After a successful five seasons, some health issues are forcing Gord Shields to step down as head coach of the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Flying Fins.

Shields will be staying with the team through the end of the season and Saskatoon Lasers Swim Club assistant coach Laura Harvey will be joining the club as the team’s new head coach.

“It was a really tough decision, but I’ve had some health issues over the past few years. When that happened, I thought it was time to slow down and look towards retirement,” said Shields.

A few years ago, Shields had an appendectomy and cancer was discovered during the surgery.  Then just a few months ago, he had to have a pacemaker implanted due to some heart issues.

While his health was the most important aspect, Shields said he wanted to make sure that he was leaving the team in good hands.

“I talked to the board and they thought it was best to get someone here that can continue to take the team forward for a number of years and keep the team progressing the way it has,” said Shields.

The Flying Fins have made some incredible progress over the five years under Shields’ guidance. He said he’s proud of how the team has grown from having only a few provincial level swimmers to winning provincial titles.

“When I first got here, they were sending one or two swimmers to provincial championship meets and then last we won five provincial championship trophies, have swimmers going to nationals and Canada Games, so the team has progressed a long way,” said Shields.

Harvey will join the team at the start of December and then take over full time on Jan. 1 with Shields remaining with the team through the rest of the season.

Shields said he’s confident that Harvey will be able to continue to build the program here in Moose Jaw.

“She’s been a coach for a number of years and has coached in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Currently, she’s the assistant coach with the Saskatoon Lasers Swim Club and that team has done very well under her,” said Shields.  “She’s ready to step in to be a head coach and I feel very good about the decision.”

Harvey’s daughter Olivia, who is a national level swimmer will also be joining the Flying Fins.

Shields’ final meet as head coach will be the Man/Sask Championship in Winnipeg coming up in a couple of weeks.

The Flying Fins were in Saskatoon at the start of the month for the Goldfin Invitational. The local swimmers had strong performances across the board.

Eight local swimmers took part in the Invitational meet, click here for full results.

The Flying Fins had 15 swimmers at the developmental level, click here for full results.