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The World Is Our Campus: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Written By: Sean M. Tedesco

As the focus, excitement and energy of winning our Swimming and Diving Conference Championship subsides, a new focus, excitement and anticipation builds towards the Sea Experience.

Have you ever sailed through the Panama Canal, Mediterranean Sea or across the Atlantic Ocean?

Midshipmen will pick a sea partner at the conclusion of their sophomore and junior season to share the Sea Experience together. They will join the legacy of thousands of Kings Point alumni who once threw their sea bags over their shoulders and walked up their ship’s gangway for the first time. These actions signify the beginning of their sea time as an engineer or navigator. During their tenure at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, midshipmen typically visit between 15 and 20 countries.

The Sea Experience is an opportunity to take the traditional classroom lecture and replace it with real life professional experience and sea projects aboard commercial or government owned vessels. Students must successfully complete their Sea Experience requirements in order to graduate.

When I first arrived at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 2001 to become the Head Coach, I was unsure how this Sea Experience would impact our ability to perform during the college swimming and diving season. I was concerned our team would be at a disadvantage because the sophomores and juniors are unable to train for swimming and diving competition like sophomores and juniors at other colleges and universities. Often by the time, sophomores and juniors return from sea, we are heading into our first meet. This used to make me feel uneasy, but we have been able to adapt our training to ensure every swimmer and diver has the opportunity to reach their maximum potential whether it is a sea year or not.

Unexpectedly, I have come to embrace the Sea Experience for our team. I have a unique collection of postcards from our swimmers and divers from around the globe that span over my 20 plus years at the Academy. I share the excitement of our team members as they head to sea, and I take the time to listen to their stories about their travels when they return.

I love hearing stories about their time on the ship, who they met and what they saw and learned as they sailed around the world. I am enthralled and jealous when I hear their exciting stories of riding camels in the deserts of Egypt on their way to the Pyramids, participating in the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain, surfing in Hawaii, scuba diving in Guam and much more. Often times, they simply meet up with other classmates for dinner in various parts of the world including Djibouti, England or Croatia. I often hear from my athletes that visiting other countries, experiencing various cultures and eating different cuisines gives them a stronger appreciation and understanding of the world.

I believe the Sea Experience helps them mature, build independence, increase their time management skills and develop self-discipline and self-confidence. This translates to the pool, as they volunteer for team leadership positions and pass their knowledge and experiences down to new midshipmen.

Get two Kings Pointers in a room and they are instantly connected and can talk for hours about their times at the United States Merchant Marine Academy and their Sea Experiences. The USMMA has one of the strongest Alumni networks in the country. My team has had the opportunity to meet and speak to many alumni prior to coming to the Academy, while they are here, at sea, and after they graduate.

Fortunately, our team has been very successful over the years, producing All-Americans and NCAA qualifiers, winning conference championships, breaking, and re-breaking school records.

Each year brings its own set of unique challenges when it comes to the swimming and diving season, and although the Sea Experience may present some perceived roadblocks, I have learned to view them as opportunities. Opportunities to keep evolving how I coach, learning new ways to keep our team engaged both while at school and at sea and exploring ideas to build appreciation for the Academy, our Swimming and Diving Program and for each other.

The Sea Experience is part of the USMMA’s mission to educate and graduate leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, maritime transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. It is an honor and privilege to be part of such a prestigious Academy and I am proud of each graduate from the USMMA.

