Chase Bloch and Meghan Hawthorne Are Living the ‘Southern California’ Dream

Chase Bloch and Meghan Hawthorne

Chase Bloch and Meghan Hawthorne Are Living the ‘Southern California’ Dream

After competing collegiately as members of the University of Southern California swim team, Chase Bloch and Meghan Hawthorne are back – coaching the very program for which they once competed.

Bloch, a 2013 All-American and co-captain for the Trojans in 2014, is in his seventh season as an assistant coach since joining the staff immediately following his graduation in 2014. Hawthorne, also a graduate of the class of 2014, was an All-American for the Trojans and a three-year member of the U.S. National Team. She is in her first year at USC after stints at Boise State and Northwestern.

“I just feel super lucky and fortunate to have swum at USC, moreso because of the people that I was surrounded by, but also just the university in and of itself. I was super blessed and super lucky,” said Hawthorne.

Bloch believes that his own experiences as a student-athlete have helped him to better prepare his athletes to excel at his alma mater.

chase-bloch

Photo Courtesy: Katie Chin/USC Athletics

“Looking back, I would definitely say, I wish I would have taken more advantage of the opportunities that I had at USC,” Bloch shared. “So, I think that’s why it’s so fun now to be back and to still be here to help student-athletes; expanding their horizons and showing them that there’s so much more to experience, and also there’s more to tap into within their swimming.”

Understanding the ups and downs of life as a student-athlete has also helped Hawthorne in her approach and decision to coach.

“I think my experience as an athlete at the level that I swam, has helped me connect better with the swimmers,” she said. “I had the opportunity to swim under some incredible coaches during my career, and I thought I had a really good toolbox together and I just didn’t know what I was going to do with it.”

With the help and guidance of these mentors, Hawthorne was able to enter into the world of coaching and develop the skills that have shaped her into the coach she is today.

“I was fortunate enough that things fell into place,” she said. “I tell people it’s just very much lucky, but it’s also the connections that I made and that’s something that makes me super fortunate.”

Bloch joined the coaching world a month after his graduation. His journey is unique in the sense that he would be coaching a large percent of those who were teammates and friends only months prior. This situation meant making considerable adjustments – in the sense that the coaches he once reported to were now his peers, and those who were once his peers were now his athletes. The latter, Bloch considers to be a strength, as he believes the friendships he made with members of the team led to a greater trust in his coaching.

“They looked up to me and trusted me, which allowed for the rest of the team to also trust me and embrace me as a coach right away, because they knew that I had their best interests at heart,” Bloch noted.

The transition has also changed the way they both view coaching and swimming on the whole.

Meghan Hawthorne

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“You know, looking back at my experiences as an athlete, I was so like, ‘Okay, go to my practice, my coaches are gonna give me this workout, and we’re gonna do it and that’s it,’” Hawthorne recalled.

Now she has a newfound perspective of all the hard work and responsibilities that coaching a collegiate team demands. She has a new respect for the life of a swim coach.

“I didn’t realize all my coaches did. I had no idea,” she said. “It’s recruiting. It’s operations (depending on what you do and the roles you might take on). It’s collaborating on practices. We spend so much time writing really good workouts and more. I’m super thankful for that because I think it has helped me broaden my view of all the work my coaches did.”

Bloch also views swimming differently, and when he gets in the water to swim now, he has a much more cerebral approach that has helped him feel more in tune with the sport.

“I think with coaching, the way I viewed it before when I was an athlete, was not as much collaborative,” he said. “I think even from my first year till now, I’ve embraced the collaboration and researching and doing different things with other coaches (like sharing sets and training philosophies among different programs). Now I view coaching as…this whole sport is just all about getting the athletes better.”

Thinking back to the team camaraderie and NCAA success are highlights of Hawthorne’s athletic career at USC. Now her experience at USC is defined by a new highlight.

“I will literally never forget the first day when I walked on the pool deck going to coach a practice,” she said. “I told myself I was gonna relish that moment. I remember walking past where our picture is in the team room and thinking, ‘I never thought this would ever happen. I never thought I would be back coaching at the place that gave me the start to my life like USC did.’ That was an incredible moment, and I thought, ‘I can’t wait for the athletes that I coach to find a career that makes them that passionate.'”

Bloch acknowledges similar sentiments, as his achievements, once defined by his accomplishments in the pool, are now defined by the successes of his swimmers. His career is now highlighted by moments of watching his athletes reach goals he was confident they could achieve, even if at first, they might not be.

A couple of his favorite highlights include watching then-freshman Marta Ciesla develop her confidence by touching first in consecutive dual meets against the Olympians of Cal and Stanford in the 50 freestyle. Earlier in the week, Bloch told Ciesla the outcome was possible, even if she didn’t quite yet believe it herself. These victories helped propel her toward her first 21 second 50 freestyle.

Another highlight was watching Dylan Carter celebrate his first medal at Worlds.

“Watching Dylan Carter win a medal at Worlds was unbelievable,” Bloch said. “I mean, you would have thought that he broke the world record and he won a gold medal – and he got a bronze. But that bronze meant so much more to him. It’s moments like that, and that’s why we all coach and that’s why we are all still involved in the sport that we used to do ourselves as kids.”

The elation in these moments of victory serve as a constant reminder for Bloch of why he chooses to coach collegiate athletes at his alma mater.

“College has ups and downs but when I look back at those four years, I was just living my best life,” Hawthorne remembers.

Luckily, for the men and women of Troy, Bloch and Hawthorne are home again – and they are still living their best lives.

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