By Kelsey Reese//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 Pacific Northwest 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Keith Ure.
Keith Ure is the Head Age Group Coach at King Aquatic Club (KING) in Seattle, Wash. where he has been coaching for over 25 years. Ure has additional experience coaching at the high school level and as a summer league coach. He graduated from the University of Washington and also received his MBA from Seattle University.
When did you first begin swimming?
I started swimming when I was four. My mom was working at a pool at the time and we spent a lot of time camping so it was really to learn to be water safe.
How did you first get into coaching?
I was working with a summer league team when I was 17, at the time I had a chance to coach the six-year-olds and that kind of got me started with coaching. Right after that summer league job I was offered a club coaching job by a previous high school coach of mine.
I really like working with kids. I work full time with Boeing Company so I work a number of hours every day prior to coaching but I can’t give it up; working with kids is something I really enjoy.
What is one of your most memorable moments from coaching?
I had a previous swimmer, Ariana Kukors, who made her first Olympic team. That was definitely a big memory because I knew what she had gone through for four years to get back, after narrowly missing the team and then getting back to it and how much that meant to her.
Recently, I had a ten-year-old boy who set a couple of national records. That was great seeing records broken but when you see a kid who is ten with tears in his eyes running up to hug you because he’s so excited, that’s the kind of thing that keeps me in the sport.
Who has been most influential on your swimming experience?
I have a couple of club coaches from when I first started swimming that I still see a little bit today, not as much as I would like.
Right now at KING we’ve gone through a change with our staff and we’ve had a lot of young men and women join our coaching ranks that previously swam for KING. It’s a new energy right now and makes it pretty enjoyable to be coaching.
What is a tip you would pass along to other coaches?
Most importantly, to make sure that it is fun. I still have kids who have gone on to swim through college and everything else and they come back and say that the most fun they had swimming was back in their age group swimming days. I think that’s pretty important to keep them in the sport. Also to make sure every day that every kid gets some sort of attention that is specific to them; so that they know their being there is important and that you care about what they’re doing.
If you go in there and show that you’re having fun coaching I think that translates as well. If you go in to practice and you’re grumpy and yell at kids all day long then that is not something they’re going to enjoy. When you show up at the pool and they can tell that you’re enjoying what you’re doing then I think they feel that as well.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Fun first, then detail and making sure that everything the kids do is correct all the time. If it’s not correct, we stop and start over and fix it; we don’t let things fester. Stoke count is number one. We spend a lot of time working on kicking – it’s a skill I think is probably one of the most important that is stressed on a daily basis. We also spend a lot of time on underwater work. Those are probably the three big things we focus on.