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 20120 Border LSC’s Age Group Coach of the Year, LeAnn Carr.
LeAnn Carr is a senior assistant coach at Aqua Posse in El Paso, Texas, and has coached there for about 15 years. Born and raised in Texas, Carr has been involved in Border swimming since its inception.
Last season, her club took seventh at the State Age Group Championship meet, which was the highest team finish ever. She is enjoying her fifth-consecutive Age Group Coach of the Year award.
What originally got you into swimming?
My brother and I are both adopted. He’s five years younger than me. My mother was over-protective. She waited a long time to get kids, and she wasn’t going to let anything happen to them. We both learned how to swim because she was adamant for us to be safe around water. But we did it with private instruction in a backyard where everything was contained because she didn’t let us go to public pools.
So when I was 10, my brother turned 6, and there was a new indoor public pool, and I was like it’s brand new. She can’t say it’s dirty. So we talked with my dad into taking us. While we were there, my dad introduces us to Leo Cancellare. … He was Aqua Posse’s head coach for many years and kind of the founding force for swimming in El Paso, and to a large degree, of the state of Texas. … Coach Leo kneels down and shakes our hands and asks us, “Can you show me how you swim across the pool?” And my brother and I looked at each other and shrugged, and we’re like OK let’s get this over with so we can go play. And we walk back to him, and he kneels down and shakes our hands and says, “Congratulations. You’re on Aqua Posse. I’ll see you on Monday at 4:30 p.m.”
That moment to this day was the defining moment of my life.
What about the sport of swimming do you like the most?
I didn’t swim in college. I was just a decent swimmer, but I wasn’t phenomenal. I think I came into it late. I had to learn all my fundamentals when I was 11. And I just wasn’t one of those monumental talents. But I loved the sport. I loved the self-discipline it taught me. I loved how it helped me develop as a person. I’m sure everybody says that, but it’s true.
How did you decide you wanted to be a swim coach?
I kind of fell into it. I was swimming laps in a pool to make up for practice I missed, and the pool manager came up to me – I was 14 – and asked me if I wanted to teach swim lessons because I obviously knew how to swim. I started teaching swim lessons that summer, and I was good at it. I could get kids to do things other people didn’t know how to do, and I don’t know why. Maybe it was because it was important to me for them to be successful. I don’t know... Then someone asked me to help out with a summer league, and one thing turned into another. When my own kids were swimming for Aqua Posse and my own son was 13, my younger son was about 9, and I would just jump into swim practice with them. I thought, “I’m here. I’m wasting time. I might as well join practice with them.”
Jack White (the head coach) asked me if I could you fill in one day. Then he said, “Well, would you like a job? You’re pretty good with this.”
Prior to coaching, were you veering toward a different career path?
Completely different direction. I went into college with the thought process that— my mom was a firm believer that women need to stand on their own two feet. Don’t be reliant on a husband. I went into college thinking I need a business degree to support me and make sure I can take care of myself and my kids. I have a bachelor’s in accounting (from the University of Texas, El Paso) and a CPA license. I worked as an auditor and manager at local university for about three to four years.
My husband saw me all miserable, and said why don’t you go into something you like? And I said I like coaching. So he said, “Well study something that will help you coach.” So I have a master’s in kinesiology.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
Jack White has allowed me to develop as a coach and as a person. He’s been very supportive. He allows creativity and strength. He doesn’t squash things. His philosophy was formed by Leo Cancellare, and all of us subscribe to it, which is – it’s about the individual first, because if you help them be a good person, then they will be a good athlete. Leo liked to use what he called a sandwich philosophy. If you’ve got some piece of criticism that you need to tell them, you sandwich it between two good things you know about them or two good things they did.
The team’s philosophy is to have fun, work hard, swim fast. But the ‘have fun’ is first because they’re children, and we have to remember that above all else. Because if it’s not fun, then they aren’t going to want to do it. And they could be missing out on a huge opportunity. A lot of our kids get swimming scholarships, and many of them are the first child to even go to college in their families.