By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent
To succeed in swimming, coaches must be dedicated, resilient and always willing to learn and take on new challenges. Kate Lundsten, head coach of Minnesota’s Aquajets age group team, is no exception. Just coming off a three-day meet in which Lundsten spent 38-hours on the pool deck, twinges of exhaustion trace the edges of her otherwise enthusiastic voicemail to me. Like this committed coach, for many, the hardest part of the job is the grueling hours.
Lundsten’s work, however, has not gone unnoticed. Her dedication continues to launch her higher into the swimming world, with recent accolades including an assistant coaching spot on the USA National Team and helping Rachel Bootsma become a gold medalist during the 2012 Olympics. All of these achievements aside, Lundsten makes it clear the hours she puts in are a small price in comparison to having the opportunity to mentor and positively impact the lives of her swimmers.
“From the time they join Aquajets at [age] eight, to the time they head off to college at 18, I help them learn life lessons from their failures and their successes...,” Lundsten says. “I get to watch swimmers grow up and be part of their lives for ten years. I love it. It’s a fascinating career.”
Lundsten has been coaching for the past 20 years but swam competitively long before that when she was 11, thanks to her Minnesota heritage. “[It’s] the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes,’ how could you not learn to swim?” she says. As an adult, she relocated to northern Minnesota, where she tried to make a living as an artist. Meanwhile, Lundsten coached Eden Prairie High School’s women’s swim team for 10 years, leading them to four state titles.
When Jon Foss, the Aquajets founder and current CEO of Foss Swim School, called her to take over the head coaching position at Aquajets in 2004, Lundsten dove headfirst into the new job. Under Lundsten’s leadership, the Aquajets have become a Minnesota swimming powerhouse, setting more than 60 Minnesota State Records during the 2011-2012 seasons. On a national scale, Aquajets has been a Gold Medal USA Swim Club for the past three years.
What are the keys to Lundsten’s success? For that informaton, I turned to one of her former swimmers, Karen Boosalis. According to Boosalis, swimming for the Aquajets was one of the best decisions she and her sister, Elaine, ever made.
“What sets her apart from most coaches is the fact that she is willing to do what is best for each individual swimmer, so they may reach their absolute highest potential, rather than writing workouts and practices that might work for only 85 percent of the team. This is what has helped Aquajets swimmers reach such high success individually.“
Boosalis describes Lundsten as a one-of-a-kind, goofy, encouraging coach who teaches her swimmers that if they want to perform their best, they must allow themselves to have fun. “The fun, high energy, positive presence she brings to the team is evident in each swimmer on deck at a meet, as well as in their actual race,” Boosalis says.
Because of Lundsten’s outstanding performance as a coach, Boosalis was inspired to pursue a similar career in high school coaching. Lundsten encourages any other woman who is thinking about becoming a swim coach to not feel intimidated, even though the sport is currently dominated by head male coaches. “Be who you are,” she says. “Learn from others, but don’t try to be what you are not.”
Here are Lundsten’s tips for being a successful coach:
- Have an incredible supporting staff.
- Enjoy and respect the swimmers for who they are.
- Love the sport of swimming and all the changes that occur over time.
- Learn from your mistakes and be humble.
- And, of course, have fun!