Ask a Coach!: Club Coaching Experience Beneficial at College Level

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 16. THE Ask A Coach! series is back today as Tennessee associate coach of men's and women's swimming and diving Tyler Fenwick replies with his thoughts on young club coaches ascending to the highest spots in college coaching.

I've noticed recently that successful, young, club coaches are starting to land some of college swimming's most coveted assistant positions (You-Tennessee, Yuri Suguiyama-California, Scott Armstrong-Stanford), with little, if any, college coaching experience. Can you comment on how club coaching has prepared you for the college coaching ranks and some of the learning curve you've experienced thus far?

Thanks for checking in! This is a great question. Scott and Yuri are good friends and spectacular coaches. I modeled a lot of what I did at Mission Viejo off of both of their programs. Club swimming is very close to my heart and has been a major influence on my career. I started swimming for Coach Richard Shoulberg at Germantown Academy in 1992. Even at age 11, I can remember observing how he worked with and related to his athletes. He has such a way with people. They're drawn to his energy and his enthusiasm for life. I spent 15 years swimming or coaching for Shoulberg. During college, I'd work for him during the summers. I learned a tremendous amount about motivation, success, discipline, intensity and passion.

I was also very fortunate to have had an opportunity to work for Bill Rose with Mission Viejo. The Nadadores are a first-class organization that has produced some of the top swimmers in history. Coach Rose is a master of understanding the individuals he trains and creating an environment for them to flourish. The chance to learn from two legendary coaches was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn, grow and develop.

I talk to a lot of swimmers who are looking to enter the coaching profession. I almost always advise them to spend a few years coaching at the grass roots of the sport. If possible, find a way to spend time working with one of the many great coaches we have in the U.S. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can! There are major benefits to this route. First, it allows you to learn how swimming works at its most fundamental level. Swimmers don't make U.S. Nationals by accident. There is an intricate process of development that takes place on the club level from the time they are very young. Having a chance to participate in this progression helps provide an outstanding foundation for young coaches. Exposure to different age groups, abilities and personalities helps a coach learn to teach, express themselves and form their own philosophy on the way swimming works.

A club setting also provides many challenges and unique experiences for a coach. At Mission Viejo, I was the strength coach, the nutritionist, the psychologist, the technique expert, the liaison to parents and the college counselor for my groups, in addition to coaching them in the pool. I had to become an expert in all aspects of my athletes' lives in order to give them proper guidance and put them in a position to be successful.

At Tennessee, it's been a pleasure to work with professionals at the college level, who in many cases have PhDs and are experts in their fields. Having spent years at the club level working with my athletes in and out of the water has helped me to understand their needs while I collaborate with our staff at Tennessee to make sure they are always provided with the best support possible. I have a tremendous appreciation for the resources with which we're provided. I remind our athletes daily how fortunate they are!

My experience at Tennessee has been phenomenal so far. One of the major differences is recruiting. It's been a ton of fun traveling the U.S. getting to know some of the top swimmers and their families. It is extremely time consuming and the rules are complicated (the NCAA manual is more than 300 pages long!), but I value the relationships I've built with athletes, coaches and parents and so far and I am having a blast!

Our resident expert coach currently is Tyler Fenwick, Tennessee's Associate Coach for the men's and women's swimming and diving program. Fenwick has coaching experience at both the collegiate and club swimming level. Before moving to Tennessee, he spent three years (2009-12) as the Head Men's National Team coach for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a premier gold medal club in Mission Viejo, Calif.

In his time with the Nadadores, Fenwick's athletes posted 58 National Age Group top-10 swims, 24 top-three swims and seven #1 ranked swims. His swimmers broke 13 Nadadore club records, four Southern California records and one National Age Group record. This past year alone, two swimmers each made the U.S. National Team, Junior Pan Pacific Team and Junior World Championship Team. Two of his swimmers won gold and bronze medals at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. To cap it all off, he coached the 5k National Champion, David Heron, at the Open Water National Championships. Heron has since committed to rejoining Fenwick as a Volunteer after his senior year of high school.

If you would like to submit a question to Coach Fenwick, email us or leave a comment below! All swimming-related questions are welcome!

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