Written By: Jon Sakovich
I have been coaching more than twenty-four years with the last 19 at the Bolles School, in various positions, eventually ending up as the head coach the last four years I was there. Then I left. Regardless of what people might say or think, the reality was I needed a change. I was there for nineteen years and my whole world was encapsulated in an 8-mile loop, between my house, Bolles, and the Starbucks I used as my second office.
In the past, I had sought head coach positions elsewhere, but either did not get the job, turned it down, or did not apply, mostly because of what I had at Bolles for myself and my family. Bolles and Jacksonville was a great place for us to be, though, deep down I always knew Jacksonville was not the place I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Do not get me wrong, Jacksonville and Bolles have been and will always be a significant and positive part of myself and my families’ lives. But I needed a change. I needed something different.
I spent over a year seriously contemplating my future at Bolles vs going elsewhere and trying something new. To make a change, I would have to uproot my family, who had lifelong friends and family in Jacksonville, give up a great job with excellent pay and benefits, and leave something I was comfortable with and knew very well. Bolles is an amazing place to be and coach, but to me, nineteen years was enough.
As I looked down the road and tried to picture what my future would look like, all I saw was an ever-darkening tunnel that made me feel that if I continued in my current path, I would become an unhappy miserable person that my family, friends, coaches, and swimmers would not want to be around. I have seen this happen before in others and knew that could be me soon. There was no way this was going to happen to me. It was not fair to myself, my family, the swimmers, parents, and coaches of Bolles, so I made the decision to leave and pursue other venues.
I am a happy person in general, do not have depression, but what I felt and what I saw, scared the heck out of me. I do not like negative and unhappy people, I do not like to associate with them, and I sure as heck did not want to become one of them. I have a great life, friends, and most importantly an amazing family. I had to do what was best for us all.
It was a difficult decision to make, but to me, it was worth it. Once I made the decision, I felt a surge of adrenaline and excitement. The future seemed brighter, the tunnel was now a wide-open space that was bright, new, exciting, and full of wonder. Yes, I know and understand the grass is not always greener on the other side and I could have stayed and made changes there, but the thought of new and different challenges, living in a new city, meeting new people, seeing new places, and new opportunities to share my passion for swimming with others was energizing and amazing!
I knew that once I made the decision, there was no going back, no regrets, no second thoughts; only looking forward to new! Most importantly, I had to believe I was doing the right thing, because my family was depending on me. I did believe.
When I first told my wife, I was out of town, I think she was more shocked that it was happening now rather than it was happening. I know she knew how I was feeling and where my mind was. The next day I talked to her, she said okay, but first I needed to see a counselor. She wanted me to be happy, but she also wanted me to make sure I was doing the right thing. After all I was not making a change for myself, but for my wife and three kids, the Bolles swim teams, the swimmers I coached, and all my friends. This was going to be a huge change for all of us.
The first time I saw the counselor, I was there for almost two hours. We talked about a lot of things, the two most important were: I did not see myself continuing where I was, and I knew that we (my family and I) were going to be fine. I knew deep down in my heart and soul this was the right decision.
I knew it was not going to be easy step down, find a new job, move, get situated, and everything else that needs to happen. But I was not afraid of any of it. I was not worried about it at all, in fact I was looking forward to it and relishing the challenge.
The second time, I saw the counselor, I brought my wife along. I wanted her to have an opportunity to share her thoughts and concerns and be fine with everything for all this to work. I know she was worried, in her head she was trying to process how we were going to survive, where we were going to get jobs, how we were going to live, where the kids were going to school, what she was going to do, etc. I know she was feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders and was feeling stressed. Once she believed that we were going to be fine, that I was excited about the change, and most importantly I knew we were going to be fine, we were able to move forward.
There were a lot of things to do and we could not just up and leave. It became a year long process and that was fine. It gave everyone time to process, accept, say goodbye, and get ready to move. It did take longer than hoped. I told my wife and my boss in July. I finished at Bolles the following January and had hoped to know where we were moving by April, May at the latest. We did not know until August, right before school was starting. Then it was hurry, hurry, hurry to move and get the kids in school. Not as planned and hoped but we did it.
Throughout all this, I never once second guessed my decision, never had negative thoughts, or even reconsidered. I knew there were four very important people counting on me and I was not going to let them down. I had to believe that everything was going to be fine, even if they may have had some doubts and worries.
The job search was a little nerve racking, but I expected it to be. I was turned down for multiple positions and turned some down myself. I was not desperate and going to jump at the first position just because. We were moving and we were going to like where we were headed. It was a bit stressful as August was approaching and we wanted to get the kids moved and in school before the school year started, but we never gave up hope and always believed that it would all work out in the end. AND IT DID!
We landed in Dallas / Fort Worth area with Lakeside Aquatic Club and are doing great. My kids are adjusted and happy in school, my wife has a great job, and my dog loves her new house.
If there is anything I want to share through my story, it is that it is okay to make changes. We may not believe we have a choice and very rarely we don’t. Most of the time we do have a choice, it may not be the best choices, but we do have a choice. In order to make this step, it takes a lot of nerve. I could have easily sucked it up and stayed at Bolles, but I did not want to. That was the key – I did not want to stay anymore. I was ready to go.
We are not stuck in our jobs. We can make changes and we need to make changes. They do not always have to be as extreme as mine. Simple changes like delegating more responsibility to your assistants, forcing yourself to make time for yourself and for your family, even lateral movements can help. But we do not have to be unhappy with what we are doing just because we think we are stuck!
To make the change, you must believe in what you are doing, or it won’t work. You must look forward and not back. You must continue putting one foot in front of the other, it will not happen overnight, but change will happen. Do not let your situation control you!
I share this story because I know there are other coaches out there that feel the same way but may be reluctant to make a change. I want coaches to know that change is okay. It does not have to be as extreme as mine, but change can be good for the heart and soul!
I am very thankful for the support of the Bolles School, my fellow coaches and friends, and most importantly my family for their unwavering support and belief in my as I transitioned from one place to another at a late stage in my life. Without their belief and support, this would have been a much more difficult process.
This change was a huge positive for me and my family, and I am glad I did it.
With over 20 years coaching experience, Jon was most recently the Head Coach of The Bolles School in Florida, one of the most successful high-school swimming programs in the country. As an ASCA Level 4 coach, Jon’s coaching success has included 10 USA Olympic Trials Qualifiers, 18 USA Swimming Senior National Qualifiers, 30+ USA Swimming Junior National Qualifiers, 25+ USA Swimming Top 16 NAG Swimmers, 30+ USA High School All-Americans and numerous Florida High School State Championship Teams. Jon is a 3-time recipient of the National Federation of High School Coaches Association “Coach of the Year” award. Born in Saipan, Jon represented Guam at the 1988 Olympics where he set Guam records in the 400m & 1500m freestyle. Those records still stand today. Jon swam for the University of Florida where he was a 7-time NCAA All American and represented Team USA at the 1995 Pan American Games & Pan Pac Championships. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in Recreational Sciences and master’s degree in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy. Jon and his wife Angele have 3 children and a dog.