by Chelsea white//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 Gulf 2012-2013 Age Group Coach of the Year, Jason Devine.
Jason Devine is the head age-group coach at the Dad’s Swim Club in Houston, Texas, where he has been coaching for two years. Coach Jason has over 11 years of experience coaching at the age-group level, along with higher levels such as coaching Masters swimmers. His great attention to technique and his skill set have aided him in being selected to coach the All-Star and Zones teams to represent the Gulf.
“My experience at Dad’s has been fantastic. I have a head coach who I feel truly supports me and has my back and the staff there is fantastic. The kids at Dad’s are great, they are open, they are accepting, and they work hard”-Coach Jason.
What is your swimming background?
“I started out in summer league of course; that is how most people start. And then I stopped swimming for a number of years—I was that little kid who was too cold. But then I started swimming again in high school. I loved my swimming experience in high school, I had a great time—I wouldn’t trade my experience swimming in high school for anything. I never swam in college. I was the kid that thought college was going to come to him. I was fast, but I was fast for my area because I was not exposed to USA Swimming. I had no idea what speed was; I thought I was fast enough but I was mistaken.”
How did you transition into coaching age-group swimming?
“That is kind of a long story I guess. I actually did not touch swimming for ten years. I stayed away from the sport because I was a little bit bitter because I thought it was going to come to me with college swimming—and it didn’t. I didn’t get recruited like I thought I was going to. I didn’t ask the right questions when I was going through that time, which I think is overall the reason why I started coaching. I fell between the cracks and I did not want that to happen to anybody else. I officially began coaching when I had an injury, I had tennis elbow. One of my best friends was a Masters coach so I had asked him if I could swim to help with my injury and two days later my injury was gone, even though it was so bad that I had had cortisone shots. Because of that I started swimming again and then my friend asked me if I wanted to help coach because he couldn’t do it any longer. So I actually got into Master’s coaching before I got into age-group coaching. And I did that part time. Then again one of my best friends was coaching age-group, so then I started doing that part time. From there I realized how much I enjoyed it and I became hooked. “
Before joining Dad’s Swim Club, you coached at Katy Aquatics, any coaching styles you took from Katy over to the new club?
“I don’t know if I brought any styles over but starting out in my coaching career I was very fortunate that I had great mentors and friends who taught me what I know. I learned from a couple of my friends and they really showed me how it was done. I just had the fortune of having the right people in place to help me. There really is no specific style from one club to another. But I would say that my style is dealing more with of course working hard. Getting kids to work hard, getting kids to believe and getting kids to make the right choices is what it is all about. It is all about choices for me and making the right choices based upon the goals and aspirations for you. And as the coach I know what those goals and aspirations are for my swimmers. We do weekly goals, we do yearly goals and I read up on them and then I remind them of what their goals are in case they don’t remember that specific day, I mean they are kids. I guess that would just be my style, getting the kids to make the right choices. The benefits you get from swimming and the lessons that coaches teach the kids are life impacting. Helping the kids learn about life through swimming and learning how to deal with issues and how to handle things and how to be the best that you can be is really what the sport is all about.
Dad’s Swim Club prides itself on having swimmers that hold qualities such as team spirit, positive self-image, self-discipline and good sportsmanship. What other qualities would you add to that list describing your swimmers?
“Goal-oriented, go-getters, fantastic work ethic, and incredibly smart. The kids in that area are just incredibly, incredibly smart. The comradely is great at Dad’s club as well. We have the luxury of owning our own pool, which most people do not—it is a 50 meter pool. So a lot of times, all of our kids are swimming almost at the same time. So I think that has a great deal to do with the sportsmanship and the comradery in the way that we are as a team.
What is your most proud coaching moment?
“Well that is a tough one. My proudest coaching moment is any “Ah-ha” moment. I think “Ah-ha” moments are anytime that a swimmer gets something, whether it is the butterfly stroke or as basic as a flip turn. When you have a six or seven year old swimming and he gets a flip turn and you start jumping up and down I think those are really exciting moments. I feel exhilarated and I feel excited every time a kid gets something. ”
Explain your coaching philosophy?
“Be willing to be uncomfortable. It is pretty much all about technique and your skill set with age-group swimming. Skill set can include such a vast variety of things but learning how to race with those skill sets and setting the kids up to be successful and being good swimmers I think is the foundation. But my goal is to basically get these kids set up for the senior programs where they need to be their fastest. Technique, consistency and I call it swim-smart is what the expectations are for my kids to be successful. If they are going to be swim-smart they are going to use as much of their skill set as they can as they train. My other philosophy is to train the way that you want to swim and train the way that you want to race. There is no magic pill in this sport; the magic pill is just to think and to work. And as long as you are willing to do those, you are going to be successful.”