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 Southern California, Metro Committee, 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Scott Watanabe.
Scott Wanatabe is the head coach of the South Pasadena Sea Tigers, and has been with the club for more than 10 years. He is also a physical education teacher at Cal State LA and an assistant swim coach at East LA College.
At the 2012 Spring JO Championships, Watanabe guided Connor Lee to gold in the Boys 5-10 50y and 100y butterfly, along with personal best times. His performance placed him at No. 1 in the nation for the 50y fly and No. 4 in the 100y fly.
This is Watanabe’s first AGCY award.
What has been one of your favorite memories coaching with the club?
Honestly for me it wasn’t any of the first places or the 11-year-old boy with the national standing. It was my beginner group. … It was when we finally had enough swimmers to enter about six to seven relays, and we never had that many relays before. So I had 13-14 year-old- boys relay, 11-12 year-old-girls relay, 11-12 year-old-boys relay. And one of the things I saw was when one of our girls relays got together in a huddle, and they said, “We got to do well for each other and for our team.” You could sense in their eyes that they really wanted to do well. The level of expectations for themselves was raised because we were able to get into these relays, and that attitude spread into the other members of the group and the team. And it brought a whole different commitment level to the team. It was just a change in the level of attitude for the whole team, higher aspirations.
What is your coaching philosophy?
For me, a lot of it is hard work. I like to harp on them about paying attention to details, the way the stroke is, stroke count, breathing patterns, kicks off the wall, all those little details. The little details make up the big picture. So if you don’t pay attention to these things, you won’t have a good, pure product in the end. A younger swimmer told his parents that I’m tough, but fun. I like that. I guess I’m strict about details and things, but I like to have fun.
What initially got you into swimming?
My babysitter (growing up) had her kids in swimming, so they took me into swim classes, and I was in a lot of different sports at that time. I did swimming, tennis, martial arts, and I guess my parents saw that I had a little more in my swimming. At some point you don’t have time for everything, so it narrowed down to swimming.
At a young age, I did really well. In novice, I was breaking records, and then I started at a local club here, the Monterey Manta Rays, and we just started from there and progressed. It just becomes part of your life. I don’t think it was anything conscious on my parent’s mind to put me into swimming
What led you to become a swim coach?
My first coach that I started with, she’s now basically our family friend. She’s known me since I was 5. She was actually coaching the high school team at South Pasadena, and she needed an assistant coach, so she hired me and that’s how I got into high school coaching. Right now, we share the same pool.
After I graduated, they needed a swimming instructor at the university, so I said oh maybe I’ll do that for a little bit, and I’ve been there ever since.
What is one tip you’d pass along to other age group coaches?
Kids will be kids. They’re going to do things when they want to. You can push them to a certain point until they won’t enjoy it anymore, so you have to kind of figure out that line. That’s the great thing about my club. I can be a bit more individualized than a large team with 300 swimmers. My team consists of only 40, so I can really understand how each swimmer is, how they respond, how to push them. Most of them, you have to be patient because they really are just kids.