By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent
Current head coach of the Princeton women’s swim team, Susan Teeter, began coaching the summer after she graduated from high school, in Memphis, Tenn. One practice was all it took, and she was hooked. To make matters more exciting, the team of around 100 kids she was in charge of went undefeated that season. “It was a high I wanted to stay on,” Teeter says.
When those sweet summer days came to an end, Teeter packed her bags and moved to the University of Tennessee, where she enrolled as an art major. Though the 18-year-old dreamed of being a cartoonist for Walt Disney after she graduated, she couldn’t stay away from the sport of swimming. Teeter found herself managing for the Lady Volunteers, and by her senior year she earned herself an assistant coaching position.
After graduating, Teeter spent a year as an age group coach and assistant coach to John Asmuth at Auburn University, respectively. But Teeter wanted more; she was anxious and ready to be a head coach. Luckily, that moment came quicker than she expected, and the following year, Teeter got a shot at her dream job at Princeton after applying on a whim.
Now, as her 30th season as head coach approaches, Teeter has many personal achievements she could boast about — like being head manager of the 1996 Olympic Team, leading the Tigers to 15 Ivy League Championships with a winning percentage of .808, or, having an award endowed in her name by the Princeton Class of 2000. However, at the end of the day, Teeter notes it’s the life-coaching aspect of her job that takes the cake. She loves helping swimmers and other coaches become their “best selves.”
Teeter recently became a Certified Professional Behavioral and Values Analyst, and a Certified Life Coach. Her company, S.S. Teeter Associates, offers everything from team building and leadership workshops, to a master coaching program, where Teeter works alongside her clients on their own pool decks. Teeter’s passion for coaching goes well beyond raising successful athletes. “I want to help young women come into and stay in coaching,” she says. According to Teeter, the most rewarding – and sometimes challenging – part of her career has been the opportunity to impact the lives of hundreds of young women.
As the years have flown by, Teeter says the biggest struggle has been “adapting to [generations] who communicate 90 percent of the time on an electronic device and struggle to communicate with their eyes and voice as a result.” Looking forward, Teeter thinks teaching delayed gratification, in addition to authentic motivation and what it means to be a team, will be an intrinsic part of being successful.
“We need to adapt and grow as coaches in order to keep kids in our sport,” she says.
Part of that adaptation includes taking a holistic approach to coaching – meaning, yardage isn’t everything. Teeter advises her colleagues put together their own idea of what works based on who their swimmers are. Whether it’s improving yardage, technique, dryland, weights, yoga, Pilates, or life skills, the training plan looks different for every person.
Susan Teeter’s Five Keys to Success:
1. I care immensely about the people I coach.
2. I'm a bit of a workaholic… Not that I'm proud of that.
3. I'm not afraid to take risks. If fall down, I get up and go again.
4. I've learned to ask for help.
5. I have amazing and supportive people in my life.
Lauren Hardy is the founder of laurenhardy.com