Coaches bring changes, improvements

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Cole Erny is one of many area swimmers adjusting to a new approach this season as the Wildcats, Southridge, Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills all feature a new coach. All four teams will compete in Saturday’s boys swimming sectional at the Jasper High School Natatorium. Diving preliminaries will start at 10 a.m., with swimming and the diving finals set for 2 p.m.

Herald Sports Writer

For the four first-year swimming coaches in the area, the task is simple. At least in theory.


Show up, implement your own way of doing things and still command respect. Being liked is welcomed but not necessarily expected. Not at first, anyway.

“What you’re trying to accomplish, in a sense, you’re trying to rewrite the program,” Southridge coach Dick Taylor said. “That can be difficult.”

“There were quite a few challenges,” Heritage Hills coach Phil Bradley added. “They just had their way for wanting to do things and I had my way.”

Coaches have a chance to see how their changes have paid off in Saturday’s boys sectional at the Jasper High School Natatorium. Diving preliminaries will start at 10 a.m., with swimming and diving finals set for 2 p.m.

Taylor and Bradley, specifically, wanted to ramp up workouts at practice. Southridge, for instance, maxed out around 5,000 yards at practice a year ago, senior Landon Boehm said, while this year the Raiders have reached 10,000 yards.

“It’s just day and night; last year I was decent at butterfly but I was never good at anything,” Boehm said, noting his improvement. “This year, I’ve not even tapered yet and I’ve already crushed my 500 time.

“For the first couple weeks, it was pretty grueling,” Boehm added of the change. “Normally, I haven’t ever really struggled at practiced.  ... There were some days early on in the season when I was just ready to quit. I wanted to get out and wanted to be done because I remember coming home every night and collapsing on my bed and passing out.”

Boehm has cut 12 seconds from his time in the 500-yard freestyle to around 6:13, while slicing six and four seconds, respectively, from his times in the 200 and 100 freestyle.

“It’s important enough for him to do whatever is necessary to swim fast,” Taylor said of Boehm. “It’s a priority for him, so he swims the practices as you’re supposed to. He shows up and when he’s in the water, he does what he’s supposed to.”

Changes aren’t limited to yardage or other objective standards. At Jasper, where Jenae Gill landed her first high school job after previously coaching at Vincennes University and with USS swimming, she didn’t have to worry about installing a new work ethic. Kids didn’t have problems staying motivated throughout an entire practice, a problem she encountered at VU.

“There definitely was some growing,” Wildcat junior Cole Erny said. “It was a lot more serious; we adapted fast, probably within a week.”

Familiarity also facilitated Gill’s meshing with her team. She had an impression of what to expect from seeing a number of the Wildcats at the state finals in previous years and from her role as a coach with JAWS, the school’s youth-age program. Also significant, Gill said, was assistant Kristin Gutgsell stayed on, ensuring another familiar face was still present.

That last point is also what made Jennifer Wright’s transition at Northeast Dubois. She had been an assistant coach under former head coach Jason Scott for the last three years, so she already knew the Jeeps’ individual strengths and weaknesses. She also remembers the Jeeps testing her when she’d lead a practice as an assistant when Scott wasn’t there — the sport’s version of having a substitute teacher — so she and the team bypassed any possible uncomfortable getting-to-know-you phase.

“It was definitely good knowing her and we already had a relationship built up,” Northeast Dubois senior Lucas Schulthies said. “It was just nice knowing the person who’s going to be stepping up to the plate to take Jason’s spot. You don’t have to go through that time period where you’re just getting to know your coach.”

Wright, a 2004 Jasper High School graduate, and Scott had already installed the type of work ethic they wanted, so there wasn’t any need for Wright to overhaul anything this season.

“I wanted to keep everything pretty well the same,” Wright said. “The previous coach and I had made a lot of changes. He wanted to do some things and I got on board and we’ve been working really hard to change the program a little bit and I wanted to continue that. My focus this year was to continue what we’ve been working on the past three years together.”

Wright hit on something most coaches mentioned: the continuation of a process. Coaches realize it takes time for everything to come together, not just for their swimmers but for themselves. Gill, for instance, talked of finally feeling like Jasper is now her program and she’s come into her own. So much so she’s already begun developing a long-term process.

“Now, I know what to expect for the next year,” Gill said. “I have a new set of rules already established, I’ve seen things that worked and haven’t worked, so I’m really excited for the next year.”

Contact John Patishnock at

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