In 2012, then-Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team coach Alan Anderson invited Holm Schmidt to Gig Harbor with the intention of hiring him, but there was a lack of funding to do so.
Fast forward almost three years, to December 2014, when Anderson decided he was going to step down, the kayak team board reached out to Schmidt about the vacancy. He was eventually brought on in a full-time basis 2015 as a high-performance coach to help take the team’s top athletes to the next level.
After Anderson, the club’s founder, retried earlier this year, Schmidt took over the program. The program hasn’t missed a beat, capturing its fifth straight national title — Schmidt’s first has head coach — earlier this month.
“I wasn’t surprised because my team is dedicated and competitive,” said Schmidt about winning the title, although there was difficult competition along the way. “We knew getting into it, it would be a challenge.”
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After capturing the national title, Schmidt immediately called Anderson to share the good news.
“The first person I called after we won nationals was Alan,” he said. “He was very happy and proud of the athletes. He’ll always be part of this program.”
With experience as head coach for a little over a year, Schmidt has changed the way the club operates.
“The athletes train all year-round with a high performance schedule,” he said.
One duty the new head coach was asked of was to raise the performance level of the athletes. The championship results speak for themselves.
“I’m very happy with the results,” he said.
Schmidt ensures the athletes have individual goals that they pursue; he speaks to them personally about their long-term objectives. Prior to Schmidt’s occupation with the Gig Harbor team, athletes went away to college, leaving kayaking behind. Now, college decisions are made with the student’s passion in mind. They do not have to give it up, but rather include it in their future plans.
The average age of Olympic athletes in kayaking are between 25 to 32 years old, whereas Schmidt is training teenagers.
“The athletes are older because the mental and physical toughness (piece) is very (difficult),” Schmidt said.
With the kayak athletes on the Gig Harbor team getting a taste of the difficult training regimen so early in their competitive careers, there’s arguably a higher likelihood of them making it to the Olympics one day.
“I cannot say I’m going to produce an Olympian,” Schmidt said. “It will happen, the capacity is there, but if it’s under me, I don’t know.”
Schmidt went on to describe how the Premier Club in Germany produced its first gold medal this year, while it has had strong athletes for the past 40 years.
“Ten percent of it is grave factors that no one can influence,” he said.
But when that athlete comes along with the right combination, Schmidt will hopefully be there to foster the growth.