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, BSN Sports still wants to highlight and celebrate swim teams from around the country. This week, we’re taking a look at Max Aquatics, which serves the Los Angeles area with the goal of providing “every member with an opportunity to improve swimming skills and achieve success at his or her level of ability, from novice to international competition.” To achieve this goal, Max offers introductory swim lessons, age group and senior-level competitive teams, and a master’s team for those who want to make swimming a lifelong habit.
Head coach Mike Jafari was a four-year varsity swimmer for the Cal Golden Bears, where he was part of the Cal rise that led to them becoming perennial contenders for the NCAA championship. Shortly after graduating Cal, Jafari joined Max Aquatics, and has been with the team for over a decade now.
We spoke with Jafari to get his insight into what makes MAX special, as well as some of his thoughts on coaching in general.
One of Jafari’s key tenets is that, “happy training is fast training.”
The more fun each athlete has, the more camaraderie they have together, the easier to get through those hard workouts. Nobody is 100% a 100% of the time. But when you have that camaraderie and you enjoy being there, happy training will get you through that last 5% you didn’t think you could do on your own.
Asked what makes Max Aquatics’ chemistry so special, Jafari explained that, “We have no standouts, just swimmers who want each other to get better. I constantly press the idea, if you want your teammates to get better, you will get better!”
Similarly, Jafari and the rest of the coaching staff seeks to make sure they’re developing well-rounded individuals, not just fast athletes.
We practice what we preach! Our team motto has nothing to do with fast swimming, collegescholarships, or team performance. It is, and always will be, “developing successful leaders for the future”. It’s on the business cards we pass out, it’s on our website, and it’s repeated by the coaching staff. That’s the preach. We put it in practice everyday when we have our older leaders lead warm up, take the team to pick up the deck, lead the stretches, or take a challenge swim for the team.
Jafari has grown as a coach during his time at Max, just as the team as grown as well, but Jafari knows that coaching swimming requires constant adjustments.
The biggest struggle is keeping the culture moving forward. It’s easy to build a culture, it’s a lot harder to continue the culture. As you lose your leaders to college swimming, you constantly train the incoming athletes to become the future leaders. You must continue to work on it daily.
While some coaches’ favorite memory relates to a big meet like the Olympics, or a NCAA championship, Jafari’s story is a great reminder of the pure excitement of seeing goals achieved, at any level.
It’s tied between two moments with two different athletes, but they both have the same backstory. The athletes where the ‘underdogs’. The ones that other athletes wrote off as not making the cut, or didn’t want in the lane. But the same athlete that showed up everyday, to every workout, with the right attitude. Both had TERRIBLE strokes. (If you knew me as a swimmer, you would know why I could relate! Ha!) Sure enough, when it was time to make their respective cuts, they both made it. That moment when you look into their eyes from across the pool after they see the board and they knew it was all worth it is priceless. Added bonus is when the cuts happened, thanks to our culture, the rest of the team was going nuts!
Max Aquatics is one of 3,000 swim clubs in the United States. How can we grow that number and promote the sport?
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