By Abby Boone, Swimming World College Intern
A NCAA top ten finish is an achievement for any program, but especially for a program that is still relatively new to the block. Nova Southeastern University, in its fifth season, has become that team. The men finished seventh and the women finished fourth at the NCAA Division II Championships with six individual first place finishes and three national records. Nova is tough not to notice.
Head coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron has been with the team since the planning stages in 2009. In its first season, Nova’s men won the Sunshine State Conference championship meet, and in the second season both the men and women took home conference titles.
Before starting the team at Nova, Bonewit-Cron held assistant coaching positions at the University of Florida, University of Miami, and Georgia Southern University. She was named the head Olympic swim coach for the country of Grenada where she coached NSU swimmer Esau Simpson. During her own college career she was a swimmer at the University of Ohio, where she was an All-American and a 17-time MAC champion.
Nova already has logged 9 NCAA individual champions, 34 SSC individual champions, and more that 150 All-American and All-American Honorable Mention honors. Academic success includes 38 Scholar All-Americans and Scholar Honorable Mention All-America honors.
Bonewit-Cron answered a few questions about her program’s success, her coaching style, and her focus for her team.
Getting to Know Coach
Your team has been successful since its first year as a program. What was your focus in the beginning to make this happen?
My focus with this program from the beginning has always been about the a basic foundation of discipline and accountability. I work with our student-athletes to be disciplined in every area of their lives (academically, athletically, socially, etc.) to ensure they are staying focused on their commitments. This discipline has enabled all of our student-athletes to subscribe to the same basic foundation of our program which has helped our cohesion.
Accountability is another attribute that is very important to how the swimers conduct themselves. I have seen all types of swimmers come through our program and those with this basic foundation have always succeeded to a higher level. My coaching strategy has not changed in terms of how I conduct the practices and address the swimmers, but rather the trust I can have in the swimmers who are in our program to do the right thing because of this foundation.
You came from coaching at UF, GSU and UM. Did a lot of your mentality come from your time at these programs or did you try and make your own coaching style?
Although much of my philosophy is a hybrid of my own swimming career and the coaching positions I have held, I did spend the longest duration of my coaching career at Florida. As a result, my approach and execution of a season is very much aligned with the UF philosophy.
Gregg (Troy), Martyn (Wilby), and Anthony (Nesty) were a large part of my growth as a person and as a coach. I spent a large amount of time watching their approaches and being taught through asking many questions. The time I spent learning from them is immeasurable in the way that I mentor both on and off the pool deck.
I have also spent a lot of time talking with my coaching colleagues that I have known for years within the swimming community on their styles of coaching. All of these facets have allowed me to develop a well-rounded philosophy and my own coaching style that integrates the physiology and psychology of competitive swimming while incorporating a sense of personability to achieving success at a higher level.
You coach national champions, NCAA record setters, and Olympians. Obviously you have great talent in recruiting fast swimmers, but what do you look for when you are recruiting?
Like most programs, we look to identify swimmers who will take our program to the next level. We will obviously ask a lot of specific questions in how they approach training and competing as well as identifying their academic needs.
Our subset of questions is very focused on many different areas including how their previous success has shaped them, where they see their future in swimming (both nationally and internationally), how their psychological approach to success has been structured, how they blend needed improvements with progressive training, etc. We also spend time talking to the coaches of the respective athletes so we can get the big picture of how a particular swimmer will blend in with our program and how we will continue to help them grow.
I know you had a child a few years ago. Do you think being a mother has shaped you any as a coach?
My approach has always been the same in the way I coach. My method of coaching swimming and coaching the athletes hasn’t changed, but having my two children has allowed me to be more intuitive to making sound decisions that are in the best interest of fairness to everyone and creating a culture of accountability.
I have become very grounded with a balance of directness and understanding through my 15 years of coaching and becoming a mother reinforced those values I held in coaching. Much like the direction I give my two-year-old, I must always evaluate 2-3 steps ahead in how my decisions will teach her right from wrong in a constructive way. I understand the role I play as a coach and it centers around helping the student-athlete excel in all areas of their lives including academics, athletics, and maturing into adulthood.
How do you help the swimmers who choose your team to become even faster? Training is a big part of it, but what else do you do that you think really makes a difference?
Our program implements many different areas for training in order to be competitive throughout the season, but especially at the end of the season. We don’t have traditional groups in practice, nor do we remain complacent with the doing the same dryland program or weight program. We are constantly making changes based on the fitness levels and the ability levels of our team. We incorporate a variety of specialty equipment to engage our swimmers throughout practice and to help them learn more about their power and speed while they are training.
There is also a very high level of respect and commitment to and from the entire team and coaching staff. This has made a big difference for us throughout the years from the very beginning, but especially this season. Our athletes have come together as a family and no one is viewed as being better than anybody else. They work cooperatively in their groups and are cognizant of each others’ needs and as a result, they have a lot of fun working hard and being a team.