While meets are largely on hold worldwide right now due to the effects of COVID-19, and many teams are just getting back to practices, we still want to highlight and celebrate swim teams from around the country. This week we’re taking a look at the Bolles School Sharks, a year-round USA team that operates out of the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Many of the club’s swimmers attend the Bolles School year, a boarding school that attracts students from all over the world, including 2016 Olympic gold medalists Joseph Schooling and Ryan Murphy, but swimmers like 100 fly world record holder Caeleb Dressel were part of the Bolles club team while attending high school elsewhere.
Head coach Peter Verhoef has been with the club for just two under years, having previously served in a number of positions, including time as the senior coach for SwimMAC in North Carolina. We chatted with Verhoef to get a sense of what makes Bolles special, as well as some of his thoughts on coaching in general.
Verhoef describes his coaching one-sentence philosophy as, “To do the highest quantity of quality work that makes us the best TEAM of aquatic athletes.:
Bolles Swimming has a unique set-up, something that Verhoeff referred to when talking about the team’s special chemistry.
The Bolles School Swimming programs have always been a fixture of the Bolles School campus – with an incredible legacy of championships and Olympians. The integration with the Bolles School and the school community is what makes swimming here unique. Our Bolles Student-athletes have a tremendous amount of pride to represent the team both on campus and in competition. We also have Sharks swimmers from around Jacksonville, along with student-athletes that attend Bolles from around the world, we have a unique combination of incredible diversity and resources.
Most teams have a set or two that gets repeated and is part of the team culture, and Bolles is no exception.
We routinely do “Tuesday 200’s”. The practices on Tuesday afternoons are almost always built around 200s, anything from best average to broken swims. It’s something I kept from my time as an athlete at Georgia when coach Bauerle used Tuesday 200s to build us up for success in long course seasons. They are fun to create and can really build confidence.
We asked Verhoef to reflect on his biggest struggle as a coach and how he works to overcome it, and he hit on a point that resonates with leaders in and out of the pool: communication.
Coaching really breaks down to connecting and communicating. We spend a lot of time mastering technique or physiology or planning a season, but how you connect with athletes and communicate it makes all the difference. Communication should be evaluated as what is received not what you have said. In today’s world of distancing, and social media, and stress, connecting and communicating anything from a season plan, to a workout, to a celebration can be a real challenge. We are always looking for creative ways to connect with the kids – and to be accountable that they are actually receiving our coaching in a way that helps them grow.
With prior experience at programs like SwimMAC and Queens University, Verhoef has plenty of great coaching memories to reflect on.
I have been so fortunate to have experienced a lot of incredible moments. To think of one it makes me thankful for the mentors I had in Coach David Marsh, Jeff Dugdale, and Terry Fritch. I think they are all different memories, but some highlights are: Watching Davis Tarwater make the Olympic Team in 2012 and win a Gold medal. Winning Division II NCAA Championships at Queens University of Charlotte in 2015 only 4 years after the program began. And in the past few years watching former swimmers represent their schools at the NCAA Championships and US Nationals. I’m looking forward to this year – it has been a challenge, but I think our team at Bolles is going to make it one to remember.
The Bolles School Sharks are one of 3,000 swim clubs in the United States. How can we grow that number and promote the sport?
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