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 Florida LSC 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year Sherwood Watts.
Sherwood Watts is the head age group coach of the Sarasota YMCA. Watts calls himself a proud product of the YMCA, having grown up and eventually starting his coaching career there.
This is his seventh Age Group Coach of the Year award and has guided his age group Sharks to 12 Florida Swimming Junior Olympic titles, recently from the summer 2012.
What first brought you to the YMCA?
I have very humble beginnings. I had a broken family and came to the YMCA in 1961 (7 years old). I know that seems like an eternity ago. I needed a place to go and stay; I needed male role models. I swam for about three to four years, and I stunk. I never swam in college.
How did you get into swimming?
I’m a Y guy. As opposed to a swim guy, I’m a Y guy. I was part of the leaders club at the YMCA. It was natural, free to join the swim club at the YMCA, and I started life guarding, and then started teaching when I was in high school. I found out I was good at teaching. I went to a junior college, and I never finished junior college. But I loved teaching.
Not an accomplished athlete, not an accomplished swimmer. I just loved coaching. And I got to coach some really good people.
What do you like most about coaching age group swimmers?
Just seeing them improve at any level. It’s as cool as a state record or something like that. You can’t buy it. They work hard. They pursue some goals and seeing them achieve their goals is so exciting. I never lost a thrill for that.
How has growing up at the YMCA influenced your coaching?
I was on my own (growing up), so the YMCA — I cannot stress enough — was a big part of my life. I am a product of the Y and the Christian influence. (Swimming) always used to be about winning, but now it’s for the kingdom of Christ. I coach not so much to win anymore. Of course I’m still going to motivate the kids to do their best, but I want to reflect Christ by being a top-level swim team and coach.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
IM-free based. We’re going to work toward the 200 IM, 500 free basically. I want the kids to be good at all four strokes, and I want them to be able to swim a good 500 free. So 200 IM, 500 free, and I think all the events fall under that. And that really helps them move into the 13 to14 age group.