disciplines, and strokes made him a staple in the Canadian swimming community, and a cornerstone of Pacific Coast Swimming’s success over the last 20 years.

With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the birth of his first grandchild, Jacks made the decision to finally step off the pool deck to spend more time with his family. From coaching learn-to-swim programs to Olympic medalists, Ron Jacks holds an immense amount of experience and knowledge of the sport, which he doesn’t intend to leave behind.

As Coach Emeritus, he will continue to shape the sport of swimming on a more flexible schedule, helping mentor athletes and coaches and occasionally doing some on-deck coaching. Over the course of his 50-year coaching career, Ron Jacks has influenced the lives of thousands of swimmers in British Columbia and Canada on and off the pool deck, and his legacy will not be forgotten.