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 Metropolitan 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Edgar Perez.
Edgar Perez is the head age group coach at Patriot Swim Team in New York, where he has worked for three years. Perez got his first experience in coaching when he was 16 years old with a summer rec team, and his career began to grow from there. He swam competitively for SUNY Binghamton and has coached in the Metropolitan LSC for 11 years.
Perez has coached swimmers at the Zone Team Trial level, where he has had swimmers finish in the top 8 at the Eastern Zone Championship meet. This is his first AGCY award.
What originally got you into swimming?
In seventh grade, my gym teacher was also the high school swim coach. And one day after, swimming in gym class, he pulled me aside and said, “You’re going to swim.” I said OK, but I didn’t take it seriously until I got home, and he called my parents and told them I needed to swim. … I got into swimming because my doctor said it would strengthen my lungs because I had asthma. I guess with all the lessons I took, I got decent at it, and before I knew it, I was on the swim team in seventh grade.
Before swimming my asthma had worsened to the point I’d pass out. When I started swimming, my asthma improved, and I was able to limit the amount of time I used my inhaler. It was definitely a good situation for my health.
When did you decide you wanted to be a swim coach?
What defined it for me was my junior year in college, and a local team was looking for a head coach. For a season, I was the head coach of the team. Everything I did was a learning experience that year. I saw what worked, what didn’t. I did a lot of reading, a lot of internet searches, a lot of talking to coaches on deck at swim meets. It was hands on learning, and it was great. That’s when I knew I wanted to do coaching.
Who do/did you look up to, swimming-wise?
It had to start with Jack McKay (my high school coach). He got me started and showed me that there was a lot more to swimming than just moving my arms as fast as I could. He’s the one who instilled the idea of technique and what to look for. When I came back home from college, Todd Langenmayr, owner of the New York Sharks, really developed my skills on how to pin point certain techniques and flaws, and how to correct them, and the wordings (to use). So I really had two pretty strong influencers in my life when it came to my coaching career
What is your coaching philosophy?
No garbage yardage. I don’t care if it’s warm-ups or main sets in the middle. There’s a purpose to every set. Every yard has a purpose. There’s something to focus on. There’s a concentration. And I make sure I express that every time we take off for a set. Even when it’s between sets, I’ll say remember your head position or remember your fly kicks. There’s always something to concentrate on. Not just swimming to get the yards done.
I developed on my own. ... As the years went on, I began to see that the kids swam to get the practice over with as opposed to having a purpose in their swim. When I realized that, I began to develop this philosophy. You have to keep reminding them because you can talk them through a few steps, and then they’re somewhere else mentally.
What is one of your favorite parts about coaching age group swimmers?
You can’t treat the group as a whole. Treating every kid differently to get the most out of them, and then seeing their expressions when they achieve their goals, knowing you helped them, I love that. My kids are very respectful, and when they say thank you, that’s one of the (most rewarding) parts about coaching.