By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent
The recipe for success looks different for every coach, and for AGUA head coach Rachel Stratton-Mills, it boils down to equal parts passion, perspective, commitment and confidence.
Though she joined the sport late, at the age of 17, Stratton-Mills went on to swim for UCLA, where she also began coaching during the summers. Teaching had been her career choice, but Stratton-Mills quickly realized her passion for coaching outweighed anything she could do in the classroom.
“I wanted to find a career that I was excited to do each and every day,” she says. “For me, that is coaching.”
Soon after, Stratton-Mills took a head coaching position for Team Santa Monica, which, for a young female, proved to be a challenge. Stratton-Mills often found that other coaches and officials would not take her seriously because of her age and gender. But she didn’t let that discourage her from moving forward.
“It was frustrating at times,” she says. “But I just looked at it as a challenge to be the best coach I could be and prove to them that I belonged in my position.”
Since that time, Stratton-Mills has coached on both the collegiate and club levels, arguably making the biggest splash over her past, short two-and-a-half years at Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA) in New York City. In the first year alone, she led the team through a record-breaking season – The club set 100 records to be exact. By the summer of 2012, Stratton-Mills became one of only three female coaches to put an athlete on the US Olympic Team and the only female coach to have a swimmer on both the US National Team and the US National Junior Team.
Stratton-Mills is also a two-time USA National Team coaching staff member and was recently named Head Coach of the National Select Camp held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. If for nothing else, her prestigious repertoire would silence any of those Santa Monica naysayers now. On the other hand, Stratton-Mills doesn’t get caught up in the limelight; while she cares about performance, developing her athletes’ love for the sport is more important.
“Of course, watching Lia Neal make the Olympic team or having Michael Domagala be the only high school boy under 1:50 in the 200 free last summer were both great,” she says. “[But] I am proudest to say that the AGUA swimmers not only swim fast but truly love doing it as well.”
Rachel Stratton-Mills’ Five Keys to Success:
1) Figure out who you are as a coach and stick with it. Women coach and communicate differently than most male coaches. Neither is better than the other; it’s just different … stick to your guns and become the best coach you are.
2) Have patience with your athletes. Work with where you are at and focus on making your team the greatest that it can be.
3) Have a true passion and love for not only the sport of swimming, but also to help young athletes become better people.
4) Don’t skip out on technique. Watching the elites proves technique must be spot-on if swimmers want to progress.
5) Love what you do. The people involved in this sport are awesome … it is a very rewarding community to be part of for coaches and swimmers alike.