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Feature by Swimming World intern Valerie Podbelski
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 14. FORMED in 1993, Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA) has become one of the premier swimming teams in the northeast. Two of the primary driving forces behind the club currently, head coach Rachel Stratton-Mills and husband Glenn Mills prepared for today's swim meet at the 2012 CeraVe Invitational with only one demand of their swimmers; dedication.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Stratton-Mills began her career at age 17 playing water polo. From that time on, she began swimming on her own and, what started as a hobby, transformed into a love of the sport. As a member of the swimming team at UCLA, Stratton-Mills began coaching at a young age.
"I think I started coaching as soon as I started swimming. I would come home in the summers and coach swimmers at the local pool," said Stratton-Mills.
Stratton-Mills' husband, Mills, began swimming at age five.
"I would follow my brothers to the pool and swim even though I was horrible," said Mills.
Through the years, his dedication and technique began developing and by age 18 he had become one of the best swimmers in the country. He qualified for the 1980 Moscow Games in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 1980 Olympic Trials, but wound up staying home due to the U.S. boycott. He later, along with all the other Americans who stayed home, earned the Congressional Gold Medal.
Mills believed that he could be a better teacher than a swimmer, and thus began his quest to create a business that would improve the technical content in order to help better athlete's abilities. He is the video producer and co-founder of GoSwim.tv and spends most of his time either underwater with a camera or supporting his wife.
"My main goal is to help support Rachel with her career. I vacuum our apartment, feed the dog, and do the dishes. I try to not have her worry about the little things that way she is able to concentrate on coaching," said Mills.
The couple shares a common philosophy and stresses the importance of commitment and dedication to each of their swimmers.
"When you find something you love, you give it everything you've got," said Stratton-Mills. Mills added, "An athlete's career is short lived. It grows between high school and college graduation and when a person doesn't commit, they will never find out how good they could have been. I believe an athlete has the rest of their life to do other things, such as partying, and should wait until then to begin experimenting. You don't want to wait too long to find your passion because you will eventually end up as a chubby man sitting on a couch."
THOUGHTS ON CERAVE
In preparing for today's meet, Stratton-Mills made sure each of her swimmers knew what she expected from them.
"We are in the middle of our winter training and all our swimmers are in the very best shape they can be in. We only had one day home before this meet, (AGUA previously trained at altitude in Colorado Springs, Colo.) so I made sure my swimmers knew how fast I expected them to go and how hard I expected them to work."
A TYPICAL DAY
A typical day for Stratton-Mills begins with practice at 5:30 in the morning. She works until noon, when Mills joins his wife to coach Masters after walking the two blocks from their Manhattan apartment over to the pool to help train the athletes.
"We live only two blocks away from the pool, so while Rachel was away at another meet, I stayed back and assisted the swimmers who were there."
A CHLORINATED MARRIAGE
"We are a unique couple because both of our lives encompass swimming," Stratton-Mills said. "You don't find too many husband-wife teams who love swimming as much as we do."
"I think what's great about our relationship and us both being swimmers and involved with the same profession is that we both support each other and understand each other's position. It makes it easier to know why Rachel is always traveling and why she gets frustrated. We have tremendous support for each other and I cannot be more proud of her work in New York," said Mills.
Recently, the couple has developed a new rule: "We, more specifically me, are not allowed to talk about swimming at night," said Stratton-Mills.
In an effort to create a more personal life outside of swimming the duo competed on an adult soccer team.
"We were absolutely terrible," joked Stratton-Mills, "it was really cold outside and we're not used to outdoor sports." Mills teasingly added, "Trying to find a life outside of swimming is still a work in progress."
The couple foresees a great future ahead and is preparing to have their swimmers compete in many upcoming events.
"We are focusing on having many of our swimmers on our youth teams to qualify for the Junior National team," Stratton-Mills said. The next stop for the couple and their team is Omaha, Neb., the site of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.