by Chelsea white//usa swimming communications intern
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 Oklahoma 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Kathy Mendez.
Recently Kathy Mendez, along with coaches John Brown and Josh Everett started a brand new team called the King Marlins Swim Club. With decades of swim knowledge and expertise, Coach Mendez is excited to begin this next phase and bring some fun to the swimmers of Oklahoma.
For more information about the King Marlins Swim Club email Kathy Mendez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations on starting your brand new team, tell us about it.
I along with John Brown and Josh Everett will be the three owners of the new club. John Brown has over thirty years of coaching experience. His resume includes sending people to Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships, Phillips 66 National Championships in almost every single event, Speedo Junior National Championships in every event and has sent hundreds if not thousands of kids to Division I or Division II schools on scholarship. He is a magnificent mentor; he has been one of the biggest mentors in my life. We swam together on the KerrMcGee Swim Club (KMSC).
Josh Everett grew up in the KMSC; he started there when he was five years old. He swam and went on to Kenyon College and went on to be a five-time All-American under Coach Jim Steen.
I started in the KMSCback in 1966 as a novice swimmer. I went on to set Oklahoma state records and was a part of the very first junior national championship —they used to only have senior national meets.
With the three of us we have over 100 years of coaching experience throughout all levels.
We just started this Monday, March 17. We have well over 100 people that will be starting with us. Our goal is to create a fun, fast, and competitive environment for kids to swim in and we want it to be an inclusive environment where they can learn life skills and just have fun.
What was the inspiration to start your own club?
I think the main reason is that recently there has been a lot of discussion about what works best for a club to be successful. Coach-owned teams just bring more stability to the club. When you coach your own team you don’t have to worry about reinventing everything every year when the board turns over; you never have to worry about addressing issues like that. The coaches can stay focused on what they need to stay focused on, and that is the swimmers and giving them the very best environment that they can have.
Tell us more about your swimming background?
I grew up in KMSC and had three different coaches during my time at the club. I started as a novice swimmer when I was seven-years-old and quickly worked on technique quite a bit, which wasn’t really a thing in the United States at that time. Our team however worked quite a bit on technique at younger levels. By the time I was ten there were five girls who had done pretty nicely and were advancing along well. Our coach at the time was George Campbell, who went on to be an Olympic coach for the United States, went up to our parents and said that he would really like to move us five girls up to the senior group. He was not going to do it unless all five girls could go together because we needed each other. So he did that, he moved us up to the senior group. And you know as a coach now that was such incredible insight, especially for back in the early 1970s. Because of that George was another great mentor of mine.
How did you first get involved with coaching?
When I was about 14-years-old a coach came and asked me, along with a couple other teenagers, if we would like to come in and volunteer to teach the kids the basics. We were only taking swimmers at the time, which was pretty common back then that already knew the four strokes. You had to have all four competitive strokes down before you could join a team. So this coach came and asked me to teach the kids the breaststroke and the butterfly. It was my very first coaching experience. So I did that basically the rest of my time with the KMSC team. I was pretty young but that was also very insightful of my coach at the time.
What advice would you give to new coaches?
Find a mentor. Find someone that you really like and go up to them on deck and start listening to how they talk to their swimmers. See things that you like and don’t like about what coaches do and how they interact with other coaches; also see how they interact with their swimmers and their peers—I think that is really important. Also remember most of all that these are kids that we are working with, they are not adults. No matter how fast they get or how great you think they are going to be, you still have this little nine-year-old so you have to remember that is who they actually are. They are not little adults, they are children. So just remember who they are and keep the technique going with them.
What is one of your favorite coaching moments?
I have several of them. Most recently, one of our top swimmers, a senior in high school who will be leaving this year, came up to me and the coaching staff at the end of this year’s championship meet. She told me and the other staff how important we were to her and what an impact we have had in her life and no matter what, she would always be with us.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
Make it fun, make it inclusive, teach technique and listen. I think that is it.