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My Journey To College Coaching

Written By: Susanne Divelbiss

Coaching is what I do. Being a coach can be a profession or a hobby, but to me it’s inherent. Since childhood I’ve found different ways to coach. It started with my older and younger siblings, though they may have disagreed with my definition of coaching in those times. Looking back, it was my initial training grounds for developing my gift.

My official coach training began at the age of 18 when my club coach asked me to assist in running practices. I was eager and excited for the opportunity, and from there, my passion for coaching swimming grew exponentially.

I was lucky enough to have the unique experience to train under Karen Moe Thornton at Cal Berkeley. During those years, under the tutelage of an amazing athlete and stroke technician, I honed my knowledge and learned to exploit what I’ve always known at my core to be my ability to coach.

After college I finally had a chance to put my skills to work by coaching a masters team in northern California. It wasn’t a position that I sought out, but instead fell into. My intention was simply to join the masters team as a member, but on the first day I couldn’t help myself. I began giving technique advice to the other members. The coach on deck saw my passion for helping others to improve and offered me a coaching job. I knew I was in the right profession when a swimmer described my workouts as something they could see in color. It was a unique comment that stuck with me. Now I see it as a testament to my dynamic, high energy workouts. She might have been seeing color from exhaustion, but I’d like to think it was my passion shining through.

Over the next 20 years I coached swimming at every level, from developing learn to swim programs to head coaching High School and Club. There have been times when I have walked away from coaching due my own frustrations when my drive for excellence is not matched by the athletes I mentor. I struggle when I feel my efforts are wasted, however I always find my way back to the pool deck fit with another group of unsuspecting victims.

Coaching at the collegiate level has always been something I wanted to do and it seemed the stars aligned when that opportunity presented itself. In 2021 I was offered the position of Head Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach at Colorado State University Pueblo. In the past I was reluctant to take on this highly sought after position because I was a busy mom, wife and HS coach and worried that I wouldn’t be able to give it my all. But I was ready for the next level of coaching I had yet to achieve. It was my last infinity stone (Avengers reference intended). At 57 years old, what a great way to round out my coaching career! After 16 years at the club level and high school level, 6 years of Masters, and over 30 years of teaching swim lessons, I know I have a more than few good years left to make this position more than just a job coaching.

The best thing about coaching at the collegiate level thus far is that I get to choose my team! At the start I wasn’t sure about the whole recruiting process as it was a whole new element my coaching career faced. My worries about being able to get potential recruits excited about swimming for me faded quickly. I find that I love talking with up-and-coming athletes, sharing my vision for the legacy I want my team to leave, and finding swimmers who resonate with my expectations for what it means to be an athlete. I particularly enjoy hearing about their swim journeys, and get excited about the opportunity to foster a home-away-from-home environment. My goal is to offer a collegiate adventure that is fulfilling, challenging and memorable for those who choose to swim as a CSU Pueblo Thunderwolf!

I look forward to many years of coaching for the Thunderwolves and building a program that is measured, not only by our success in the pool, but also by the individuals who then go out into the world as stronger, confident, and compassionate people, eager to make their world a better place!

Susanne Divelbiss coached the Pueblo South Girls squad for 16 years and the Boys team for 13 seasons. She also worked at the Pueblo Swim Club for nearly 15 years with eight and a half of them as the Head Coach and Executive Director. During her tenure at South HS, at least one member of her squads, both boys and girls, qualified for state every season. She guided one girls team member to five state championships. She collected many league titles and tutored multiple all-conference student-athletes while at South HS. In addition to her coaching duties, Divelbiss also worked for Pueblo City Schools as a Student Data Coordinator in Student Support Services and as a Data Secretary at South HS. Divelbiss started her collegiate career at Grossmont Junior College where she was a junior college state champion. She then competed in the pool and earned a degree at University of California Berkeley. She graduated in 1987 with a Bachelors of Arts in Social Sciences, with her field major in Sociology, Legal Studies and Economics. Divelbiss and her husband, Mike, have three children (one boy and two girls). Mike is a retired teacher from Pueblo City Schools. All three children, Thomas, Samantha and Alex, swam and still hold records at South HS. Alex was a three-time NCAA Division II National Champion and multiple All-American award winner at Wingate University. She was a graduate assistant for the swimming and diving program at Wingate after completing her undergraduate degree. Samantha swam two years at Shasta College in California and then completed her degree at CSU Pueblo. She served as the Centennial High School Boys Swim and Dive Coach for two seasons.

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