by Kaitlin Overstreet, interim head boys swim and dive coach, Athletics administrative assistant
It’s Saturday, November 12 at 5:45 p.m. I’m standing on the pool deck at King County Aquatic Center watching the nine members of the Lakeside girls swim and dive state team warm up for their races. I’m talking through their race strategies with them and helping tweak any of the small parts of their stroke, turns, and/or dives knowing that regardless of what I tell them in this moment, they are ready to go. At 5:55 p.m., five minutes before the start of the state finals swim meet, we are out in the hallway hearing the pre meet pump up speech from Matt Miller. The excited and nervous energy can be felt by all of us in our final "LIONS" cheer of the season. We head back out on deck, and I get to start coaching my favorite and the most electric swim meet of the season. Throughout the meet I’m reminding them all to have fun and enjoy this moment because all the hard work is done, and they just get to go out and race. At this point, the coaching is more about getting them mentally ready and pumping them full of positive and encouraging thoughts and emotions rather than coaching them on how to physically swim their race. I go through the meet anxiously gripping my clipboard as each swimmer steps up on the block, cheering as loud as I can for every race, and waving my arms above my head (even though they probably can’t see me) to encourage them to swim faster. After 10 individual races and three relays compete at state finals, we walked away with the 4th place trophy, two new school records, and one new state record (shoutout Ella J. '25!). For most coaches at Lakeside this concludes their coaching responsibilities for the year, but for me it means one day off before I start all over again: the boys swim and dive season starts on Monday.
Fast forward 48 hours.
It's Monday, November 14 at 6;45 a.m. I am at Helene Madison Pool, slamming my coffee in hopes that it will give me that extra umph I need to get the boys season off to a great start. All the athletes get to the pool early and walk on deck so energetic and excited to get the season started. The 10 minutes leading up to the start of practice are filled with the usual first day craziness of trying to hand out caps and suits while also introducing myself to all the new members of the team. Right at 7:00 a.m., I wrangle them all and ask them to circle up so we can do introductions before jumping into the pool. Once they all enter the pool for the first time this season, I take a deep breath and begin counting down the days until I get to go back to King County Aquatic Center to coach them at their state finals swim meet on February 18.
Ever since I started coaching at Lakeside in the fall of 2017, I have coached both the girls and boys swim & dive teams, so I am used to the back-to-back seasons and only getting a day off in between. I feel like by now I should have a complete how-to list for coaching the same sport but for different sexes and in different seasons, but I don’t. In all honesty I kind of just go with the flow of the team and adjust my coaching style to whatever will stick more with that team for that year. At the end of the day, the way I coach swimming technique is the same for the girls and the boys, but there are definitely some style changes that seem to recur every year. The biggest change is how I talk to and connect with them outside of the pool. Because the girls season starts in the fall, they are just starting to get back into the swing of having a daily routine, interacting with people outside of their friend groups, and waking up early (perk of swim practice!). I go into the girls season being overly positive and calm to allow them time and space to get used to everything before pushing them too hard and making them hate the experience. The boys on the other hand, come into the season with over two months of school under their belt. They have their daily routine, they have their friend groups, and they have a lot more energy from day one. I go into the boys season still being overly positive, but with a louder voice and a more strict attitude to encourage them to stay focused on what we are doing.
Like I said above, the majority of how I coach stays the same regardless of what team I’m with. The thing I love most about the way we coach the swim and dive teams at Lakeside is the emphasis we put on team building and positive team culture. Every season we spend most of the first two weeks of the season finding ways for them to get to know all of their teammates and making every experience as fun and inclusive as possible. Swimming is considered an individual sport and it’s a sport that doesn’t make cuts, so it’s easy for a new or experienced swimmer or diver to join the team, get lost in their own goals, and just participate for themselves. As coaches, we work hard to make sure everyone knows from the beginning of the season that their individual success is the team’s success. I would argue that we coach these teams as if swimming is a team sport and not an individual one. I think it is this mindset and perspective that helps make the shift of seasons so easy and enjoyable.
This coaching experience has taught me that no matter how much swimming - or any other sport - experience a student has, if the team culture and bond is positive and uplifting, they really can achieve any goal they set their minds to.
Follow Lakeside swim and dive on Twitter at @LakesideLionsSD.