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The Dude

I get paid to coach swimming, don’t tell anyone, but I would do it for free. There is nothing else I would rather do with my life. I have coached many fast swimmers in my twelve year career; I’ve had one All-State swimmer who was an All-American consideration, and my swimmers have broken twenty-four school records. I have had countless swimmers All-League in the Mega-Conference and five League Championships, the most recent being last week, and I have been named “Coach of the Year” seven times. While the awards are great, and I am honored to have received them, the things I love most about coaching are teaching, being part of something special, and making a difference in kids’ lives.

I did not really love the sport until I started coaching my senior year in high school. I began my career teaching the four and five year olds for the Dearborn Recreation Dolphins while I was still training during my last year of swimming. Coaching little kids like that was educational. It made me realize the importance of learning the basics at a young age. I did not have to put any pressure on kids that young to go out and win, they just had to be there every night and learn. It was good for me on my first job to have to take the time and learn how to be a teacher. It made me feel like I was a decent coach by the end of the year to see those kids improve. At that age, improvement is the most important aspect of swimming.

Now I am the head coach for both the girls and the boys at Annapolis High School in Dearborn Heights. Annapolis is the school I swam for, and it is the first and only high school job I have ever had. When I started coaching there, I was fresh out of high school. The kids I was coaching were the same kids I was swimming with the year before. I would even hang out with the guys while I was coaching them. We’d be at the pool and I’d be yelling at them one minute and then out at Taco Bell after practice eating burritos. It was difficult to adjust to that. Not only was I coaching my friends and former teammates, but I was also coaching my siblings. I have coached both of my brothers and my sister through high school. I owe a lot to my athletic director at the time, Mr. Bird. He took a big chance letting me coach for as young as I was. I started as the assistant coach my first year, but the current head coach was also the head coach of a rival school where he had just gotten a teaching job. I was actually running the team from day one.

Coaching at Annapolis was very important for me to do; I was eighteen years old and coaching at a school I had attended. I felt like I had something to prove by taking a pretty good team and making them really good. It was special to continue the tradition of swimming there by going from swimmer to coach and finally putting Annapolis on the map. I felt as if I needed to make changes that had never been made and bring the team together to make it a family-like atmosphere. I started doing a fundraiser called, “The Twenty-Four Hour Relay.” We swim for twenty-four hours without stopping and the kids spend the night at the school and hang out. I started making them have poster meetings so that we could have a little visible team spirit at swim meets. I also started making the captains come up with team bonding activities for us to do on the weekends. I believe I accomplished that within a few years, and it made coaching there very special to me.

There is a big difference between putting your heart into something and doing it the right way, and going through the motions and doing a mediocre job. I have always been a firm believer that if you are going to be part of a team, you might as well do it with all your heart. When you join a team and just go through the motions, not only are you selling yourself short, but you are also letting everyone else on your team down. This season my girls’ team had what I like to call a meltdown. We weren’t thinking during meets, and we ended up losing a big meet by one point. It was a meet we could have easily won, but because the girls were alright with mediocrity, we lost. We had a couple of meets just like that by the midway point this year. During the Wayne Invitational this season we ended up with four disqualifications in three events. I took away the privilege of being a captain from my three captains and told the girls that a team without captains could not function as a team. By the end of the next week, the team re-voted on captains, we turned our season around, and we won the League Meet as a team. Being able to bring a team together like that was a triumph for me. I taught them how to be a team again because of the trials we went through as a team and actually pulling it off in the end.

As great as it is to achieve such a goal, the glory is not in winning awards and titles. The reward is having a swimmer’s mom tell me at his graduation party that until he started swimming, his self esteem was nonexistent. It is having that parent tell me that when this swimmer was a freshman, he was so afraid to talk to people, that he would hide at school functions, and try not to participate. It makes everything I do worth it when that parent tells me that I changed their child’s life by teaching him, not only to swim, but how to be part of a team and to be part of something that matters. It makes my career to have a parent crying and thanking me for making a difference in their kid’s life. I can honestly say that that was my career highlight, despite the fact that that swimmer was one of the slowest I’ve ever had.

People are surprised to learn that I am a swim coach; I don’t exactly look like a swimmer. I also don’t look like the typical swim coach. I’ve always been a big guy, but I was a decent swimmer about a hundred pounds ago! All through high school I had to deal with the football coaches trying to get me to play; I still hate football to this day. I might be the only coach around that has tattoos and earrings. Needless to say, when my first year swimmers’ parents see me for the first time, I can see the look of surprise on their faces. I have found over the years, that because I love the sport with all my heart, and I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter what I look like or what people think because all I care about is the kids that I coach. For the last twelve years, everything I have done in my life has revolved around swimming. Swimming is the one thing that has never been compromised; my classes get scheduled around swimming, my job gets scheduled around swimming, and my family even gets scheduled around swimming. Swimming is my life and it always will be; I’m just very lucky and very thankful that my family is so supportive of it. My wife has told me several times, “If you didn’t coach swimming, you wouldn’t be you…. and I fell in love with you.”

Olly Buckle

I really enjoyed reading that, partly because I have always enjoyed swimming and almost anything that involves water, though I have never swum competitively. When I was about eighteen I worked at a swiming pool and from some one I met there got a job teaching water sports in Mallorca. I used to teach swimming to kids who couldn't swim first thing in the mornings before breakfast. One day I was approached by a guy about my own age who confessed he felt really left out because he couldn't swim, not only that he was terrified of water. It turned out that when he was about eight or nine he had fallen into a disused service sump in a derelict garage where he was playing and nearly drowned in filthy stagnant water. We put an aqualung on him and walked him into the shallow end one of us holding each arm and talking to him to reassure him. He ducked slowly down under the water with us saying things like "imagine you are in the bath". When he came back up he said "Oh it's ok isn't it, you can see" we took the lung off and in three or four minutes I had him floating on his back, by the end of the day he could swim a length and before he went home we took him in the sea with an aqualung. That gave me one of the best feelings I have ever had so I can well belive how much you love your job , helping people achieve day after day, good on you! You don't write badly either.


Senior Member
Good Essay

Two comments I can make about this:

We talk a lot offline and you say you need things to write about and where to start. There are so many themes in here that you could write a book of essays related to the different aspects of being a swim coach. You have been doing this your whole life and you have a lot of experience as a coach and as a teacher. Write about that. I will talk to you more about it later.

While reading this essay, I can probably guess what others would say about it. You wrote this for the reason I write my essays - to make sure it catches the details you remember. I can relate to most of it, but like the criticism I got, readers need only as much detail as it takes to imagine the story.

I think it is well written, but may serve better by either slicing out a lot of details, or separating the essay to create several pieces from the aspects you touched on. Maybe do both. You can write and you certainly know about swimming.

P.S. you need a bigger stashe for your avatar.

The Dude

Thanks for the comments and the advice. This was something I had written awhile ago for a class. I rewrote and posted it just see what kind of ideas I could get and what kind of advice I would recieve. Thanks again.


As a former Resident Assistant for first-year students, I relate really well to this piece. It isn't about the paycheck, and it isn't about the awards. It's about the kids and the impact.

I'm totally with iceguy: I think you could make a lot of really good pieces out of this by separating it into the specific elements of being a swim coach.

I bet you've got some funny/emotional swimming anecdotes you could write about too...

Thanks for sharing!
- Kristan