Howard Firby moved to Canada as a child. During his coaching career he led BC swimmers to over 34 international games records, more than 300 Canadian senior records, and over 100 first-place finishes at the Canadian nationals. Firby was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.

Firby began as an assistant coach to fellow BC Sports Hall of Famer Percy Norman, who had earlier coached Firby, at the Vancouver Amateur Swim Club until Norman’s retirement in 1954, when Firby took over as the VASC head coach.

Firby co-founded the Canadian Dolphin Swim Club in 1956 and coached there for eleven years, winning the national overall team title six times from 1961-67 excluding 1965.

Firby developed eleven of the Dolphins’ twenty world record-holding swimmers, including BC Sports Hall of Famers Elaine Tanner, Mary Stewart, and Helen Stewart. In 1960, his Dolphin swimmers comprised 75% of the Canadian women’s Olympic swim team.

Firby was the founder and the first president of the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association in 1966.

He served as head or assistant coach for Canadian swim teams competing at the 1964 Olympic Games, the 1955 and 1971 Pan American Games, and the 1954 and 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.