Commander Sean M. Tedesco finished his 21th season at the helm of both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 2021-22. Tedesco became Assistant Athletic Director for Club Sports, Intramurals, and Recreation in July 2014. In addition to his role as the head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach, Tedesco is the Faculty Forum President, PE&A’s STCW Coordinator, Director of Aquatics and a Professional Faculty Instructor. Since his arrival at Kings Point, Tedesco has five individual NCAA Division III National Championships by two divers in 2004, 2009 and 2011. The two student-athletes were also named the NCAA Divers of the Year during their respective seasons. One of Tedesco’s most accomplished alums, Kevin Lindgren ’15, became the Academy’s first-ever swimmer to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials for the 2012 Games when he did so during his freshman season. Lindgren again qualified for and competed in the Olympic Trials for the 2016 Games. In 2019-2020 season, Nolan Monahan ’20 earned seven All-American Certificates, which is the most in a single season in the program’s storied tradition. Tedesco's men's program has been a model of consistency, as the Mariners have competed at 18 NCAA Championships over the past 20 seasons. Tedesco has mentored 68 NCAA Qualifiers with 203 NCAA qualifying standards attained overall, and saw 25 student-athletes go on to become All-Americans, earning a combined 88 All-American Certificates. The team has placed in the top-30 at the NCAAs Division III National Championship Meet 15 times and finished as high as 15th in the nation in 2019. (They were also seeded 14th going into the 2020 NCAA Championships which were canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.) On the men’s side, Tedesco has led the Mariners to a total of 21 conference championships – 20-straight in their primary conferences every season since he started at Kings Point (11 Skyline Conference titles and nine Landmark Conference titles) and then one Metropolitan Conference Championship in 2018-19, which was the Academy’s first at the ultra-competitive, multi-divisional meet since 1986. The Mariner women have also captured eight Skyline Conference Championships throughout Tedesco’s tenure, including five-straight since re-joining the conference in 2016-17. The men’s and women’s teams have broken all 46 Academy records (23 men/23 women) since Tedesco started in 2001. Overall, 46 school records have been broken and re-broken 295 times since 2001. And the men’s and women’s teams broke 320 various Conference, Meet and Pool Records. Tedesco's athletes also excel in the classroom, as they have earned a combined total of 23 Individual Academic All-American Certificates and 13 Team Academic All-American Certificates (seven on the men’s side and four on the women’s). The Mariners, since 2001, have had a combined 55 Conference Swimmer/Diver of the Year awards: 22 Conference Rookie of the Year Awards, 13 Academy Rookie of the Year Awards, six Admiral Giles C. Stedman Trophy Winners (Outstanding Male Athlete Award), the Academy’s highest men’s award, and four Julie A. Berke Trophy Winners (Outstanding Female Athlete Award), the Academy’s highest women’s award. Tedesco has also garnered 28 Coach of the Year honors through his 20 seasons. He has been named both the Skyline Conference and Landmark Conference Men’s Coach of the Year a combined 15 times (seven each), the Metropolitan Conference Men’s Coach of the Year five times and the Skyline Women’s Coach of the Year three times. Tedesco has also received USMMA’s Dr. Stephen 'Bill' Omeltchenko Coach of the Year Award in 2004-05 and 2007-08 as a standalone Coach of the Year, and in 2018-19 and 2019-20 as the Men’s Coach of the Year, as well as the Academy’s Sue Petersen Lubow Coach of the Year Award as the Women’s Coach of the Year in 2016-17. Prior to his arrival at Kings Point, Tedesco served as the top assistant men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach at Villanova University. His responsibilities included designing, organizing, and running swim, dry land and weight training workouts for the teams while also coordinating all recruiting efforts. At Villanova, he coached one Olympian, three U.S. Olympic Trial qualifiers, two Canadian Olympic Trial qualifiers, one NCAA Champion and eight NCAA qualifiers. Tedesco earned a Master’s degree in business administration from Adelphi University in 2003. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Connecticut in 1998, where he was a member of the men’s swimming and diving team. He earned the University Senior Athlete Award in 1998 and garnered Most Valuable Swimmer honors in 1996 and 1998. Additionally, Tedesco was a NCAA Division I qualifier, a Senior National qualifier and a Big East Champion in the 200-yard breaststroke. The Huskies were named a Big East Conference All-Academic Team in 1996 and 1997 with Tedesco on the roster. Tedesco still stays active in his free time. In 2006-08, 2010, and 2011 he earned Triathlete All-American honors. He also completed in the 2012 NYC Ironman as well as the 2004 Wisconsin Ironman. Tedesco currently resides in Garden City, N.Y., with his wife Marissa and their daughters, Abigail and Amanda. Tedesco’s Team Accomplishments Since 2001-02 (20 seasons)

  • One Olympic Trial Cut

  • Two National Champions (5 individual championships)

  • 88 All-American Certificates

  • 25 All-Americans

  • 203 NCAA Qualifying Standards

  • 68 NCAA Qualifiers

  • 17 Top 34 Finishes at the NCAA Championship in 20 years

  • 15 straight trips to the NCAA Championships (’01-’15)

  • 295 Broken Academy Records

  • 320 Broken Conference/Meet/Pool Records

  • 13 Team Academic All-American Certificates

  • 23 Individual Academic All-American Certificates

  • 29 Conference Championships-19 Skyline Conference Championships (11 men/8 women), 9 Landmark Championships (men) and 1 Met Championship (men)

  • 8 NCAA National Runner-ups

  • 3 National Diver of the Year

  • 3 National Diving Coach of the Year

  • 1 National Record

  • 2 Swims under the National Record

  • 28 Coach of the Year Awards

  • 55 Conference Swimmer/Diver of the Year Awards

  • 22 Conference Rookie of the Year Awards

  • 13 Academy Rookie of the Year Awards

  • 6 Admiral Giles C. Stedman Trophy Winners (Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year Award)-Academy’s Highest Award

  • 4 Julie A. Berke Trophy Winners (Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year Award)-Academy’s Highest Award


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