NCAA Men’s Division I Swimming: A Parent’s Perspective

Michigan's Paul Powers. Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By Michael J. Stott.

This tale of transformation could be about any one of the more than 235 athletes at last week’s men’s swimming and diving championships. This chronicle just happens to be about Michigan senior tri-captain and 14-time NCAA All-American Paul Powers.

I first met Paul’s dad Randall Powers at this meet two years ago as his son was a transitioning from age group stalwart (17-18 NAG record holder in the 50 free) to an accomplished college swimmer. This weekend we spoke again and his father offered a coda on his son’s career.

The Paul Powers early years were consumed with basketball and swimming. His aquatic training began with Splash Aquatics in Gainesville, Georgia, and really took off when he spent a resident summer between his junior and senior high school years training with the SwimMAC Team Elite. Internationally he represented Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championships and the World Cup. At the 2014 Junior PanPacs, Powers rolled to three gold medals in the 50, 100 frees and the 400 medley relay.

Transitioning to college was a different deal. He elected to pursue a major in mechanical engineering opting for a tough curriculum in Ann Arbor. Since then his swimming has brought him assorted honors including All-American citations (mostly in sprints) and eight Big 10 titles. Just days ago he swam six events clocking a leadoff 19.24 on the Wolverines 8th place 200 free relay, a 42.50 on the 13th place 400 free relay and achieving a 15th place in the 50 free (19.39). He endured disappointing results in the 50 (19.39) and 100 (42.64) freestyle events. Relay duty netted him anchor times of 18.76 and 41.94 respectively on the 200 and 400 medley relays.

Randall Powers has another boy, younger son Ty Powers, a junior swimmer at the University of Tennessee who has endured his own challenges that have kept him in and out of the water at times during the past five years. Dad is a parent whose appreciation for the sport (“absolutely incredible”) knows no bounds. While speaking specifically about Paul his words will resonate with swim parents around the globe.

“Swimming has developed Paul as a young man and taught him incredible character. He’s been surrounded by great coaches and mentors.” Randall includes Mike Bottom, David Marsh, Sabir Muhammad, and USA Swimming international trip team manager Jack Roach as main sources of inspiration. Regarding the Michigan experience dad says, “A father could not ask for a better situation for his son. He’s learned hard work, its payoff, and paid for his schooling. He has a fabulous mentor in Mike Bottom who teaches him not only what it takes to be fast in the pool but the number one thing — how to be successful in life.

“Paul’s had some ups and downs. I’ve told him early on that he would have them in life. He’s learned how to get through these triumphantly. The Michigan Man is not just a swimming man. He is a man with high character, nose-to-the-grindstone attitude and a hard worker who has to excel in the classroom before excelling in the pool. It’s not his swimming that is going to carry him when he’s 30, 40, 50. It’s what he learned at Michigan. Hats off to my son. I couldn’t be a prouder dad. He has maintained his character, developed his ethics, become an outstanding leader, and all of that has to do with Michigan.”

Randall has similar sentiments about Ty’s experience in Knoxville. His is the story of perseverance says the elder Powers. “I can’t say enough great things about coach Matt Kredich at Tennessee. He and his staff have lifted Ty up and helped him be successful again, overcoming physical odds most kids could never overcome. Ty is the embodiment of the Tennessee swim spirit and is an awesome teammate.”

A Coach’s Viewpoint

“Paul Powers is the epitome of a champion in our program. He won three Big Ten titles in a row. He didn’t win this year. When he didn’t he looked at the team, nodded as if to say, ‘It’s OK.’ The second thing he did was congratulate winner and up-and-comer Bowen Becker of Minnesota. That’s what a champion does. He looks at the future and says, ‘I’m just going to get better,’” said Bottom.

“Finishing second didn’t ruin my whole meet,” reflects Paul. As he’s grown and matured in swimming he has gained a different perspective on his career. Rather than just winning consecutive freestyle titles he posits “I want my legacy to be a lasting impact on my teammates so that when they are 30, 40, 50 years down the road I will be remembered by those I am swimming with now, not necessarily those who come later.”

Arriving in Ann Arbor Powers found an organized and structured squad which changed his outlook on swimming. In time he began to appreciate the concept of team. When I first got to Michigan I had people like Bruno Ortiz and Justin Glanda to look up to. They were experienced in the art of team swimming and helped me focus on why we do what we do. After you’ve gone through it you understand what you want to pass on to younger swimmers. They will be the future leaders. We want them to understand the importance of team, of leading by example and humility – all things that come together to make a great leader,” said Powers.

“At first, my only goal was to set the Michigan record in the 50 free. Now it is setting records in relays and putting them as high as possible. What I live for now is swimming relays with my boys,” he said. “Swimming for Mike has been a great learning experience. He is so invested in your personal development that when you leave here he wants you to be prepared for whatever you are going to face.”

Says dad: “The character and morality of people who have affected his life have a made a difference. Hats off to everyone associated with the sport.”


  1. avatar

    Paul is such a great guy. Thanks for the story.

  2. avatar
    Paul Windrath

    Great story and it is good that there are so many of these stories.

    AND, it is NOT just at the D-I level. Swimmers (and their parents) can enjoy this same experience at D-II, D-III, and NAIA levels as well.

  3. Thanks for your comment. I agree with your comment that it is not just D-I. By design the words “NCAA Men’s Division I” was not a part of the original headline when first written. I assume it was added because of Paul Powers participation in the just concluded championship meet. I am a swim coach too and what swimming provides is universal to all skill levels and divisions of competition.
    — Mike Stott