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Thursday, February 20, 2020 by Gabriela Chavez - Mom, Swim Coach, and Teacher

From Athlete to Coach

Swimming has always been a passion for me. I started swimming competitively when I was 5 years old. Growing up, I was raised by a single mom and she was the best mom she could be but did have to work a lot. Swimming became my sanctuary. Practice was every night and almost every weekend there was a swim meet. It became more than just my sport; it became my life. I was never the fastest swimmer on the team, nor did I go to state every year like most of my friends. But, I showed up and did what I could. 

Smiling Child in Goggles

Since I didn’t really have much of a father figure growing up, I feel that I leaned on my Swim Coach John even more than others did. I strived to meet his expectations, never wanted to disappoint him, and of course had to give him attitude from time to time just like I would my own mother.

John meant more to me then he could ever know. I tear up just thinking about him. I can only hope that if he sees me now, he would be proud of the person I am today. I swam for John from age 5 to 14. He pushed me, but also knew when I had enough and just needed his support. He wasn’t a loud coach by any means, very calm, knowledgeable, and kind.

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A Coach And A Leader

John always went the extra mile for my mother and I. He would drive us to swim meets. We either didn’t have enough money for gas, or my mom would be too terrified to drive in crazy weather. He would sometimes even stay after practice when my mom got off work late, just to make sure I felt safe until my mom picked me up. He was someone I could confide in and an amazing male role model for myself and other teammates. All in all, John was an amazing coach and truly changed my life for the better.

Swimming Lessons

Once I hit high school, I knew I would have a different swim coach. And man, did he have big shoes to fill. So big, that he didn’t even come close to becoming the coach I needed him to be, so I quit swimming all together. Thinking back now, I should have stuck it out, but my life was going in a different direction for the better. Shortly after, I became a swim teacher and found my new passion. I had always loved kids, but to teach them how to swim and hope to have some kind of impact like my Coach John had on me was such a reward. Even to this day, watching a child float on their back for the first time gives me chills. Or when a child looks up at me with a big smile because they swam better than they did last week. Helping a child learn a life skill is a huge responsibility, and also a type of joy that is indescribable. A few years after just teaching lessons, I started coaching Recreational Swim Team. I may have been young at the time, but I always had Coach John in the back of my mind, thinking “What would he do?”  “How would he motivate this child to be better?”

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Behind Every Athlete There Is A Coach

Now, let’s fast forward 10 years and here I sit coaching a Recreational Swim Team. The team is growing month by month and I’m always trying to come up with new ideas to keep their love for swimming fun and educational at the same time. I also have the honor of being an assistant Swim Coach on the same competitive swim team I swam for as a child. Every day I am doing what I love, sharing my passion and knowledge with kids of all ages. Teaching them to be better swimmers and hopefully a better person. I have so much to learn when it comes to being a Swim Coach but I do my best every day to be the best coach I can be! I thrive from learning from others, teaching myself new ways to teach, and focus each day on how I can keep sharing my passion with my swimmers to hopefully inspire them to be the best version of themselves. I do know that if I can change one child’s life like John changed mine or even save their life, I will forever be grateful!

SwimTot1252-1Behind every athlete there is a Coach. It’s the coach’s job to keep that athlete motivated, driven, successful, and respectful. That sounds like a lot of pressure for a coach but for me personally, it’s an amazing gift. I want each child I come in contact with to know that I am there for them both mentally and emotionally, and that I appreciate their hard work and honor every minute I have with them. Being a coach has made me a better person, better mother, and a better teacher. My journey is just beginning, and I can’t wait to help change lives one lap at a time!

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