Written By: Tom Higdon
When I was a freshman in high school I watched a senior break the national public school record in the 100 breaststroke. The following fall he began a very successful career at the University of California Berkeley. As younger swimmers we all have that story of seeing that one race where someone puts on a dominant performance. It may not be a public school record or an olympic trial cut but it leaves the same lasting impact every time. We follow their career even if it strays wildly from our own.
As we grow and progress through the sport of swimming we look up to the swimmers that came before us. We study them. We emulate them at practice. We dream of one day going to university and competing at their level. For young club swimmers it can mean the world when alumni come back to train or coach for their team.
That’s exactly what Matt Lemire did after graduating from Linfield University in the spring of 2020. Matt found himself in a perfect fit working under head coach Kyle Kimbell at Linfield. Kimbell was able to help Lemire hone in on his distance skillset while also helping him truly appreciate the sport of swimming more than he ever had in the past. After receiving his degree from Linfiled Lemire was faced with the question we are all faced with at the end, “What next”.
I am of the belief that every swimmer scratches that competitive itch every time they train and compete. When the competition and training is over that itch doesn’t just vanish. In fact, I think it gets even harder to ignore. Lemire was no exception to this rule. So what can a postgrad swimmer do when faced with their next step in life? They can scratch their itch by helping younger swimmers achieve their goals.
The year before Lemire’s graduation he had already been laying the groundwork for coaching with DART at Sacramento, his home club team. Once his final semester was over, Lemire returned to Sacramento. Head coach Brian Nabeta was delighted to bring him on to help with DART’s strong age group program.
There is a certain bond young swimmers will form with their coaches when they know that they have finished the journey that they themselves are taking their first steps on. Every word carries more weight. Swimmers can more easily trust the training process when their guide is someone who knows first hand the challenges and what it takes to overcome them.
With Matt being a DART alumni, he was able to find an even deeper connection to the swimmers he was coaching.
“It's definitely satisfying to watch these young swimmers. You see them make small changes and it makes a huge impact on their performance. That's why I want to stay in the sport.” said Lemire when I asked him what he found most rewarding about working with DART again.
But Lemire is not alone in feeling this sense of reward. He says that many of the new coaches brought on board at DART were once in the program as swimmers as well. That connection swimmers have with their former teams is something you can’t fake. It creates an irreplaceable bond between a young athlete and their coach and helps scratch that competitive itch for both coach and swimmer. Lemire thinks that with that connection he has he can share some of the struggles he was faced with as a young swimmer.
“I can show them that I understand their fears and help them overcome those mental barriers,” said Lemire.
Ultimately Matt Lemire is doing something that any post grad can find value in. He is giving back to the program that helped mold him into the successful collegiate athlete that he grew to be at Linfield. He is staying involved in the sport and scratching that itch by helping his young swimmers develop their talent.
Lemire has said himself though that he still misses the training and the competition. If he is able to find a way to balance his career goals with coaching and training he says he’ll put that cap and goggles back on. They say “When you can’t do, Teach” well I say, why not both?
Tom Higdon is entering his final season with Simpson University and pursuing a masters degree in Organizational Leadership. Tom transfered to Simpson after competing and training for two years at American River College and DART Sacramento. Tom is a 2 time NAIA All-American in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events and the program record holder for Simpson in both distances.