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Coach « Mary Beth Ellis' Blog



Before Doc, long before, I had coach. I never called him anything else he was just coach. From the age of 9 until 20, he was my swim coach and took me from a chubby little mediocre swimmer to a junior national, senior national, and olympic trials qualifier. I think many of the lessons coach taught me both in and out of the pool still are with me today.

First, my earliest memories are of coach shouting to me “where did you learn those open turns Rehoboth Beach country club?” I had been a summer swimmer at the country club where we were allowed to get away with all sorts of little cheats and bad habits like my open turns instead of flip turns. Within a few weeks of starting with coach and having him deride me, I was cured of my open turns. It just goes to how that bad habits and laziness can be fixed immediately with the right influence. Today, I still find this lesson valuable as perfect practice makes the difference between success and failure in many instances.

Another lesson that sticks with me is coach’s famous “parents can be a problem” lecture. As a swim coach, I am sure he had to face all sorts of neurotic parents and at times I think it got to him. I think the gist of his talk was for the parents to get out of the way and let their kids enjoy the sport and just try to race fast without any pressure or preconceived notions from their parents weighing them down. Now as an athlete, we face all sorts of talk from the so-called experts in the sport, media, other athletes, etc. It is important to only listen up to a point then put the blinders on and just get to work. Sport is not rocket science most of the time if you pick your path and follow it diligently enjoying the journey you’ll get there successfully.

Another lesson, I learned from coach was hard work and consequences. If a swimmer was slacking off he would have to do a 1000 meter fly with the bucket, a painters bucket tied to your waste. With this threat, only a few boys would be goofing around and sentenced to this fate. However, the rest of us would work harder and our results showed improvement year after year. Whereas the boys that were not interested in swimming were slowly weeded out of the group one fly set with a bucket at a time. Today, I still believe in the virtue of hard work and will beast myself if I think it will help me improve.

Theses are just a few of the lessons, I’ll expand on more of coach’s teachings in a future blog. But I think as a kid having good teachers and coaches to mentor our youth is one of the best ways to set them up for a life of success. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from coach appreciate the valuable skills and philosophies that he helped to instill in me at such a young age.

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