By Kelsey Reese//USA Swimming Communications Intern
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 Virginia 2012 Age Group Coach of the Year, David Schreck.
David Schreck is a Richmond area native, who grew up swimming at a fairly young age. He later swam in college at Virginia Commonwealth University where he graduated with a degree in Health and Physical education. He has more than 25 years of experience coaching USA Swimming member athletes and has coached at NOVA of Virginia Aquatics for the past 14 years.
What was your swimming experience like growing up?
My father was a swimmer so I started around nine, swimming at summer league and built from there. I started later as a teenager in a USA Swimming club. I also had a younger sister who went on to swim as well – we got a lot of encouragement from out parents, especially my father. After that, in my teen years I had an interest in teaching young kids to swim, and enjoyed it a lot, it was very rewarding. That’s kind of how it got started; I realized I had a knack for working with children. I was able to keep it fun and I had a lot of success with summer league teams. When I was 16, 17 years old, I started taking on the coaching role, whether it be as assistant or head coach of a summer league team in our area. Then at about age 19 I started coaching at a USA Swimming club. It kind of led from there; I began coaching for the club team that I swam for in those days.
I also got a teaching degree at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in my early 20s and I swam in college as well at VCU, which unfortunately doesn’t have a program anymore. With that teaching degree, I learned even more on how I could make a positive impact with swimming—using swimming as my tool. Basically it was something I knew I was going to do for the rest of my life.
What is one of your memorable moments from coaching?
It is so difficult, I have been coaching at the U.S. level for over 25 years now and there are just so many memorable moments. I have coached kids to National Age Group records, individual and relay records. I don’t think any of them still stand out but at the time they stood for a couple of years, it was very exciting and memorable. It’s really the smaller things that keep me going. Just the kids who strive to have a goal in mind and helping them to set the goal, and then see them work hard to achieve that goal. They achieve that goal and quite often above and beyond. We really use the motivational time standards a lot. I’ve got kids that just strive to get that double B time and kids that strive to get those state records, and I put them all on the same level – those are all things that through my career have been very rewarding, there’s no difference in that. I love to see the kids achieve their goals.
This year, specifically, I had a group of 11-12 year old boys that we had set a goal at the beginning of the summer. I really thought they could come together and break some state relay records, and they did, they broke three out of the four! There was also an experience about eight years ago, where I had a hard working large group of 11-12 girls that were very good. After a great showing at short course State Age Group Championships, we set a goal for that year’s long course State Age Group Champs to get first and second in all four relay events and break all four state records. They did it! Knowing how hard those girls worked and the sacrifices they made to reach that hefty goal was a very rewarding and memorable time for me. I’ve been at NOVA for 14 years and had a lot of those memorable moments from NOVA and even prior to that. It’s been a very exciting career and I hope I have 25 more years in me!
Do you have any advice for other coaches?
Early on I made a lot of mistakes in my younger age, and learned from them. I think you have to be patient. If there’s one word for it, it’s patient. Teach your kids and families to be patient—that will help lead you to success. This sport is so great in helping us teach kids life skills that they can take throughout all aspects of their lives: self-reliance, accountability, hard-work, goal setting, perseverance, and courage. We have a set of core values that we strive to teach and guide our kids with and those are just a few of them. You need to be patient in doing all those, especially when working with kids and remember that they are kids and they’re going to make mistakes. It is okay, learn from them and not only will you be a successful swimmer but you’ll be a successful person in life because of what we’re doing together. Don’t dwell too much on swimming and the results aspect of it. Remember you’re helping to shape a person and part of our philosophy is hopefully to create better people using the sport and it’s such a great sport to help teach that. It is also important to become a sponge, always be willing to learn more about swimming. Even though I have many years of experience and know a lot, I am always studying evaluating, looking up articles and am open to learning something new about swimming.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
A lot of those values are integrated into my daily practice regimens. We focus a lot on details, the little things; a lot of those details can go a long way in helping these kids to be successful. It’s a tough task that we have because it’s such a difficult sport, but we try to add some fun to it and teach them the joy of working hard, that hard work will pay off in the long run, especially to be patient with it and learn to enjoy this. I think we add a lot of things to our program to help make this difficult sport even more fun—game activities and things like that. I think we have to be careful as coaches that too much too soon can be a recipe for failure. We want these kids to be in it for the long haul, so that early success is not a guarantee for success at 16, 17, 18 years old. We gradually build our kids through the program and hopefully keep them in our program for ten years or so, and they can move on to college or whatever it may be. That’s a big part of our philosophy, we’re in it for the long-term success, we want to keep them in the sport and too much too young is not always a good thing. It’s important to let them be kids and let them have lives.