Written By: Steve Lazaraton
“I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started. Well, it took many years… it was a period of maybe fifteen years developing. I started with many ideas, threw them away, started all over again. And eventually it evolved into what you see today at Disneyland. But it all started from a daddy with two daughters wondering where he could take them where he could have a little fun with them, too.” – Walt Disney
Most teams have a mission statement. It explains what their purpose is, why they do the things they do. Some teams even have a vision statement. However, I contend that most vision statements are actually a mission statement. A vision statement should be based on what we want to see in the future for our team and our athletes both in and out of the water.
Vision attaches purpose through the process of getting from “here to there”. Vision allows us to make decisions from a long-term perspective, not just for the moment.
Walt Disney was a master of vision. He built a dynasty that continues to expand. For example, he had vision and planned EPCOT Center which opened almost 20 years after his death in 1966 (EPCOT opened in 1982). What vision do you have for your team?
My coaching journey has taken me to opposite ends of the professional spectrum over the last 6 years. From being an assistant at a large club (Bolles) to moving across the country and starting a program at a local YMCA in Northern California with 13 swimmers, it has taught me an appreciation of where I came from and where I want to go.
6 years of having a vision for what I wanted to create has led to the following:
A team that has grown to over 100 swimmers in the last year.
A team that has been building relationships in the community.
A team that produced the city’s very 1st Olympic Trials qualifier.
A team where every member is valued and celebrated for who they are and what they bring to the program.
A team that has established a culture of honor
A team who looks to the future and sees a greater importance in long term success than short term gain.
The main reason for these accomplishments is due to the ownership that each coach takes in the vision for the team. My role as the head coach is to impart the vision onto my assistants and to include them in establishing the vision for our team.
My Head Age Group Coach and I meet a minimum of once a week to talk about our program in all aspects. We are intentional about discussing the vision for our team at each meeting as we believe it’s the foundation for our success. We are responsible for bringing our assistants alongside us in building our vision and creating opportunities for them to have input into our team.
I also believe that having a vision helps us make appropriate decisions when it comes to situations we experience. I’ll give an example. Recently, a coach asked my advice in handling a situation involving a senior who was not adhering to team standards during the last night of a conference championship meet. As the coach went into the details, I based my response on my own team’s vision in establishing a culture of honor within our program and how to honor those that are not acting in an honorable manner. Truth, the younger version of myself would have handled it much differently but as we as coaches place value in establishing our vision, I believe my response was more appropriate.
There is power in having a vision!
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.