By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, November 14, 2017
When Jack Roach left USA Swimming after running the National Junior Team, he did not know what was next, except that moving to Virginia to support his wife, Meredith Vinger-Roach, going to Medical School, was absolutely the right thing. Then, Virginia Tide Swimming, a club team, asked him to come on board, and he’s found another wonderful home, affecting young lives, and being a force for good living, and positive thinking. As we get closer to the holidays, it’s time to shed some light into this ever-changing world in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How are you doing, and how is coaching?
Jack: I am doing great and I am an awesome (laughs) assistant coach. RIchard Hunter is running our national program. I spend most of my time on the Tide deck with him. I’m interacting with the coaches, board of directors, and parents.
2. But you still enjoy it?
Jack: Oh, of course! I so enjoy forming relationships. Time goes by way too fast. The enjoyment I get is based on these wonderful relationships.
3. How about the job your successor, Mitch Dalton, has done with USA Swimming’s National Junior Team?
Jack: Mitch has managed to take the level of what was done while I was there -- and you have to include (USA Swimming’s) George Heidinger and Russell Mark in that, because they’re such a big part of crafting that thing we call the National Junior team now -- and used his approach which is more scholastic based. His educational background is so different from mine which was more (laughs) the school of hard knocks. Mitch’s approach has been different in such a great and successful way.
4. Did you use that approach when you were there?
Jack: I would never have thought to go in that way. George might’ve understood that direction. When I measure someone’s success, it’s based on how you form those relationships. Mitch’s sense of awareness and the people he brings in the program is just so obvious those are the people you want to help up and shape the craft you are involved with. His way works, and he is good working with diverse people. He’s a great fit for a lot of reasons. I’m so happy for him.
5. You are more focused on club it seems like?
Jack: I’ve certainly found it really important for me to spend a little more time reflecting, which makes it important for me to step back from other aspects. After leaving USA Swimming in a full (time) capacity, it was important for me to go do the important hard work I need to grow -- spiritually, authentically, and to be a better humanitarian. I miss the people and the organization so much, but I needed to focus on this incredible opportunity and great people here. It’s part of all of our growth and development to move on, even though we treasure those relationships.
6. You mentioned you are an assistant coach but in title you are the Senior Coach and everything, or is that correct?
Jack: I am still coaching. When I say assistant, there are two people I work with in the senior program. One is a Tage Waite, and the other is Richard Hunter, who was Bill Rose’s long-time assistant who came out here to be my assistant. Richard is going to eventually be the head coach of Tide, and is certainly the lead coach of the national team for Tide. I work with them the best I can and they allow me the flexibility to deal with other parts of the program
7. How are you and Meredith’s beautiful puppies doing?
Jack: They are doing good. They turned 6. They were born 11/11/11 so they turned 6. I am sitting in front of a fire right now and one is by my side.
8. Meredith, your incredible wife and a friend to swimmers and everyone with USA Swimming, is in her third year of medical school, how is that going?
Jack: She came home this morning and told me she sutured someone last night. She’s literally doing it now. She came home at 5 a.m. and she went out for a run! She is something else.
9. We had the pleasure of sitting with you two at Golden Goggles, how do you assess what your wife is doing, going to medical school in mid-life and absolutely getting the most of it and herself?
Jack: Words fall far too short to express to someone the way I view her - and the way she views her capabilities in something she has found a true purpose in.
10. Give it a try?
Jack: (laughs) Her self-efficacy has grown so large. Watching the other people in medical school who have become her friends, they have become such a team. Watching that degree of respect and understanding of the knowledge Meredith carries with her based on her age -- it makes me wonder why more people that age don’t go that path -- though I understand why people can’t always do that. But she certainly brings a lot of perspective and experience from her work, travels and life experiences. I think that has enhanced her work here immeasurably -- that context and perspective. And she is with such great people here. Her classmates, the faculty -- all the medical people from the (school and hospital) -- are incredible people and so talented.
11. I was fortunate to be in the loop when this dream started, and she had to take difficult leveling classes in complex subjects years removed from undergrad, and the admissions exam -- how does one do that?
