Written By: Gary Taylor
I would like to thank Ashley Graves for reaching out to have me compose a piece for Streamline Teams. It is always humbling to think others would feel you have information or experiences to share with others in coaching. As I looked through the previous blogs and read through the outstanding information shared by others in our sport, I was really at a loss on what I might be able to provide. The more I pondered, the less optimistic I became in finding the right topic. However, I did finally settle on something that I felt was truly important to share as I continue to value the small things now and in the future.
As we all know, 2020 was a very different experience on numerous levels. Our country, and really the entire world, suffered through death, fear of the unknown, lockdowns, depression, hate, social strife, and one of the worst political environments the US has witnessed in recent memory. This bevy of frustrations and disappointments led us down a path of uncertainty creating numerous issues in all areas of our life. People were very different during this time, and I feel I can state with some certainty, that I saw this as much or more than anyone else in our profession.
Because of this, it would be really easy to walk down a dark path of bitterness and frustration. However, I have never found this route to be much help in coaching, and more importantly, life in general. Instead, I have to embrace the opportunity to learn and continually evolve as a coach. Quite frankly, I am not one to dwell on the past, but rather believe in an optimistic, successful future for myself and everyone involved with these experiences.
For this writing, I will go in a different direction and focus on being thankful and appreciative for the abundant positives revolving around the pool. First, appreciate the relationships you have made during your time as a coach. The real relationships. As one coach told me, “when you are on the rise and seemingly successful, many flock towards you with praise. When you are at the low point, you will find many don’t take notice or potentially run in the opposite direction”. Funny enough, there does seem to be some truth to this thought process, however you do find out quickly who really cares about you. Embrace these people with open arms and share your appreciation for them. I am extremely fortunate to have some awesome people behind me, and for this I am truly grateful. Their outstanding support allowed me to better work through the down moments more successfully.
I have been lucky to have met several coaches I would consider mentor’s in some way, shape, or form. Jason Turcotte is, and will continue to be, the person who made the biggest impact on me as he was a tremendous leader, visionary, technician, and strategist. I have been told by others that I am a “hard worker”, but I cannot hold a candle to Jason and his work ethic. He was incredibly selfless on so many levels, always giving others everything they needed and rarely taking time for himself. From a professional standpoint, no one ever challenged or pushed me harder than Jason. But, I knew he did this because he saw something more for me and my career. There’s not hardly a week that goes by in which I don’t think of him. My hope is that he looks down on me from heaven and believes the time and effort he put into me was worth his investment. Be appreciative of the mentors in your life and let them know how much they mean to you. We are a product of who we surround ourselves with, so if you don’t have a mentor, find a coach and ask. You would be surprised how many of us would be flattered and more than willing to help.
As a coach, I have been extremely blessed to work with a number of outstanding athletes and even better people. I truly appreciate those who are willing to be “coach-able” on a daily basis. My hope is that I have also valued them because they made coaching infinitely more fun for me. In fact, working with many of these athletes never seemed like much of a job. They honestly grew my passion for coaching and the sport we have all fallen in love with. I know there are some out there who believe the coaches “make” the swimmers, but I believe those people have it all wrong. Those swimmers who we build relationships with and allow us to really coach them, maybe they “make” us coaches. Looking back on it, I don’t believe I hardly ever “worked” a day with these athletes. Thank you to those swimmers who invested in me and know that I respected, appreciated your incredible efforts.
Thank you to everyone I have worked with professionally. From administrators, to coaches, to support staff, to lifeguards, to those who cleaned and ran the facility, etc. I appreciated your work and learned from all of you. In many cases, the people I have worked with have become close friends and people I speak with regularly. All of us get a break here and there in our careers, but rarely if ever, do we achieve anything on our own. The support of many others ultimately allowed me to learn and prosper in coaching. Value these relationships and understand it’s more enjoyable to give back to those who have given to you. Make sure you take the time to let these people know you care about them and appreciate all they do.
Family. In this profession all of us know we give up family opportunities for practice, competition, and a number of other team functions. In order to become the best in our craft, sacrifices must be made from time-to-time. Unfortunately, these sacrifices can include moments with our spouses, children, parents, siblings, etc. With this being said, do not take for granted the time and effort these loved one’s sacrifice in order to support us. Lord knows I have taken this for granted on too many occasions, and for this I am sorry. Many coaches work with different clubs and colleges during their career coaching hundreds of swimmers, but at the end of the day, you only have one family. Let family know they are important to you and your life. Share your love with them and always appreciate the sacrifices they continue to make for us to do what we enjoy.
Some other things I have learned to love and appreciate:
The smiles of coaches, swimmers, parents, etc. I enjoy seeing people happy.
The look of wonderment and excitement in our youngest swimmers.
Seeing swimmers achieve the “impossible”.
Learning and connecting with your athletes and growing the coach-swimmer relationship.
Watching swimmers become the best versions of themselves in and out of the pool.
Motivating athletes to reach new heights.
The transformation of individuals and groups through education and passion.
The staff who has to regularly put up with me.
Watching athletes finally overcome plateaus and challenges.
The smell of chlorine in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
On an outdoor pool deck, the morning sunrise.
The beautiful sunsets on the late afternoon pool deck.
Seeing the “plan” come together in an amazing moment.
Individual victories are fun; however, TEAM victories are AMAZING!
Hearing from other coaches and learning from great minds in our sport.
Outside the box coaching and new creations.
Using different equipment.
