Written By: Steve Lazaraton
A few weeks ago, a young swimmer (7 years old) moved up into the next training group in our program. At the end of the first practice with the new group, he came up to the coach and said he was teased during practice and was told he wasn’t fast enough to be in the group. The coach brought it to my attention and I pondered an appropriate response. Two days later, we gathered the team between practice sessions (college aged all the way down to our beginning competitive swimmers and I shared that a great teammate encourages, supports and loves their other teammates. We talked about the courage it takes to do things for the first time; swimming a certain event, adding another training session during the week, moving up into a higher training group etc. We finished the meeting with a brief explanation of honor; to treat someone with admiration and respect. The more we honor our teammates, the stronger our team becomes.
Developing a culture of honor in our programs takes time but I believe our efforts developing such a culture has a lifelong impact on our swimmers.
What do we honor?
We honor effort
We honor achievement both in and out of the water
We honor differences (backgrounds, experiences etc.)
We honor parents
We honor officials
We honor timers
We honor other teams
We honor other coaches
We honor our competitors
There are multiple ways we can show honor to those around us. Having just returned from a meet, one of the best ways a coach can show honor is by thanking the host team, meet director, hospitality workers, officials and coach for hosting the meet.
We encourage our swimmers to thank their timers after they exit the pool from a race. We honor our hosts by cleaning up our team area prior to leaving after each session. We honor our team by being on time.
Coaches, it can be a challenge to honor those we are in opposition but it is possible. As leaders of our teams, I believe it is in the best interest for the culture of our team to show honor.
I’ll give an example. There was an email sent criticizing a specific member of a board that I am on. This board member has taken “the high road” by not responding and still honoring the writer of the email in subsequent meetings. Truth. Even as I write this article on honor, I’m not sure I would be able to show the same level of honor as this member has but it does give an example that I can learn from.
There is power in honor.
Steve Lazaraton was hired in January 2019 as the first head coach of swimming and diving at Simpson University. A former All-America swimmer at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, Lazaraton has built an extensive coaching resume over the last two decades-plus at the high school and USA Swimming club levels in Florida, Alabama, and California. Lazaraton also competed on the University of Florida club swimming team while completing his undergraduate degree. He served as the senior assistant coach for The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla. for 16 seasons from 2001-16. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, three former Bolles student-athletes, all who trained under Lazaraton in some capacity, earned six Gold medals. He served there under the mentoring of head coach Jon Sakovich, current Virginia Tech head coach Sergio Lopez-Miro, and current University of Florida head women's coach Jeff Poppell. At those same Rio Games, two of his former swimmers turned in record-setting performances. Ryan Murphy (USA) set a world record in the 100m backstroke, and Joseph Schooling (Singapore) set an Olympic record in the 100m butterfly.Over the last 22 years, swimmers under his coaching have earned 4 high school team national championships, 6 national high school individual event records, and 32 state high school team titles (boys and girls). Since relocating to California, Lazaraton has spent three seasons as head coach of the Shasta YMCA Sharks (formerly SOAR), a community-based program leading swimmers at the national and state championship levels. Lazaraton has also served as an adjunct instructor at Simpson teaching classes in Calculus and Algebra since 2017. He graduated from the University of Florida (1995) with a degree in geology. He also earned a Master's degree from the University of Florida (1996) in Science Education. Lazaraton and his wife, Lisa, are the parents of Sophia and Chloe, and reside in Redding.