Cuba Provincial Training Camp
The team gathered and left for Veradaro, Cuba on March 23 at…4:30 am. Yes 4:30am in the Vancouver airport. It was a quiet group for about 10 minutes then all 18 athletes were abuzz with excitement along with four coaches, Tommy McLeod, Lisa Boog, Yan Yang and Grant Brehaut. I was watching and wondering exactly what my job would be with the team. Time would tell. Flight via Toronto was uneventful (thank goodness for movies on the plane) and then on to Varadaro and voila…..heat.
We were met in Veradero by Jorge Betancourt, a two-time Olympic diver and now one of the Cuban coaches and put on our bus to the hotel. Everyone to their rooms followed by a late dinner and the first team meeting to chat about the next day. Team meetings were held every night with a chat about events the next day. Lisa has a great handle on this part. She had prepared a daily itinerary for the whole trip. It was excellent. All of the divers were paired up so the little ones were never alone and always moving about the hotel grounds in groups.
The hotel was good; two beautiful pools, pool tables and games area, movies in the lobby, food and bars everywhere. Adults had white wrist bands, alcohol allowed and the kids had green, all the drinks you want, no alcohol. Food was in abundance, but I have decided it does not matter how great the food is, food out of silver trays all becomes boring. Buns meat and cheese were always available and they had the best French fries, pasta and salads and lots of desserts, etc. All in all the food was good and again lots of it.
It was a 40-minute bus ride to the pool, (first day bus was 1 hour late, a little worrisome, but it never happened again). The bus rides turned out to be one of the best parts for the kids, singing, playing games on various electronic devices. Music and earphones became the coach’s media, if they were not playing a game on another electronic device. The scenery was beautiful along the coast and we got to see the small towns along the way to the pool.
The pool was perfect, all dedicated just for diving. Four 1 metres, one half metre, three 3 metres and a full set of towers… 1,3,5,7.5 and 10, all with great matting. All reports from the divers told us the spring boards were amazing. Weather was very good for diving outside for the first couple of days. After that it got windy and they called it a cold front. A bit of a test for the kids on platform and the hot tub came in very handy. As the wind came up and it was a little cool when wet – apparently. Never cold for us, only Yan (hee hee). The only thing missing on the deck was chairs and a bit more shade from the sun. It is pretty strong sun and you need to hide all the time.
All warm-ups were done down stairs in the dryland room where there were mats galore. They are still working on building the dryboard and tramp areas inside, but it worked well for us. Warm up was divided into four sections and every day a different coach took the lead… ie: warm-up, stomach, jumping and stretching. It was great to see this in action. On day two or three all the Cuban divers joined in and their coaches took the lead on occasion. Lino, the Cuban National Team Head Coach had a great session with the BC and Cuban diver one day. He followed the dryland session with a 30-minute talk about building champions and what it takes to do this. Cuba has top 5 finishes at all Olympics and World Championships. Until recently, they built these champions with substandard training conditions. They are amazing divers and there is tons to be learned from Lino.
After two training sessions each day, the divers and coachers relaxed with some beach time which was every day after we arrived back from the pool about 4:00pm. The resort was located on an amazing beach with gentle surf, beautiful turquoise water and beach volleyball. Everyone had more and they had more fun than you can imagine and a lot of Team BC bonding time was accomplished at the beach. At about 6pm we migrated from the beach to the pools. It was shocking how much water these kids could have in one day, and they also consumed tons of water too.
One afternoon we took a double decker bus into Veradero to look around and do some shopping, but we always ended up back at the beach and pool.
In the middle of the week we took the day off from training and had a bus ride and tour of Havana. Havana is a very old city and it always looks like there is a car show (old cars) going on with cars from the 50’s driving around on all the streets. A Cuban trademark it seems. We had a great tour guide for the day who kept all of us interested in the history of Havana and telling us exactly how things work in Cuba…ration cards, the ins and outs of owing things in Cuba and what’s new in Cuba. Now you can actually sell your house. Before you had to trade it. Jobs and the lack of what we would consider normal house hold and personal items, ie. Soap, is a huge extra for them.
All of the divers and coaches brought the Cuban divers “stuff” – shampoo, school supplies, t-shirts, sammys, bathing suits, back packs from Canada. They were all so appreciative and it was great for the divers to understand how privileged they are to live in Canada.
Turned out my job was medical girl. Not very busy though with that one thankfully. My second job was sunscreen girl. Now I was very busy with that one. Towel and SPF60 sun screen applied every 15 – 20 minutes to the divers. It worked and no one got a really got a bad sunburn (except a few coaches) and me… of course. My best job was video girl. Anyone who wanted to see their dives could come to me and see it on the I-Pad. The hard part was keeping the I-Pad charged. I also brought a great music system for the deck which made for a great training atmosphere for both the divers and coaches. I did serve some important purpose…
One of the goals of the camp was to get all of the divers to feel more like one team, team BC, instead of representative of their individual clubs. To do this the coaches put together a rip contest and it was great fun. The winner was Nick, but there were some amazing entries from people who usually do not get them. It was a really fun activity.
On another day Tommy put together a competition. All of the divers were put on one of three teams and each diver had to do one of six dives total. We invited the Cubans to join in and put together a team as well which was a great bonding experience for the divers. Cuba led most of the way, but in the end Cubanada won! We got to use the new score cards BC Diving sent down to Cuban diving as a thank you for having us.
New dives were done; dives in huge winds were done from 10 meter, some good smacks. Saturday, the last day, was synchro day and more than fun was had by everyone as they don’t often get to training synchro much at home.
We had a great week with the Cuban divers and coaches and it was sad to say good bye. Our flight left at 11:30pm so we had a great afternoon on the beach and pool and then off to the airport. That flight was a killer! We arrived into Toronto 2:30am. There were bodies everywhere in the airport trying to sleep waiting for someone to arrive to check us in. One more flight from Toronto to Vancouver at 6:30am and then many of us were home. The divers and coaches from Victoria had one more bus ride and a ferry, arriving home to a glorious spring day in Victoria at 12:30pm.
I have been too many training camps and this was by far the best organized (thanks Lisa) with the best working group of coaches… thanks Tommy, Lisa, Grant and Yan. We had an amazing group of kids who worked hard, got along and everyone pulled their weight and included everyone. Thanks also to Emma for thinking of all the kids and making sure no one was left out and felt a part of it all.
It was an amazing trip and I would go again in a heartbeat. I recommend to everyone that you get there soon, NO McDonalds, KFC, fast food, wifi, loud mouth tourists (not many anyhow). It is just a great place, stuck in time with friendly people grateful for anything you want to give them.
Thanks to BC Diving, especially Jayne for all of the pre-trip planning, the BC Government for funding the camp, parents for paying for the amazing opportunity for their children, Lisa for organizing and having the patience of a saint, Tommy for setting up the dive offs and competitions etc, Grant for always being engaged and the last coach with divers diving and Yan for bringing that amazing body and smiling face to the deck every day, but always making everyone work extra hard. I had a great time and hope we do it again and again and again. Well done everyone!