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 2012 South Dakota Age Group Coach of the Year, Clyde Smith.
Clyde Smith is in his fourth year coaching the Sioux Falls Snowfox Swim Team, and is in his first season serving as head coach. Smith guided the club to both the long and short course state championship titles.
He swam collegiately at Kenyon College, where he lettered for three years. Smith then began coaching, in 1997, at the Lynchburg YMCA , and in 2006 he became the head coach of the YMCA Roanoke Valley Sea Lions. He led them to three-straight PYSA League Championships.
This is Smith’s first AGCY award.
How did you get into swimming?
Everyone always asks me that question, and they laugh at me when I answer it, but I really honestly didn’t have a choice. I was going to be a swimmer when I grew up anyway. My grandmother was the first African-American life guard in Richmond, Va. My uncle was the first African-American aquatics director in Richmond, Va. So for us, to even think that we weren’t at least going to learn how to swim would’ve just been ridiculous. We started swimming through a YMCA program, me and my younger brother. He’s coaching in Maine right now. And we just kind of flew through the YMCA levels, and the next step was swim teams, and that’s just how it fell. I think I started at 9, and my brother started at 7.
Swimming was already in the family blood. So did you know you were destined to be a swim coach, or were you looking for something else?
I just always loved being around water so I came home from college, and I worked at K-Mart for six weeks, and I was a summer coach, and assistant coach growing up. And I just loved the whole concept of the strategy of putting the meet together and how do we fix this technique to make the kid faster. And I’ve always had awesome coaches. Because the coaches I had growing up were so awesome, I think that I knew that when I graduated high school, the career path I was going to take was going to have to be something with swimming.
Right now, I’m in an awesome spot where this is all I have to do. I can be just a swim coach. I didn’t know, necessarily, that was the career path I was going to take, but I feel really blessed that’s all I have to worry about; how do we get these kids faster, and I can devote most of my time to that.
What do you like most about coaching age group?
You have more chance to have an impact on just everything in their lives. So we take kids that are coming straight out of swim lessons and (guide them) when they reach that first standard that they have to meet, whether it be that state cut, and when they move from that state cut to that regional cut. Just that feeling of pride that they come back to with that smile on their faces and the parents just thanking you for everything you’ve done. Even if they miss it, but the fact that they were so close. Just the pride, and they know that all the work that they put in paid off. That’s what keeps me going.
Who were some of the biggest influencers in your life growing up?
I really like to give a lot more credit to one of my first swim instructors, YMCA coach Ralph Quel. He was my middle school and high school swim coach growing up. He was young, and he had new energy and ideas on how he was going to get us to that next level. It was awesome. I try to stay in touch with him on Facebook and all that stuff.
The job before I had this one, there’s Pat Bateman, and he was the head coach of a YMCA. He’s a world-class triathlete. His energy and the way he came across to the kids, if I have any questions he’s the first guy I’d call.
What is your coaching philosophy?
For age group coaching, it’s fun, technique and hard work. It’s always about them having fun. We end our practices with what we call a crazy cool down when they do a 100 and cork screws and tumble weeds and dolphin dives, and then a synchronized swimming move where they have to keep their legs up above the water. So we work hard, then we let them goof around. Of course everything we do has a purpose. ...I think they view that as fun. When they’re ending practice, they’re always smiling and laughing. And I think we know our kids pretty well.