Editor’s note: Every Friday, USASwimming.org will publish “Coaches You Should Know,” featuring some of the best age group and grasssroots coaches in the nation. This week, we bring you the Arkansas LSC ASCA Age Group Coach of the Year Evan Johnston.
Having been recruited to swim at Iowa State, Evan Johnston left to join the Army. He later returned to swimming at Henderson State University in Arkansas, where he became a 16 time NAIA All-American.
He has been coaching in Arkansas since 1995 and is currently with the Dolphin-Laser
Swim Team in Little Rock, where he earned his fourth Age Group Coach of the Year award.
Why did you decide to join the military?
I found out after a year in Iowa State, I wasn’t ready for college. I wasn’t disciplined enough for the classroom. So I went into the Army and was in for three years. Then that little school in Arkansas was recruiting my little brother, and my dad said, ‘Hey I have a son who was an All-American. He’s just getting out of service.’ I left San Antonio and went to somewhere I have never even heard of in Arkansas and been there ever since.
You’re one of six children. Did you grow up with a family of swimmers?
We lived in Florida at the time. I think my brother sat in the pool one day and my dad said, ‘Hey you should swim?’ And I had twin sisters just a couple of years younger and they got into it and my other sister got into it. And then it was kind of a natural thing for all of us to follow into it. And my parents said it was a good healthy sport to be involved in. and I still have family that still swim, masters or I’ve got brothers who play water polo in Des Moines, Iowa.
How did you get your first swim coaching job?
I got a job with the parks and recreation department here in central Arkansas and was coaching the summer league team. Then I got a call from my college coach who, said, ‘Hey are you interested in coaching full time?’ After thinking about it, I thought why not give something back to a sport I did for 20 years?
How did you learn to coach, after not having any previous coaching experience?
Having all those mentors over the years, and I also had so many good people in Arkansas. Sam Kendricks who is now and announcer at Olympic Trials … Arkansas Aquatics Director Paul Blair, I picked up the phone and called him a lot. I also picked up our Arkansas swimming handbook and read it cover to cover.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
If I was to sum it up – swim slow, swim the correct way. As you get older, you can improve on speed. But never stop working on technique. The old saying that always sticks with me, and I think I learned it at a clinic, when conditioning fails, your technique carries you. Never stop working on that.