By Chelsea White//USA Swimming Communications Intern
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, usaswimming.org will publish “Coaches You Should Know” featuring some of the best age group and grassroots coaches in the nation. This week, we bring you ASCA’s Iowa 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Jamie Langner.
Jamie Langner is the head age group coach at Black Hawk Area Club in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she has been coaching for over 10 years. Langner has additional experience coaching at the high school level for both men’s and women’s teams. She also was awarded the ASCA’s Iowa Age Group Coach of the Year award for the 2011-2012 season.
When did you first begin swimming?
Well I was always swimming when I was younger but I started swimming competitively when I was about 7 years old. My mom decided I had way too much energy and I needed to expend some of that, so she got me on the local swim team. I then continued through high school. I did not swim in college but I did remain a life guard. When I went to college I got an aeronautics degree actually and then came out of college and my first job was as an aquatics director/ swim coach for Spencer YMCA in Iowa.
How did you decide to go into coaching?
Well coaching in general, my sophomore year of high school my grade school basketball coach asked me to come back to coach the fifth and sixth grade basketball team. I continued that through high school, and then in college I could have graduated a year early but I stayed to get my coaching minor.
What were your experiences like coaching both high school men’s and women’s teams?
mean guys and girls are so different, especially at that age. I think that the guys are a lot more physical; they get in the water and they are almost like wrestlers because they joke around and rough house with each other. So during practice we would have to burn off the energy. Whereas with the girls it was a better use of time sometimes to stop for a half an hour because we had situations where we needed to clear the air. The girls needed that kind of session to go over the issues and get it worked out so that they would get to work. The guys never wanted to talk about issues, they just wanted to get in the water. I loved coaching both teams but I did end up giving up coaching the guys’ team because of the time of the season. Guys’ season for us in Iowa is a winter sport, which is also when the YMCA team is going on. At the time I had two young kids, so we were able to pull somebody else in. Then I moved over to Cedar Falls where I am today where I primarily focus on the 10-and-unders.
What is one of your most memorable moments from coaching?
It has got to be about four years after 9/11 happened. During 9/11 I was coaching in the middle of a high school girls’ season. So I had 36 girls on my own, no assistant coach or any staff so the swimmers and I had to help each other through that. And then when I moved away I ran into one of the seniors at that time and she recalled how that swim team and I handled it. As a coach and how I allowed the girls to grieve in their own ways and do whatever they needed to do to get through that was really beneficial for that swimmer; she was still thankful for that at that time.
What was it like for you to be honored as Iowa Age Group Coach of the Year for two years in a row?
I think it really is a tribute to our club, our parents and our swimmers. We are just really supported in our community. Not only by the numbers that come out but by the parents and swimmers that join our club and how they understand what our expectations are. They all are willing to do whatever it is that they need to do to help make the club better. And I think that shows through by what we do at all of our levels.
What is one tip you would pass along to other coaches?
Stay true to yourself and do what comes naturally for you. But then go and look around. Anytime where you have a chance to go to a different swim meet and not coach and you can just observe the other coaches and how they interact with their swimmers or what their parents are saying in the stands about their coaches or their swimmers—take that in. If you get the chance go and do that and then tell yourself ‘hey I want to try and implement that or I want to try that.’ Or you can do the opposite and you can observe what not to do from others coaches and learn how you would handle situations differently.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
As long as I can yell with a smile then we are good to go. My expectations of the swimmers, of the parents and of my coaches are high. I expect that they want to be there. We are going to have fun and we are going to work hard, but the bar is set way high. And particularly in our sport, the kids have their head in the water so there is going to be yelling. It is going to be a loud atmosphere. And there is a difference between yelling and being angry and yelling with a smile that is teaching and getting through to the kids. I tell my staff, as long as we can yell with a smile and the kids are still having fun, we are still pushing them to their limits, life is good.