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. Also during April, as a part of #CoachesAre month, the “Coach You Should Know” will be telling you what being a coach means to them. This week, we bring you ASCA’s Mississippi 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Jamie Lee.
Jamie Lee is the Head Age Group Coach for the Biloxi Elite Swim Team in Biloxi, Mississippi. Having been born and raised in Biloxi, Coach Lee has been a vital influencer in the area’s swimming program. He earned his bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from the University of Southern Mississippi and also a master’s degree in park and recreation management from the University of Mississippi.
Finish this sentence: #CoachesAre________
#CoachesAre making the difference.
“The kids that come through our program, whenever I see them out and about (of course they recognize me before I recognize them) they come up to me and tell me that I have made a difference in their life and that they appreciate everything that I did for them. Hearing that is more than any dollar amount out there. For me, that is what being a coach is: to know that you made a difference in someone’s life hopefully for the better. It is very rewarding to know that you did make that difference.”
What is your swimming background?
“I started swimming in summer league when I was five years old and did that all the way until I was about ten years old. Then I joined the USA Swim team and swam with them, which was the South Mississippi SURF at the time. I swam for them off and on for about four years and then I went ahead and swam for my high school team from about seventh grade to twelfth grade. I pretty much gave it up after high school. Then I decided to come back and work at the pool as a lifeguard in May of 1998 and worked there through August of 2001 and got into coaching with my supervisor who was there at the time. I coached the summer swim team that I had swum on and had a little bit of involvement with the USA team, which was the SURF. I also started coaching the high school team that I had swum on, so I pretty much got to coach all of the teams that I grew up swimming on.”
“I then decided to leave and go to the University of Southern Mississippi and graduated with a bachelor of science in recreation administration. I also decided to pursue my master’s degree, so I went to the University of Mississippi and got my master’s degree of arts in park and recreation management. During my time at school I would always come back to coach the summer league team. When I graduated from the University of Mississippi in May 2006 I came back and started working as an Aquatic Specialist at the natatorium. The SURF Swim Team kind of disbanded in 2007 so that is when I started the Biloxi Elite Swim Team in September of 2007 and have been going strong ever since with that.”
Why age group coaching?
“I just think that it is important because you are dealing with all of the different abilities and levels of the children. You are dealing with all different ages so you are not necessarily just training upper level and upper ability. There are so many facets that you have to work with, so many backgrounds, so many abilities, so many levels and so many different personalities. With age-group coaching you see these swimmers mold and develop right in front of your eyes.”
What makes your area of Mississippi special/unique in terms of swim programs?
“Our swim club is unique in its location. Where we are at in the southern tip you can travel sixty miles to our west and be in Louisiana and then sixty miles to our east and be in Alabama. We are in a location where when we host meets we are able to draw competition from three different LSCs. But as far as Mississippi goes, we are a different type of people—we generally believe in southern hospitality. We want people to come here and we want to show them a good time. We have had people from Texas, Georgia, Florida and different places and you know we just try to cater to everybody else. We want to show them that we are a special type of people and we want to treat y’all with open arms and come and enjoy our area.”
Who has been a significant role model in your swim career?
“In general, just with everyday life I would have to say my father. As far as swimming goes it would have to be my brother-in-law. He was a pretty decorated swimmer and he coached for a while, so it just is nice to have him close to me so I can go to him with questions. He also can bounce different ideas off to me because he has swam all the way from a young swimmer to a Junior National qualifier. So it is good that I can go to him and pick his brain.”
Most memorable moment?
“There are quite a few of them. I think one of the most memorable though was when we placed top-five in the state—that was a short course final in 2008. I really thought we were building something special here when I started the Biloxi Elite and in the short time after we started that we were able to start competing in the state, we showed that we did have a good and talented group of swimmers to pull from.”
What is your coaching philosophy?
“I believe in teaching things the right way. I am a firm believer that a swimmer needs to grasp the basic skills before we can move on. I think that a swimmer should be punctual, disciplined and respectful—those skills are what they need to bring beyond the pool. We harp on them that they need to get here and get ready to go because for example being punctual they can bring that skill into their everyday life such as getting to school and work. With discipline, I mean not everything is going to go their way but they just need to be patient and keep at it. With respect, it is important to always be respectful because I think that is something that kids are lacking these days. Not all of them, but some of them—they are not very respectful. So those are some of the things that we try to teach on a day-to-day basis. Swimming is not just about swimming, it is a life-learning experience.”