Notre Dame’s Kelsi Dahlia Steps into Coaching Role with Humility

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kelsi Dahlia captured the swimming world’s hearts in 2016 when she qualified for her first Olympic team in 2016 in the 100 butterfly. Who can forget the moment that was captured of the Worrell family embracing her after her victory in the 100-meter butterfly in Omaha.

On the flip side, who can forget her emotional reaction to narrowly missing the team at the 2021 Olympic Trials. An emotional Dahlia was understandably so tearful that her shot at a second Olympic team came up short.

But there was no rest for the weary as not five months later, she proceeded to break the world record in the event, once again cementing her place as a world class butterflier.

Dahlia’s swimming career certainly was sprinkled with the full smorgasbord of emotions and highs and lows: events and experiences that would make her wealth of knowledge to step out on deck as an assistant coach for Notre Dame.

Although, that isn’t how Dahlia sees herself. She admittedly doesn’t talk about her experiences with her athletes too much. She says, “I have been very intentional to not coach as, ‘This is how I did it or this is what worked for me.’ I try to give them that as an option but challenge them to find what works best for them rather than say that this is the only way to do things.”

Dahlia’s humility and grace that was present during her time as a swimmer continues to be present and noticeable as she totes her new role in the sport. Although she jokingly said, “I really want to borrow a swimsuit and hop in that pool because it is just an incredible venue.”

But as a coach, she acknowledges she is nervous, too.

“It is a tremendous honor to be here as a coach, I feel like I did very little of anything, Chris [Guiliano] is an incredible athlete and so are the other seven qualifiers that we have here. They are so independent, so coachable and incredible humans. I was an absolute mess last night! I was not expecting Chris to drop three seconds at a meeting this level and I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting it because he continues to blow us away at every practice! I am just so honored to be a small part of this sport,” she said.

However, with the excitement that is guaranteed with Olympic Trials, the opposite feelings that are a guaranteed truth for a certain population present on the deck – a feeling that Dahlia knows all too well.

“I hurt, I think that has been another wave of feelings that have come up, after not making the team for Tokyo, is I hurt for those in the third-place spot and the camera following them and them trying to process that and all the feelings that come along with it,” Kelsi Dahlia said.

As a swimmer, Dahlia made her mark, but she is certainly poised to make her mark on the lives and careers of her swimmers. Her empathy, humility and enthusiasm for the sport will certainly be an asset at Lucas Oil Stadium as well as any other deck that she finds herself on.

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