Coach of the Year – Erik Van der Pol

Erik grew up as the son of a sailor, sailing on the family C&C 27 all summer, on the weekends, and whenever the family could find some spare time to take the boat out. For the first couple of years, Erik was just along for the ride, but soon his love for the sport grew and he hasn’t looked back. He first started coaching as a teen on the east coast when Hubbard’s Yacht Club in Nova Scotia needed a Race Coach. Eventually, Erik moved across the country and worked as the Head Coach at Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club where he met Fraser McMillan and the two decided to pursue an Olympic Campaign in the 470. As a team, they reached the highest echelons of Canadian sailing, winning the 470 National Championships and qualifying for the Canadian Sailing Team. 

Erik now works as the Royal Victoria Yacht Club Laser coach where he coaches Canadian Sailing Development Squad member Maura Dewey, among others. Beyond his coaching commitments, Erik is working on finishing up his graduate studies at UBC and being a first-time dad to his one-year-old. As his responsibilities and workload have increased, his love for coaching has never wavered, he’s willing to put in the long hours filled with the work no one talks about or glamourizes. Dedicated, humble and kind, Erik is a student of the game and strives for excellence on a daily basis. And as most excellent coaches do, he, in turn, pushes his athletes to do the same. 

How does it feel to have been selected as the recipient of Coach of the Year?

The award means a lot to me and I’m very grateful to be recognized by Sail Canada. I’m also extremely thankful for the support from our amazing community over the years and very much looking forward to working with athletes and coaches towards new goals this year.

What do you think makes you a successful coach?

I think successful coaches are committed to believing in each athlete, from valuing the hard work and dedication to a long term process, to being optimistic and very hard working. The values I admire in other coaches is a dedication to detail and commitment to constant learning, being very reliable, open & supportive, being committed to the spirit of the sport and just plain old being excited about sailing. 


What is the best piece of coaching advice you have received that you would pass on to other up and coming coaches?

I’ve always really appreciated the words of support and encouragement I’ve received from peers and mentors through years, and try to pass that sentiment along whenever I’m can. Those few kind words always mean a lot to me when I feel out of my depth, which I often do. It was also helpful to me to be reminded that for coaches, just like for athletes, it’s a process that takes time, and there is a lot of value in the journey. 


What was your coaching highlight in 2019? 

2019 has been an outrageous year which I’ve basically spent trying to juggle my new babe who was born at the end of 2018, graduate studies at UBC and my work with RVic. I really should thank my partner Vanessa for being so supportive over the last year. Despite some amazing trips to Portugal, Japan and Kingston, I also really enjoyed working with the team at home this year and felt we made some really concrete progress in 2019, which will hopefully set up a great 2020.


Join us in recognizing the 2019 Sail Canada Awards recipients at the Sail Canada Rolex Sailor of the Year Awards on Friday, March 6th, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario at The Carlu.

Click here for more information about the Sail Canada Rolex Sailor of the Year Awards night.

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