ROWING COACH STRAYS ADRIFT

In Sports /

BY ANTHONY LOPOPOLO

Alleging that he couldn’t even see his own pay cheque, a former Ryerson athlete plans to take his coach to court.

Alec Bain, a third-year journalism student, is lining up a small claims lawsuit against rowing coach Dominic Kahn for loss of employment, wrongful dismissal and breach of contract. Bain took a job at Bayside rowing club under Kahn this past summer where he believes he was overworked and uncompensated for his time.

He was subsequently let go by Kahn after six weeks on the job.

“I was fired for asking for my pay cheque,” Bain told the Eyeopener.

Bain claims Kahn owes him $2,850 of lost money.

Bain said he was presented with a T4 slip that subtracted $1,000 from his total earnings. The slip did not have his signature on it. Bain alleges he wrote a contract for his summer employment that Kahn refused to sign. A tax lawyer has been contacted to carry out an investigation of losses from Bain’s finances.

Kahn declined to comment on his employment of rowers at Bayside, citing confidentiality reasons.

There have been other former rowers at Ryerson who share a similar concern about Kahn’s approach to the sport and handling of athletes.

“He makes a really good first impression. But the more you get to know him, the more you see that it’s an act,” said William Oxeley, who now rows at Hanlan rowing club. His choice to join another rowing club stemmed from the way in which Kahn had conducted himself in front of athletes. “I couldn’t take this person anymore,” Oxeley said.

“At that point, it seemed like, if we were going to row for Ryerson, we had to row (at Bayside).”

Kahn said rowers have the freedom to choose which club to practice at.

He has difficulty understanding why any of his rowers would be upset with him.

Kahn looks to the rowing team’s first OUA gold medal this season to prove that he nurtures all of his athletes equally and fairly.

“Favouritism doesn’t exist on our team. We have standards to be met. From there, we only have an x number of spots up for grabs. It’s really tough. It’s a tough job for the coach. We’re always pushing and I have to be the bad guy.

“As a professional coach and someone who cares, sometimes I have to push you. You may not like it. You try everything, and that ranges from patting athletes on the back to pushing harder than they think. You have to balance that, and most of the time it works. That’s what I do.”

Other former rowers interpreted Kahn’s coaching as “overly aggressive” and established a counterproductive environment for newcomers.

After joining the squad in the fall of last year, student Tim Goff slowly removed himself from training under Kahn and began to work independently.

“It got to the point where I went to practice hoping I wouldn’t be coached,” said Goff, who no longer rows.

Wes Spencer, who has rowed since grade 9, attests to the displeasure expressed by former rowers. He wasn’t employed by Kahn last summer, but from previous experience working with the rowing coach, he felt he should spread the word about Kahn’s behaviour.

“It was like a recurring theme on the rowing team, me telling people about what’s going to happen with Dominic and his policies and that they should just avoid him in the first place,” said Spencer.

Spencer said he asked athletic director Ivan Joseph and athletics manager Beth Ali in the summer to have Kahn fired.

Joseph said Kahn’s commitment to Bayside and Ryerson is muddied and couldn’t address Spencer’s appeal straightly. Bayside is not affiliated with Ryerson, which complicates Joseph’s authority over what Kahn does.

Policies have been instituted, but Joseph declined to reveal what changed. Champion Matt Buie dispelled a lot of the negative criticism about Kahn.

“He’s the best coach that I ever had in any sport. The fact that he’s managed to take rowers that have never touched a boat before in their life to OUA champions in two years is absolutely amazing,” said Buie.

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