By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
When she retired almost two years ago, Keri Hehn never fooled herself into thinking her post-swimming life would be less complicated and slower than when she was training and competing.
In fact, now that she is teaching and coaching full-time, Hehn said it might be busier and more hectic than ever – and she loves it.
“Hah! Free time?” Hehn said. “Ladies and gentlemen, when you start working a full-time job, there are no more naps, sleeping in, and working out when you want to. You will be exhausted from your job, but it will be completely different than being exhausted from swimming.
“Your weekends are free but you will use them to get ready for your busy week ahead. Especially being a teacher, I never realized how tiring children are and how many questions they ask.”
Still, despite her schedule, Hehn, a member of the 2009 U.S. World Championship Team, is living her career dream teaching at a K-12 private school, The Buckley School, in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
She also coaches the middle and high school swimmers at the school, and on top of all of that, started he own club, the Griffin Swim Club, last year.
“The numbers are continuing to grow since the school has never had year-round swimming,” said Hehn, who worked for a public relations agency before moving onto teaching. “I am getting the kids introduced to swim meets and year-round swimming. I love working with children, and this was the perfect transition for me out of swimming.”
Speaking of that transition, Hehn’s journey began at Buckley in 2011 while still swimming, before calling it a career in 2012.
She said it was just too difficult to find time to train and work, and therefore, swimming became more about fun than competition for her.
So when she decided to hang up her goggles, she walked away with no regrets.
”I didn’t want to end my career on a practice, so I just had fun with it,” Hehn said. “I miss swimming terribly! I miss competing, being in shape and having goals. Working out now just is not the same. Plus, finding time to work out is a struggle. Everyone is always in such a rush to move on with their lives, but being an athlete is the best.”
“I am so lucky that it was an easy transition, and I already had a full-time job that I loved. I was able to throw myself into teaching and coaching and still be around the sport of swimming. Plus, I still get in and race my kids every once in a while to make sure I still have it!”
There was a time shortly after the 2008 Olympic Trials, where Hehn made the finals of the 200 breaststroke but came up short of making the team (she finished fourth), when she wondered whether or not she should continue swimming.
After re-evaluating her future in the sport, she said she realized she still loved it and had more goals to reach and dedicated herself toward making the 2009 World Championship team.
“I am happy that I decided to get back in the water and train with the goal of making the World Championship Team,” said Hehn, who identified her only regrets in her career as not starting swimming earlier and not moving to California to train with the best breaststrokers in the world sooner. “I knew I had it in me, and I just had a bad final race at Olympic Trials.
“I swam fast the entire year (leading up to Worlds) at every meet and was confident heading into the World Championship Trials. I knew that as long as I could do what I had been practicing, I would have a great swim. Getting third in the 100 breaststroke and going a best time gave me the confidence I needed for my 200.”
Although Worlds didn’t go quite as she’d hoped (she finished ninth in the 200 breast and missed the evening finals), Hehn said she left Rome that year with a suitcase full of memories and great relationships that still give her joy when she remembers that time today.
“World Championships was a blast,” she said. “It was a great experience, and I am so fortunate to have those memories. It was great to be among the best in the world at that time. The coaching staff was great, and the team was awesome. I wish I could go back and do it all over again!”
Now, almost two years removed from her last race as a competitive athlete, Hehn has had time to reflect on her career. She said she has nothing but great memories of her time and the relationships she made and continues to maintain.
In her new roles as teacher and coach, she said she knows she’ll have ample opportunities to create many new memories for her as well as her swimmers.
“I have always appreciated my swimming and loved the sport,” Hehn said. “That is why I swam for as long as I did. World University Games (2003) was my first international trip, so the memory of receiving the box of USA gear for the first time will never leave my mind. The Pan American Games (2007) was another great memory. Being in Brazil and having the fans get so rowdy for a swim meet made me want to swim even faster.
“Of course, making the World Championship team, going a best time in the 200 and knowing that I did not let a bad race in 2008 hold me back from being the swimmer I knew I was will always be a great memory for me.”