Jack: If you think about the way our lives are grown, we’re changed and shaped by two things. One is the internal process and the other is environment. Her internal process has always been very sharp, and she’s confident in her ability to learn and grow. Then there is an element of anxiety and anticipation in the environment you go into. She had worked a long time in non-profits, so her environment was somewhat strengthened by that. But then again it changed this year when she went from the classroom into the hospital as a (third year). She spent most of last night in the operating room. I don’t know how you do that unless you know it’s what you want to do, what you are meant to do -- and you don’t know until you try it out. I could not be more proud of her and the great people she’s with here.
12. Speaking of amazing women, you knew the US women’s Olympic and Worlds team from your time running the Junior Team -- what did you think of the US women at Worlds in Hungary?
Jack: I watch something like that with the concept or perception of who someone is as a young person, who steps on the blocks to race and the concept of who they are as a person -- that has started to evolve and escalate in a way that is a representation of complete awareness; how to be a full young person, and continue to grow.
13. What is life after Michael Phelps like -- does it feel like a huge hole?
Jack: There’s a huge hole. The stuff that Michael is doing now is just an extension of who he was as an athlete. He continues to excel with his wife, his son, his mother, and everyone he cares about. I can’t imagine not feeling that sense of emptiness and reflection when you walk on a pool deck -- but I haven’t been to a big meet in a long time.
14. On the other hand, how cool is it to have Caeleb Dressel, who is similar to Michael and Ryan Lochte in his dominance and breadth yet still very much his own person, isn’t it?
Jack: It is a good thing, isn’t it? I think he has been blessed to be touched by Michael by going to the Olympics with Michael in ‘16. But they are such different personalities.
15. And his college coach, Florida’s Gregg Troy, has that experience, doesn’t he?
Jack: You look at who is coaching Caeleb, and it is Gregg Troy, who will set expectations that Caeleb will draw energy and enthusiasm from. And he has Ryan around and has been motivated by him before. And Gregg has what he has learned from coaching Ryan and leading our National teams. So Caeleb has these great tools for this foundation, yet he comes from a whole different mold from these guys, which is wonderful.
16. I was so proud of Missy Franklin in 2012, but even more so in 2016 -- how did she handle different challenges so well?
Jack: She has the right attitude. I know most of the coaching staff in 2016 felt a great deal of the success the U.S. women had in 2016 was because of the way Missy handled her challenges. Missy is someone who will make any situation she is involved with better. It’s her ability to keep her priorities where they belong. She is someone who cares about other people, even when times make it feel like you need to protect yourself more than you actually do.
17. Speaking of sticking with it, are you running -- and does being at sea level bring a nice change from Colorado’s altitude?
Jack: I am running. I’m staying physically active. It’s a little bit true on the altitude, and a little bit isn’t true. For me, I always found meditation and physical activity are connected -- it allows me to go to places I can’t sit still and go to, which I imagine that’s true for most young people. When I was in Colorado, and those mountains -- that sense of aww. The thing for me is when I get exhausted, I am able to drop into this place that is so amazing, and it is a place I can’t get without fatigue and beauty. And I do get that at Virginia Beach, but it’s not the same as being on a mountain and looking at that kind of vast beauty.
18. It’s cyclical but it seems like more NCAA swimmers than ever are on U.S. teams -- what does that mean for the college sport?
Jack: I guess what we’re talking about is how an NCAA swimmer moves from a short-course meet to a long-course meet. For years you’d hear the coaches’ discussion on what is more important and how the long-course needed to have more emphasis. The coaching community in the United States is really smart and has figured it out. It seems they have figured out a way to maximize a way to use both effectively. And I think another big part of it is the club coaches who have gone into college swimming. They understand short and long course, but also understand their responsibility to the swimmers and the schools and the country.
19. I mention the NCAA swimmers but also so many Juniors are shining, from teenagers to freshmen and sophomores in college -- has the U.S. gotten that much deeper, talent-wise?
Jack: It has. The depth is something you hear a lot of coaches who have much more knowledge than me, talk about. It seems like the depth and its competitive ability on the international level has gotten deeper. What I had witnessed in my time with USA Swimming was that we had a handful of athletes in every event who were better than the rest of the world. Now, we have more than a handful. That should make the handful that does make the team that much better because they have to work harder to get there.
20. I don’t know when swimming became THE sport of the Summer Games, but it seems to more and more, why is that?
Jack: I think social media a big part of it and we have very bright young people who also have the tech savvy to understand how social media fits into that. And social media is only growing so it makes sense that people are taking more pride in what your country is doing. It’s beautiful to watch, isn’t it?