While swimming around the world still looks a lot different than normal due to the effects of COVID-19, we’re still highlighting and celebrating swim teams from across the country. This week we’re taking a look at Chelsea Piers Aquatics Club, a USA Swimming team out of Stamford, Connecticut. The team was launched in 2012, and in less than a decade, it has grown to serve over 250 swimmers, and the club has won Connecticut age group state champs, sent dozens of swimmers to top-notch college teams, and put swimmers on the USA National Junior Team. Chelsea Piers is one of only a handful of clubs to be recognized as a Gold Medal Club in the USA Swimming 2020-2021 Club Excellence Program.
We spoke with head coach Jamie Barone to get his take on what makes Chelsea Piers special, as well as some of his thoughts on coaching in general. Barone describes his coaching philosophy simply as, “Coach the person first, the swimmer second.”
That “person-first” approach permeates the way the coaching staff interacts with the swimmers, something that, for Barone, explains the team’s great chemistry.
The coaches are nice people who do a great job of holding athlete’s accountable to a standard without making them feel bad about it. The staff works diligently to inspire and motivate the athletes through positivity and support, while understanding that these are people who have lives outside the pool that also need attention.
Every team has a few sets that they like and repeat enough to become “iconic” and Chelsea Piers is no exception.
Probably one of three things, either the infamous Janet Evans IM Set, 30×50’s on 1:05 all at second 50 of goal 100 pace, or 30×100 on 1:30 best average.
It takes a ton of dedication to be a coach at a high-achieving team like Chelsea Piers, and like many coaches, Barone described finding balance as one of his biggest struggles as a coach, but one that he’s learned to manage.
Finding a balance between being a good leader and managing my life outside of the pool has always proven to be a struggle for me. I try to compartmentalize my life as best I can and have interests beyond swimming to keep my brain busy with other things! It helps that I have a supportive wife, Michelle, and wonderful children. Having a great staff that I can rely on has been a godsend as well.
While coaching can be challenging, it also can be incredibly rewarding, and for Barone, one of his favorite coaching memories was the he realized just how great of a job coaching can be.
In 2010 I was coaching at NBAC which was my first full time coaching gig. We were at a meet at Swim MAC that we drove down with a couple of buses full of kids. Everyone was was swimming very well and we were on deck laughing and having fun and I remember the moment it dawned on me that I was at work and I thought “this is a good job.” That was when I realized how much I enjoyed coaching and I’ll never forget it.
Chelsea Piers Aquatics Club 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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