Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Why I Became A Swim Coach

Why did I become a swimming coach? That's an easy one, Coach Steve Panzram.

Coach Steve with his
Crawfish Aquatics Team.
I grew up swimming in our back yard pool in southern California, trying to imitate my Dad. He swam when he was in high school, back in 1944 or 1945. I remember seeing the 8mm film of us in the pool, my Dad swimming laps, breathing to the side, swimming breaststroke and backstroke. I wish I still had those films.

I joined a swim team way back in 1978 when I was a junior in high school. My school didn't have a year round team, but 11 miles away in Ocean Springs, MS there was a YMCA team - the OSY Sea Serpents. There was a co-worker of my Dad whose kids swam on the team, and we thought it would be something I might like. The team was on their 2 week break after State, so I went to the pool every day until practice started back. The coach told me to try and work up to swimming 20 lengths - a 500. I did that and remember very clearly my first practice, the coach told us to warm up with a 400 IM. That's a 400 individual medley - or 100 of each stroke - fly, backstroke, breastroke, and freestyle. I'd never done one stroke of butterfly in my life but I got in the lane and did my best.

Throughout the two years that I swam with the team the coach never once gave me any technique pointers, or told me what I was doing right, or wrong. I learned by watching the other swimmers in the lane next to me, and tried to copy the faster people. I made it to state my first year, swam on two relays and the 100 backstroke, and 100 breastroke, all by learning on my own.

When I got older and started racing triathlons I joined masters swim practices. In Jackson, it was just a group of us that would get together and swim. In Baton Rouge I joined Crawfish Masters, coached by Scott Rabalais. Still no one ever helped me. Just swimming what they said and trying to keep up.

I moved to Dallas and joined DAM, Dallas Aquatic Masters. This is Jim Montgomery's program. Here I finally had a coach tell me something. Bobby Patten told me, "Ginger, we don't swim looking forward anymore, look a the bottom of the pool and let the water hit you in the middle of the top of your head." And one of the other coaches told me... "When you take your first pull off the wall, use the hand that is on the bottom."

That's it. That was the extent of the coaching I received in 30 years of swimming.

Then in 2010 we moved to Hattiesburg, MS, and I started swimming with the HubFin Masters. I was told that I would like Coach Steve. I think it was either the first or second practise that he told me, "I'm going to completely change your freestyle." During the year or so that Steve coached me he did completely change my stroke, he focuses on technique. I went from 24 strokes per length to 17. Got much faster, and did it using a lot less energy, learned a ton of drills, and why they improve your swimming. I finally got to experience really being coached. Someone that wanted me to get better, get faster. A coach that cared.

Swimming in the Mississippi State Games.

A time came when he needed a new assistant coach, he asked if I would be interested. Of course! An opportunity to work with an amazing Head Coach, and learn from one of the best coaches out there. Unfortunately Steve left shortly after I joined the staff for Nevada, but I will never be able to thank him enough for the opportunity. To this day, I stay in contact with him, mostly to ask questions about swimming, he responds immediately.

Last Day with the HubFins

If you haven't noticed by now I have an incredible passion for swimming. When we moved from Hattiesburg to Shreveport, Steve reached out to Butch Jordan, the Head Coach of COSST - The City of Shreveport Swim Team.

At COSST I got to work with JV1 and JV2,  the 11 and unders. I had the best experience there, the kids soaked up the information I gave them. Every single one of them will never be forgotten. I have memories that will last a lifetime. I got to work with a coaching staff that all have the same goals, we were all on the same page, it was a dream job.

COSST Coaches
I've told others before that being a swim coach is the only part time job that feels like a serious career. As a swim coach, or any coach for that matter, you're not just helping them to athletes to be better in their sport, you have an opportunity to teach them so much more. Teach them about respect, and integrity. Teach them about hard work, and the pay off they get from their efforts. Teach them about teamwork, and about being a team.

I'm not coaching here in Tuscaloosa, it just didn't work out with the local team. I miss it daily. I miss the kids.