A new era is set to begin for the University of Victoria Vikes women’s program that todaynamed Olympian and former Vikes men’s rower Barney Williams as head coach following the recent retirement of Rick Crawley.
“I am very confident that at this moment that there is a contagious enthusiasm amongst the current squad and it is obvious that Rick has been the central figure in creating this standard of excellence over the past 35 years,” said Williams on this transition. “Rick and a dedicated stable of volunteer coaches are one part of this and the other central component is the current athletes and an incredibly accomplished alumni – UVic is one of the most impactful pipelines of talent for Canadian rowing. This is a special opportunity to build upon the very strong existing foundations of consistent academic and athletic success.”
Beginning on Jul. 15 Williams, who won silver at the 2004 Olympics in the coxless four, will look to start that extension of Crawley’s 35-year legacy that included 11 Canadian University Rowing Championship banners, 23 Brown Cup wins, 92 Canadian Henley titles and 29 Vikes athletes representing Canada at the Olympics.
“We are thrilled to have Barney join the Vikes as the women’s rowing program leader,” said James Keogh, Associate Director, Sport. “His passion and energy for the Vikes, our student-athletes and rowing will help continue the legacy and outstanding program that coach Crawley and our student-athletes past and present have built.”
Williams returns to Victoria after a term with NCAA Division 1 Cornell University, as he spent 2017-18 as interim women’s rowing head coach. Prior to that Williams was the lead coach in Rowing Canada and the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific’s Row to Podium program that created necessary environments to identify new talent and grow the sport. Williams was also previously on the Vikes coaching staff as he worked as the freshmen coach under then men’s head coach Howie Campbell.
“I am a firm believer in the positive impact of empowering the student-athlete to be part of the creation of a shared vision will have because at the end of the day it’s the athlete’s journey and our role as coaches will differ with each athlete,” added Williams on his coaching style. “Our sport is extremely measurable so I am an advocate of the principle of using 2000-m gold standards but respect that this will be most effective if the athletes choose to measure themselves against this gold standard versus have these imposed upon them.”
As an athlete, Williams competed for the Vikes in 1995-99 (B.A. ’99), and went on to study at Oxford University, where he was also president of the Oxford University Boat Club. The Athens Olympian was a member of the Canadian national rowing program for seven years an won a World Championship in 2003 and an Olympic silver medal a year later.
It truly is a home coming for the Williams family as Barney’s wife Buffy Williams (neé Alexander) is also a UVic graduate, Vikes women’s rowing alumna and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist in the women’s eights. The Williams family also have three children Tavin (12), Kyla (8) and Tate (6) who are regular Vikes Summer Camps participants with their eyes on being future Vikes student-athletes.
“I’m a Vike for life,” said Williams about returning to his alma mater. “My hope is to apply my learnings from an incredible group of coaches who have influenced me and collaborate with our Vikes alumni so that we may add to an environment that I respect and that I am proud to have a well-established relationship with.”
In addition to his athletic experience, Williams is a graduate of the National Coaching Institute Advanced Coaching Diploma and in 2016 earned his Level 4 in the National Coaching Certification Program. Williams was awarded the Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award in 2016 and has guided several accomplished crews to top the podium at various levels including the National Rowing Championship, World Championships and Canada Summer Games.
“I truly feel this is an opportunity to make the best better and am excited to lean in with the existing coaches in both the men’s and women’s programs, current athletes and alumni to identify principled, evidence-based strategies on how this can be achieved moving forward.”
On July 17, there will be a formal media event held for Williams when he is officially back on campus at UVic. The time is to be announced.