Editor’s note: Every Friday, USASwimming.org will publish “Coaches You Should Know,” featuring some of the best age group and grassroots coaches in the nation. This week, we bring you ASCA's 2012 Montana Age Group Coach of the Year, Brenden Smith.
Brenden Smith has been coaching at the Billings Aquatic Club since 2003. The Massachusetts native attended Keene State College in New Hampshire, where he swam competitively all four years. He then went on to become an assistant swim coach for both Keene State and Keene High School for a year before heading off to Montana to join the Billings Aquatic Club.
His boys’ team was nine points short of the state championship title, and his girls’ age group finished third. Smith is enjoying his first AGCY award.
How did you first get into swimming?
I first started swimming in high school to get in shape for baseball. I found that I liked swimming a lot more. You work hard as an individual, then you’ll improve individually, and you help the team that way. Something just really clicked in me for that one.
How did you decide to go into coaching?
I went to school to be a teacher; teaching runs in my family. My dad was a vice principal/sixth grade teacher. My sister is a kindergarten teacher. My step sister is also a kindergarten teacher. My grandmother was a teacher, so it’s kind of like a family profession. It just kind of was always there, teaching and coaching.
Did you have any takeaways coaching in the same LSC with legendary Olympians Mike Burton, Tom Jager and David Berkoff?
For an LSC that has 1300 kids to have swimmers of that pedigree, you have to think outside the box and really push yourself as a coach to get your kids to compete.
Tom was here for about a year, super friendly guy. We’d talk a lot about sprinting. Mike was an old school coach, pounding the yards. Dave is a true innovator. We spent a lot of time at meets talking about training and kids. We bounced ideas off each other. It makes for a really good LSC.
Who was most influential to you growing up as a swimmer/coach?
It would be my high school coach Kevin Fitzgerald. I just swam in high school my sophomore year. I wasn’t very good. I had different club coaches and different YMCA coaches, but Kevin was the one constant. The repertoire he had with you and what he would do in the pool was awesome. He made me want to be a better swimmer, a better person because he knew what buttons to push. He wasn’t a strict disciplinarian. Just the repertoire he was able to have with kids, that’s the biggest thing. I truly believe that if the kids are having fun at practice, they swim fast. And if they swim fast, they have fun. You can do any kind of workout. You can do yardage work, you can do technique work, you can do sprint work, but if the kids are brought in and engaged and having a good time, they’re going to go fast for you. That’s kind of what I got from Kevin and my college coach.
What is your coaching philosophy?
I read the interview with the coach from Kentucky, and he was kind of right when he said you can’t have the same philosophy for every kid because every kid is different, but you can have a general philosophy. We have super-fast 11 to 12-year-old kids in Montana, and then they kind of burn out. You have to be patient because at 11, 12, they’re just physically maturing, and then you have some 11, 12-year-old kids that aren’t as fast. You have to keep them in the pool. You got to keep them engaged and that’s the thing. You’ve got to teach them patience, and that’s tough to sell sometimes, but it works in the long run.