The failures. They are not fun in the moment, but can lead to tremendous growth.
Writing a great workout which excites you as a coach.
Giving said workout and watching your swimmers crush it.
The spectacle of big championship meets; Nationals, NCAA’s, World Champs, US OT’s, etc.
The opportunity to watch elite swimmers perform their craft at an elite level.
Also understanding the elite swimmers are human and have their off days as well.
Seeing the smiles and excitement of our youngest swimmers. This is why we all do it!
This is a good start, but there a number of other items I love and appreciate about this great sport. Who and what has impacted you positively throughout your career? Think of your highlights and what ultimately allowed for this outcome? Also, fear of failure is reticent in our society today but we must go through this in order to learn. It’s difficult at times, but work to embrace and appreciate these moments as well. You will be better for this! Give your “thank you’s” when you’re able as you will appreciate the chance just as much as those you are giving your support too.
Best wishes on a fantastic season!
Gary Taylor is in his first year with Cavalier Aquatics of Charlottesville, VA. Taylor was previously the head coach at Auburn University following North Carolina State where he spent the previous six seasons, including the last two as associate head coach. Under Taylor’s leadership, Auburn’s men’s and women’s teams both went 5-2 in dual meets in 2019-2020. At the SEC Championships, the women won three titles and set SEC records in both the 200 and 400 freestyle relays en route to a fifth-place finish. The men placed eighth with a number of Tigers swimming top 10 all-time performances in program history. Though there were no NCAA Championships, Auburn had 19 receive CSCAA All-American honors (18 women, 11 men). In Taylor’s first season on the Plains, he helped guide the Auburn women to a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The women’s team featured nine CSCAA All-Americans and three SEC titles – Erin Falconer in the 200 free, Aly Tetzloff in the 100 backstroke and the winning 400 freestyle relay team. On the men’s side, Santiago Grassi earned All-American honors in the 100 butterfly at the NCAA Championships. Prior to Auburn, Taylor’s primary responsibility with the NC State program was working with the distance freestyle events and stroke aspects and assisting with recruiting responsibilities. In six seasons, he coached 11 swimmers to NC State school records and 97 to all-time top 10 performances. Taylor played a vital part in guiding the NC State men to four-straight ACC Championship titles and three consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including top-four finishes in each of the last three years. In addition, while Taylor was at NC State, the Wolfpack women were crowned conference champions in 2017, tabbing its first conference title since 1980. The women’s team also achieved its highest NCAA finish in program history, placing seventh in 2017. In 2017-18, Taylor’s final season at NC State, his distance group was the only in Division I to have a male and female finish in top three of 1650 freestyle at the NCAA Championships, including NCAA men’s champion Anton Ipsen. The NC State men earned a fourth-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Championships, winning a program-best five NCAA titles. The women finished 18th, which included three top-16 finishes in the 1650 free. Ipsen was named the 2018 ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year as he earned All-America honors in the 500 free and All-America honorable mention honors in the 400 IM to go along with his 1650 free title. He was an ACC Champion in the 1650 free, 500 free, 400 IM and 800 free relay. During the 2016-17 season, Taylor coached four athletes to the men's and women's NCAA Championships where they earned seven total All-America honors. At the ACC Championships, he led Ipsen to his third-straight title in the 500 free and a runner-up finish in the 1650 free. Adam Linker also tabbed All-ACC honors in the 500 and 1650 free events. On the women's side, Taylor helped Hannah Moore to All-ACC honors in the 500 free and 400 IM and Rachel Muller to a third place finish in the 1650 free. In the 2015-16 season Taylor helped to lead Ipsen to ACC titles and All-America honors in the 500 and 1650 free for the second-straight season, as well as a berth to the 2016 Olympic Games in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle. Linker additionally earned the first All-America honors of his career in the 500 and 1650 free at the 2016 NCAA Championship. Taylor also played a part in the development of recent graduate Christian McCurdy and Justin Ress's successful rookie season. McCurdy was a three-time ACC Champion and All-American during his career and Ress was named the 2016 ACC Male Freshman of the Year. Ipsen tabbed the mention in 2015, marking the second-straight year a Wolfpack swimmer earned the honor. Prior to joining the NC State staff, Taylor spent the previous four years as the distance coach and recruiting coordinator at Florida State. The distance program at Florida State flourished under Taylor's tutelage as eight school records were broken during his stint with the program, and 43 all-time top-10 marks were achieved. Taylor guided four athletes to individual crowns at the ACC Championships while at Florida State, including Juan Sequera, who was named Freshman of the Year in 2012, and Mateo DeAngulo, who took home Swimmer of the Year and Performer of the Championships honors. Taylor guided seven individuals to the NCAA Championships over the course of his four seasons, including DeAngulo, who earned first team All-America honors in 2012. Prior to taking the reigns of the distance program at Florida State, Taylor spent three years coaching for the Dynamo Swim Club in Atlanta, Ga. He coached multiple age sectional and state record holders, as well as age group sectional and state champions. He was named the Georgia Age Group Coach of the Year in 2007. Before coaching with the Dynamo, Taylor spent six years with the Twin Cities Swim Team. He was the lead site coach in Minnetonka, Minn., and gained experience in both the business and coaching aspects of the sport through the program. Taylor was a former student-athlete at the University of Minnesota, and was a member of the 1998 Big Ten Championship swimming team. He graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in sport management. Taylor is married to the former Amy Mutarelli of Ocala, Fla. She is an Auburn graduate.