Stone: Leaving Wolfville, Acadia Swimming 'a really tough decision'

John Decoste
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Swim coach Chris Stone.

Swim coach heading to Fort McMurray

Chris Stone says making up his mind to leave Wolfville after almost 10 years was “a really tough decision.”

Stone stepped down last week as head coach of the Acadia varsity swim teams, as well as the Wolfville Tritons. Starting Sept. 1, he will become head coach of the Fort McMurray Manta swim club in Alberta.

Stone took over as head coach of the Tritons in August of 2006. He was hired as Acadia’s swim coach when the varsity swim program was reinstated during the summer of 2009 after an absence of 15 years.

“(Acadia athletic director Kevin Dickie) and I talked on Monday,” Stone said Aug. 14. “I let the Tritons know Tuesday.” Neither conversation was one he was looking forward to having.

While his move to Alberta “came together fairly quickly,” it had been in the works for longer. “It’s something I had to keep under pretty tight wraps,” he said.

What made the decision to pull up stakes and move so difficult, he said, was that “I love it here. It’s a magical place to work. I felt a real connection here. It’s something that almost sounds like a cliche until you’ve actually been here and experienced it.”

On the other hand, “the opportunity on the other side was what really drove it. For my wife Crystal and I, it was the best decision, and the best time to do it, before we have children.”

The pool where he will work in Fort McMurray “is part of a $250,000 athletics complex” that includes, among other things, a 10-lane, 50-metre pool plus a six-lane, 25-metre cool-down facility.” Moreover, at least one more 10-lane, 50-metre pool and six-lane, 25-metre backup are already in the works within the next 10 years.

“On a professional level,” Stone admitted, “it was very enticing. The opportunity to grow a program with a real upside, in a growing community, and with facilities second to none, was just too good to pass up.”

He added, “on paper, it was a no-brainer. What turned it into a coin toss for me was the community I’ll be leaving.” At the same time, “it’s a unique opportunity, and one we might have regretted later if we didn’t do it now.”

On the same day Acadia announced Stone’s departure – in fact, in the same release – the university announced the hiring of David Fry as head coach for 2014-2015.

Fry, who has tons of coaching experience at the university level, was an extremely successful head coach at Dalhousie for 16 years before he retired in 2012.

Stone admitted, “any stress I might have felt about leaving evaporated when I heard David was coming in to pick up where I left off.”

He and Dickie, Stone said, had “sat down and talked. I gave him a list of names of young coaches I thought might fit. I had talked to David, but he wasn’t on my radar because he had retired.”

Fry, he said, “is really excited, having grown up here and one to school here.” He termed Fry’s hiring “a better solution than anything I could have suggested. He’s a coaches’ coach, and one of the best swim coaches in the country.”

As for the Tritons, Stone said he had also left them a list of potential replacements. “They’re still looking for a head coach,” he said Aug. 14, but even if they don’t find someone right away, “they have a great staff of young assistants.”

Given their status as “one of the top three age group swim programs in Atlantic Canada, and one that is producing at a national level,” he believes the Tritons “are sure to find someone to continue their development as a club.”

He stressed, “I’ll always carry a special place in my heart for Wolfville and for Acadia, and I’ll be continuing to follow everyone’s success, in both of my clubs.”

 

Organizations: Wolfville Tritons

Geographic location: Acadia, Wolfville, Fort McMurray Alberta Atlantic Canada

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