‘I’m a Vike for life’—Barney Williams takes charge of UVic women’s rowing program

- Ali Baggott


A new era is set to begin for the University of Victoria Vikes women's rowing program, after naming Olympian and former Vikes men's rower Barney Williams as program leader.

"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."

As an athlete, Williams (BA '99) competed for the Vikes in 1995-99, and went on to study at Oxford University, where he was also president of the Oxford University Boat Club. The 2004 Athens Olympian was a member of the Canadian national rowing program for seven years and won a World Championship in 2003 and an Olympic silver medal a year later.

"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 Rick Crawley and our student-athletes past and present have built."

It’s a homecoming for the entire Williams family, as well. Williams’ 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. And their three school-aged children are regular Vikes Summer Camps participants with their sights set on being future Vikes student-athletes.

Williams returns to Victoria after a year with NCAA Division 1 Cornell University, where 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, 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 2000m 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."
In addition to his athletic experience, Williams is a graduate of the National Coaching Institute, with an 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."

Williams will take charge of the program following the recent retirement of Rick Crawley.

Beginning on July 16, 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.

"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."


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Keywords: Vikes, rowing, athletics, sports, staff, administrative, alumni

People: Barney Williams

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