Well, I have been in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans within one week of each other and that’s about how my summer wraps up. I got to witness some of the best coaches and swimmers in the nation have success in Irvine at nationals. I practically rubbed shoulders with some of my idols but unfortunately not very many pictures as proof because we were all asked to leave the superstars alone and allow them to be at the meet and focus on their competition.
I didn’t want to come home to New England for the upcoming winter months after being in North Carolina all summer. After being in Irvine, Calif., I definitely had a hard time returning to New England, where we’re already wearing pants and/or sweatshirts. It is nice to be home with my friends and family I did miss many of them and I’m glad I’ve had a short amount of time to reconnect with all of them. I’ve also had about a week to reflect on my summer experience whilst preparing for my final semester at Springfield College.
A few things for which I have a deeper appreciation are swim coaches from the largest programs in the country to the smallest programs in the country are ultimately all trying to do the same thing and we most certainly all speak the same (at times, colorful) language. Standing behind a coach during the 100 free at nationals, I was listening to him discuss with one of his assistant coaches regarding some high profile athletes showing up to start preparation for major competition (January instead of September) and that he expected spectacular results in a time frame that this coach considered ‘too little, too late’. As well as how lazy practice habits show up at important times, like finals at U.S. nationals where your placement in the event decides whether or not you make a national team. Even at the most elite level coaches face the same battles.
I also noticed how few female coaches (assistant and head) there are. Granted swimming has more than other major sports, particularly at the elite level, but after spending a summer with a female assistant coach who was juggling a newborn baby, a sprightly two-and-a-half-year-old, her family, and career responsibilities, I can completely understand why that is. As much as I’d like to stress how important it is that women are just as capable/educated/willing to do a job as a man, there is still a glaring difference between men and women in the workforce (any workforce, not just coaching). The part that makes women the child-bearer creates difficulties that even the best partners/fathers, who help as equally as the birth-mother with the child seemingly gets let off the hook from responsibility more often than the birth-mother. I suppose that the other parent picks up other responsibility (i.e., chores, finances, etc.) but the amount of time and time away from home that goes into coaching (and doing the job well) creates complications which seem to be easier to handle if you’re not the birth mother. It is most certainly something to consider as I move forward in my career and evaluate what I want out of my life (career vs. family or career and family). I am hopeful that more women will push for the cooperation of their employer and supervisors to work with them to find a better balance. Although I am aware there have been significant changes and movements to help with this I did witness first hand some of the major struggles that could be my future.
I am truly thankful to the UNC coaching staff with whom I spent my summer. It is fabulous to know that there are great coaches who have found success who are still willing to help out a newbie. Not once did even the smallest/silliest question go unanswered. I received much more than I could have ever imagined in Chapel Hill. I walked away with more than friends but people I truly consider family. A deeper appreciation for the time and dedication which goes into coaching if you want to be a part of a successful program. And lifelong memories which truly ignite my passion for coaching and give me the push to power through my last semester at Springfield in pursuit of my degree and my future career. An enormous thank you to Head Coach Rich DeSelm, Associate Head Coach Mike Litzinger, and Assistant Coaches Christy Garth and Aaron Workman! I am looking forward to watching the Tar Heels swim season unfold and wishing all of the athletes I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know this summer the best of luck in their seasons!
As I often find myself telling my own athletes: Trust your training, trust your coaches and, most of all, trust yourselves. I will reach to this advice as I begin a new adventure this semester away from a pool deck and into a classroom with my final few months at Springfield College, being absorbed by student teaching and data collection for my thesis. It has truly been so much fun and a summer I will treasure for the rest of my life!
Just keep swimming,