Alumna wins Canadian coach of the year award

November 20, 2019

Making a successful transition from elite athlete to coach can be challenging. However, Faculty of Education alumna Sarah Black, MA’19, has made a successful transition. In only her second year as a coach at Western, the Canadian University Rowing Association named Black its Women’s Coach of the Year.

Sarah Black, left, and her colleague Bob Ward

Sarah Black, left, and her colleague Bob Ward were recognized as women’s coaches of the year by the Canadian University Rowing Association. (Special to the Faculty of Education)

What’s special for Black is she’s sharing the honour with her Western colleague, Bob Ward, who was named co-recipient.  

“It’s certainly an honour to be named coach of the year with Bob,” said Black. “He’s an amazing coach and it’s such a privilege to coach with him and learn from him.”

What’s more, Black credits the athletes for her success.

“Rowing is such a team sport and no one shines alone,” said Black. “I think that’s really unique about the sport of rowing.” 

Black, a former member of Canada’s rowing team, and silver and bronze medalist at the 2013 World Rowing Championships, believes she’s able to mentor student-athletes because as a former athlete, she’s experienced the same things. In particular, she gives them perspective on a number of issues, such as balancing training and studying, dealing with being away from home for the first time, travelling across the country to compete or improving their rowing techniques.

“Even though I’m not in the boat pulling with them, I’m able to see my contributions reflected in the way they change their stroke or in the way they approach their workout,” she said.

The Canadian University Rowing Association is made up of 27 teams and it promotes the sport of rowing through academic and sporting excellence at Canadian universities. Each year, a member university hosts the Canadian University Rowing Championship in November as well as the awards ceremony for the athletes and coaches of the year.

At this year’s regatta, Black coached the women’s eight crew to a national championship. The last time the women’s eights at Western won the title was in 2011 when Black, an undergraduate student, was in the boat.

“It was really special for me to be a part of that on the other side of the oar as a coach,” she said.

Black’s rowing journey started in high school and continued at university when she rowed for the varsity team at Western and for the national team.

After her rowing career ended, Black took a couple of years off before entering the coaching ranks. Last year, she coached the junior varsity team before making the move to the varsity team.  

“I love the sport of rowing and I certainly missed being around the sport and being around the lake.”

Reflecting on her success during her short coaching career, Black said her time as a Mustang athlete is a big reason for her success.

“I wouldn’t have achieved my success on the national and international level without my foundation at Western,” said Black. “It’s really cool to be contributing to the success of the new athletes entering the program.”