By Kelsey Reese//USA Swimming Communications Intern
Editor’s Note: Every Friday, usaswimming.org.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 Wyoming 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, Holly Campbell.
When did you first start swimming?
I first started swimming my freshman year of high school. I’d never swam competitively; I grew up at a family ranch out in the country and was never involved in sports. Once I got into junior high, my mom said to me, “I think now that you are a ninth grader, you should try swimming.” She wanted me to try out for swimming so she took me down to my first practice and I was pretty nervous because I had never swam competitively before. I hopped into the water and the coach knew that I was nervous and said “well just go ahead and swim across and I’ll see how you do.” I swam a 50 and came back and I looked up at him and he had a big smile on his face and he said, “I think you’ll do just fine!” and I’ve been around swimming ever since.
I never had lessons before that, living out in the country it was so hard getting in and out of town with my parents both working and ranching, it was too hard to get in to be a part of a club program. We did have an above ground pool and I spent most of the summer at the ranch playing in our pool. Then our school district here in Campbell county, it’s really cool that we offer the Learn to Swim lessons through the Red Cross so I did have those kinds of swimming lessons through our school district but that was only 10 days a year that I would get those. That is really the only exposure I had to actual swimming lessons up until I was a freshman in High School.
How did you progress into coaching? / How did that opportunity arise?
In 1997, when I moved back home, I went to work for our school district as a water safety instructor, teaching the swimming lessons at the aquatic center. My old high school coach, who was also our head club coach at the time, said to me, “hey would you be interested in coaching? We need an assistant.” I said that I really love teaching swimming lessons, I think coaching would be pretty cool so I might as well give it a try. I started then and have been doing it ever since.
Who has been most influential on your swimming experience?
There are actually two; obviously my high school coach, Larry Steiger, it was through him that I grew to love swimming, with his knowledge of the sport and his patience and persistence with me, getting me to come to practice, and keeping me in swimming. Then our head club coach right now, Phil Rehard. I can’t explain enough how much Phil has helped me in my coaching career. His trust and understanding and encouragement have gotten me so far; without these two men I wouldn’t be talking to you.
What is one of your most memorable moments from coaching?
I’ve been coaching for 16 years so there are a lot. I can’t really pinpoint just one memorable moment because there are so many little things from little kids finally being able to do a legal pull out to kids breaking 17 or 20 year old state records. I guess there is one though that does stand out and still gives me goose bumps. Our 2011 ten and under girls were trying to break the 200 medley relay record and they did! So that in itself was pretty awesome but the really amazing thing was that two of the previous record holders were actually there, and of course they are 17-years-old now, and they were the first ones to congratulate those girls on that relay record. They even marched them up to the podium to get their medals. That show of sportsmanship, team unity and telling those girls that “we want you to break this record”, then being there to congratulate them, just really encouraged them to do that. That was a pretty proud moment.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
We provide swimmers of all ages the opportunity to develop skills to become not only world class athletes but world class citizens. We want them to learn things in the water but then also be able to take some of the lessons that we teach them outside into the real world. I coach the upper level eight and 10 year olds. I believe that they have to have fun while swimming hard. My kids are so young and this is such an important age to keep kids in the sport; if they’re not having fun they’re not going to stick with it. My goal is to keep it fun for them while working hard so that they will continue on in our club and then also into our high school team.
My kids know that I really like to have fun but that they have to work hard in practice first. My kids love cannonball contests. It’s a big thing. The younger kids that are coming up from the little group they can’t wait to get in my group so that they can do cannonballs. I teach them proper technique to do a good cannonball so they love being able to do those kinds of things. Sometimes we’ll have relay races and do different activities so that they’re still swimming but they’re working hard. What is interesting is that you can do a fun activity and they are actually working a lot harder than they think they are but it’s fun so they don’t realize they’re working hard. With the younger kids it is extremely important to keep it fun because if they’re not having fun they’re not going to stay with swimming. There are so many other sports that we compete with like soccer and basketball, in which they may have more fun. Swimming isn’t all that fun sometimes. You come to practice for an hour and a half and for 60 minutes of it you stare at a black line on the bottom of the pool but then those 30 minutes where their head is above water you do have to do some fun things and keep them engaged and liking the sport so that they’ll continue on.