Commentary by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 11. THE Golden Goggle Award ceremony will likely feature some surprises when envelopes are opened to reveal winners in some of the eight categories. With the American Swim Coaches Association of America already handing out its Coach of the Year honor, will the equivalent award at the Golden Goggles produce gasps when the name is read?
Below are the five nominees for the Golden Goggle Award for Coach of the Year:
Rick DeMont. DeMont has been worthy of this award since the first Golden Goggles in 2004, but his work with bringing foreign athletes such as Roland Schoeman to world prominence wouldn’t have been considered for this award that honors achievements of American athletes. Unfortunately, DeMont’s best years with his American sprinters have been overshadowed by other accomplishments (Michael Phelps’ achievements in 2008 and 2012, Ryan Lochte in 2009). That’s the case this year, though keeping Matt Grevers on top of his game for the world championships deserves a special award. It takes the right coach to keep an elite athlete’s mind on the goal in the pool in the same year that he gets married.
Bruce Gemmell. When Gemmell took the reins of Nation’s Capital Swim Club last October, it wasn’t enough that he was in charge of Katie Ledecky’s career, but he also took over a club that was trying to recover from major scandal. After two months, Ledecky was swimming better than ever, posting lifetime bests at the short course nationals, followed by national high school records in February. But the best of the year came at the world championships, when Gemmell and Ledecky’s major goals came true: World records in the 800 and 1500 freestyles. And that’s just the start of what these two could uncork on the swimming world in the next two years.
Dave Salo. Like DeMont, Salo works with a large group of foreign swimmers that did very well at the world championships. Among his American athletes, Jessica Hardy stood out with bronze medals in the 50 and 100 breaststrokes and a gold in the 400 medley relay. Let’s not forget a great week at the men’s NCAA championships, where Salo’s team captured the fourth-place team trophy by one point over Arizona.
Todd Schmitz. Another coach who has deserved this award is Todd Schmitz, for his 10 years’ work in creating the best female swimmer in the United States. Missy Franklin could have backed off in 2013 to recover from the stress of the Olympics and get ready for college, but this was set to be her final year of working exclusively with Schmitz, and the two ended their collaboration with a record-setting six gold medals in Barcelona. It takes a special coach to know how to keep his athlete motivated to race at peak speed for eight days, and putting Franklin in multiple events at in-season meets was just one reason why Schmitz deserves the nomination this year.
Gregg Troy.Ryan Lochte and Elizabeth Beisel continue to be Troy’s shining stars, but if this award took his work with foreign athletes into consideration, Troy would be a near-lock for this honor. Consider that unheralded Aussie Ellese Zalewski made multiple finals at the women’s NCAA championships, and Great Britain’s Dan Wallace somehow found himself in the 400 IM final at the world championships. This has been one of Troy’s best years, and he deserves mention for keeping Lochte on task in the middle of his post-Olympic stardom tour. That focus led to three gold medals for Lochte and a bronze for Beisel in the 400 IM at the world championships.
Before I announce my pick for the award, I want to publicly express my disappointment that Eric Hansen was not nominated for the award. Kevin Cordes did not do those amazing things in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at the NCAA championships on his own, and Hansen also deserves credit for making Cordes a world threat in the long course pool — despite a stumble in execution at the world championships.
Golden Goggles Award Pick: Schmitz. This is more of a Lifetime Achievement Award selection for me than a pick for a year’s worth of work. With the exception of Bob Bowman, no American coach in the past 20 years has had so much success with one swimmer from preteen to college years. Gemmell won this award at the ASCA banquet last month, but he has a few more years with Ledecky, and could win this over the next two years.