It’s hard to believe Barney Williams was anything but a sure thing as the next coach of the UVic Vikes women’s rowing program.
Williams has been part of the Vikes alumni family for decades, having rowed for UVic between 1995 and 1999. And now he’ll stay a Vike for life.
On Tuesday the former Olympian and national team coach was introduced as successor to Rick Crawley, who has now retired from the women’s rowing program after 35 years.
Williams was introduced to a room full of Vikes rowers, administration and family by none other than the president elect of the Canada West university athletic conference, Clint Hamilton, the director of the Vikes athletics.
“I have big feet but Rick left big shoes to fill,” Williams said. “It was a rigorous [hiring] process and I’m certain we’re off on the right foot.”
At 41, Williams fits the Vikes model. He’s a family man, with Tavin (12), Kyla (8) and Tate (6), and he not only brings his own Vikes legacy but shares one with his partner Buffy (nee Alexander). Buffy also rowed for the Vikes and went on to win an Olympic medal, when she won bronze for Canada in the women’s eights.
Williams won silver at the 2004 Olympics in the coxless four. He inherits a program that earned 11 Canadian University Rowing Championship banners, 23 Brown Cup wins, 92 Canadian Henley titles and sent 29 Vikes to the Olympics, all under Crawley.
The coaching bug grew on Williams during his spell with Rowing Canada and the Row to Podium program, when he spent 2011 to 2016 at Elk Lake. He spent the past year as interim head coach of women’s rowing at NCAA Div. 1 Cornell.
That year at Cornell was transformative, and proved he wanted to be a coach.
“…Working with student athletes over the past few years in the Row to Podium, my role was as their athletic coach, there’s a real disconnect there,” Williams said. “It’s a really tricky aspect to try and balance in terms of respecting their academic interests but not having a vested interest in their academics.
“Now as a collegiate coach I get to support both interests and champion their growth as a human being and not just as an athlete. It started to come home to me as a great fit… Love to see medals around people’s necks and banners hanging from ceilings … but ultimately I want to see growth.”
Williams competed for the Vikes from 1995 to 1999, graduating in business administration and went on to study at Oxford University, where he was president of the Oxford University Boat Club. He was then member of the Canadian national rowing program for seven years and won a World Championship in 2003 and an Olympic silver medal in Athens in 2004.
Vikes win on world stage
Third-year Caileigh Filmer is in a break-out year as she and national team crew Hillary Janssens in the women’s pair won a World Cup silver medal in Lucerne on Saturday (July 15), adding to their gold medal performance from World Cup 1 in Belgrade, Serbia in June.
Two more Vikes, current athlete Avalon Wasteneys and alum Rebecca Zimmerman won silver in the women’s eight in Lucerne.