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 Alaska Age Group Coach of the Year, Scott Griffith.
Scott Griffith has been coaching the Glacier Swim Club since 2004, and is currently the head coach. He previously served as the Head Coach and Aquatics Director for the Waynesboro Family YMCA in Virginia, and was awarded Alaska Senior Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Last season, his club won regional championships for the 16th consecutive year, and his age group 14-and-under team took home the state title.
Griffith is enjoying his second-consecutive AGCY award.
What is your background with swimming?
I was at the pool as a kid, taking lessons, and the swim coach who was there asked if I’d like to join the swim team. I think I was 7 or 8. I swam until I was 13, then I got into other sports. But then I realized how much I missed swimming and that I was good at it, so I came back in high school and was a junior-level swimmer. I swam Division I at the University of Virginia, and then graduated and never thought I’d be a swim coach. I was working a couple of jobs after college, working part-time for a club for about two years. Then I was getting ready to go back to grad school and then the coach of the club I was helping out with resigned, so I did a interim coaching position for the summer. I ended up loving it.
Who most influenced you as a swimmer and coach?
My biggest influences were my club coaches growing up and my sister. She was actually a really good swimmer and also swam at the University of Virginia. She went to Olympic Trials and got sixth at trials. I was younger, so I was kind of in her shadow, which is probably why I did other sports. But I had fun doing football, basketball and baseball, and I knew I was better at swimming. So when I took off two to three years, and when I came back it was totally different. It wasn’t my mom dragging me to practice. It was me wanting to go there.
My club coach really motivated me, and when I got back (to swimming at 13 years old), I was faster. Then he encouraged me to walk on at the University of Virginia, and that was a huge challenge but rewarding.
Swimmers I could remember, Matt Biondi, Rowdy Gaines, Tom Jaeger, those are kind of my idols. And my sister, she was kind of a stud.
What was it like growing up with you sister, who was also a swimmer?
We were both really supportive. I could remember when we were on the same club team together, and for the first time I beat her in a set. I remember teasing her about that because she was one of the hardest workers. She was very supportive of me. She was one of the reasons why I went to the University of Virginia.
What is one of your most memorable experiences coaching at Glacier Swim Club?
There have been so many individual highlights. I think the best is when the kids continue to improve. Or seeing them go off to college and swim at college and then bring that passion back here during breaks at practices. … Just to see the kid accept that this is life-long sport, it means a lot to me.
Describe your coaching philosophy.
I’m a lot more of a teaching coach. Not just making sure the kids are doing the work but actually educating them why they’re doing the work and how this will help make them better. Because when a kid realizes that and the light goes on, you know you’ve taught them so much more in life than just making them faster. If you teach them how and why, then they can apply it to a lot of things in life, not just swimming. Some get it right away, some don’t.
The older you get, you realize people learn different ways. Just keep going. They’ll get it.