October 5, 2022
Sail Canada announced last week that Violet Stafford and Vaughn Harrison have been selected Sail Canada Coaches of the Year for 2020 and 2021, respectively, as the country celebrates National Coaches Week, an annual event which ended on Sunday.
The Sail Canada Coach of the Year Award is presented annually to a coach who demonstrates high coaching skills and contributes to sporting excellence by offering a healthy attitude towards winning, enjoying sport and showed effective training. The winners are Sail Canada certified and registered coaches who demonstrate and have made a significant impact on athletes’ performances at competitions, and who reinforce the spirit of sport values to her/his athletes, measured by a respect for the game, a love for sport, a respect for others and a commitment to fair and ethical sport.
Nominations have been evaluated based on a time period ranging from January 1 to December 31 for 2020 and 2021.
Violet Stafford: winner of the Sail Canada 2020 Coach of the Year Award
Violet Stafford from Toronto, ON, was the Lead Performance Coach at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC) in 2020-2021 after being a Laser Coach at the same club. She is currently coaching with the Ontario Sailing Training Centre Development Team.
“Thank you for the honour,” said Violet Stafford. “I first must thank all the athletes that I have had the opportunity to work with. It’s a privilege to help you in a small way on your path. I also thank the coaches and mentors who I have had in my life. They have taught me and continue to influence my evolution and growth.”
In 2020, a year marked by the pandemic, Violet Stafford took part in the creation of COVID-19 sailing procedures and protocols. “Working closely with Ontario Sailing staff, Violet contributed to a ‘return to play and a return to training’ protocol that incorporated best practices from Sail Canada but also other sports in the country and sailing programs in the USA,” stated colleagues from the RCYC in 2020. “This protocol became a checklist for athletes and coaches to return to on-water training and, by the end of May, we had sailors on the water safely enjoying the sport. This was not just a training effect and benefit, but was also for the mental health of our youth as prior to this, many young sailors were unable to enjoy the sport they love. This was a challenging year and Violet rose to the call with tremendous poise and leadership.”
Also during the pandemic, Violet took part in the launch of an online platform in partnership with Ontario Sailing, The Northern Channel, in the spirit of collaboration and to create a sense of community among yacht clubs as an outlet for sailors and coaches during the pandemic. “This is very much representative of how Violet works: she reaches out not just to ‘her club’, but also to the greater community or other club sailors and coaches as well. Her leadership in the coaching community is essential, as far too often there is a focus just on one’s own club activities.”
In 2020, Violet, who was previously a National Team Member in Laser Radial (ILCA 6) from 2013 to 2015, was also part of Sail Canada’s Data Analytic project, using GPS trackers with her group for training, and then sharing the data with Sail Canada to learn how to implement this tool into the daily training environment. “Violet’s ‘buying into’ this project and her ability to demonstrate its value is another example of her exceptional leadership.”
Again in 2020, Violet was also a Project Lead on Sail Canada’s Regional YOTS clinic held at the RCYC and the Regatta Chair at the RCYC Fall Youth Regatta, in addition to taking part in the creation of the RCYC Virtual Regatta, which had over 35 registrants. She also was a member of the RCYC Youth Committee as a staff member, and took part in Sail Canada Youth Development Squad Coaching calls.
“Violet is an exceptional coach, a role model for youth sailors everywhere, and she leads with character and work ethic. Her athlete-centred approach is always at the forefront and she treats sailors on her team and coaches with respect, a respect that is mutual.”
Vaughn Harrison: winner of the Sail Canada 2021 Coach of the Year Award
Canadian coach Vaughn Harrison has been working with Canadian ILCA 6 high performance sailors since 2016, including Sarah Douglas, who came up with Canada’s best individual performance in women’s sailing in Olympics history with a sixth position overall at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in August of 2021.
“I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who nominated me and voted for me for Coach of the Year,” said Vaughn Harrison. “It’s a huge honour. I’m very excited and pleased to be working with Team Canada and to have worked with many great, talented athletes in the past, with whom I earned great results and, more than anything, learned a ton from and grew together with. It has been an absolute pleasure working for Sail Canada and representing Team Canada at the Olympics, many World Championships and other events, and I look forward to more in the future.”
Sarah Douglas achieved numerous top 10 finishes at World Cups and World Championships in past years, and she is working towards competing at the 2024 Games in Paris beside Vaughn. He also works with other sailors from around the world as the founder of the International Sailing Academy based in Mexico, which hosts hundreds of athletes every winter to help them sharpen their skills in ILCA.
“Vaughn’s coaching history is extensive,” said Sarah Douglas, who nominated her coach. “He’s one of the best coaches in the world and he’s proven it with his results. He has a holistic approach to his coaching, and he has a lot of passion towards sailing, high performance and chasing Olympic medals. He’s not often recognized or in the spotlight for his devotion to the sport of sailing and to his athletes. I would not be where I am today without Vaughn and we are so fortunate to have such a high-level coach in Canada.”