Feature by Jeff Commings
CAMDEN New Jersey, May 29. WHEN Danielle Strader-Bordi decided to get into coaching, she had a very familiar face guiding her as a mentor.
Strader-Bordi is an assistant coach for the Salvation Army Krocs swim team in Philadelphia, a two-year-old team guided by renowned coach Jim Ellis. Strader-Bordi was a world-ranked swimmer under Ellis on the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation team in the 1990s.
“Once I started coaching with Jim, I felt this is where I belong because I feel so at home on the deck,” she said.
Strader-Bordi is one of six in the American Swimming Coaches Association's 2012 Fellows Class. The others are Joel Elber (Southeastern Swim Club), Jon MacColl (Queens University of Charlotte), Mickey Murad (Rancho San Dieguito Swim Team), Rodrigo Pereira (City of Plano Swimmers) and Sam Wensman (Club Wolverine).
Strader-Bordi is returning to the sport after an 18-year hiatus. When she thought about returning to swimming, the plan was to just swim some laps, but it didn't give her the fulfillment she got from working with Ellis on his new team.
“I got married and had three kids,” she said. “I wanted to be there for the kids, but once they started to grow and time passed, I thought maybe I should go back to school. But I wanted to do something I actually loved.”
It didn't take her long to rediscover how much she enjoyed working with children, especially those on the Salvation Army Krocs team that had never swum before joining.
“When you see the face of this kid who gets over obstacles, it's just an amazing feeling,” she said.
Strader-Bordi was a member of USA Swimming's national junior team in 1989 and 1990 and was a standout sprinter at the University of Texas. In addition to Ellis, her swimming career has included time with legendary coaches such as Dick Shoulberg and Jill Sterkel. She qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials as a 14-year-old under the guidance of Dave Dollar.
Whether it's Shoulberg's work ethic or Sterkel's sense of family, there's always something for Strader-Bordi to tap into when she's working with swimmers in Philadelphia. But she also makes sure to create her own coaching philosophy.
“When I look back on my swimming, I don't remember much because my head was in the water, but I remember it was fun,” she said. “Even when I'm coaching summer league, what I like to do is find out what each swimmer's goal and push them to it and push them the right way.”
In addition to working with Ellis, she founded the Urban Swim Program with the goal of providing inner-city children with the opportunity to learn to swim in New Jersey — and hopefully, other cities in the tri-state area. But more importantly, it gives kids the chance to set goals that they might never have thought possible.
“These kids are learning a lifesaving skill in a sport they love,” Strader-Bordi said. “They come away with a sense of achievement and empowerment.”
And hopefully, it will bring more minorities into the sport. But that starts at the beginning, with teaching a youngster how to hold his breath underwater, then progress to swimming a length of the pool.
“I like it when you can get through to someone and see them achieve,” she said. “I like that I can be the one to affect them, and to give back, especially.”
If you have feature story ideas, contact Jeff Commings at Swimming World at firstname.lastname@example.org.