This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of SwimSwam magazine. Subscribe here.
2012 and 2016 Olympian Brazilian Joao de Lucca now spends his time giving back to his sport in the form of coaching. De Lucca retired from swimming in September 2020 due to numerous factors including a knee injury, the recent birth of his daughter in February 2020, COVID-19 and the postponement of the 2020(1) Olympics. Now, he spends his weekdays giving private lessons and his weekends as a clinician for Fitter and Faster. De Lucca competed in the NCAA for the University of Louisville while Louisville was still a member of the Big East conference, and he continues to live in the area. While at Louisville, de Lucca was a three-time NCAA Champion, winning the 200 free in both 2013 and 2014 as well as the 100 free in 2014.
De Lucca gives private lessons to two paralympic swimmers: a boy, once or twice a week, and a girl, three times a week. De Lucca came to know the girl well while he was a coach for Cardinal Aquatics, a USA swimming team based in Louisville. Once he went with the girl to her first paralympic meet and said, “I fell in love with the atmosphere of the swim meet… there’s no other meet like it. It’s very inspiring to see athletes pushing themselves.” De Lucca is not only the girl’s coach, he also acts as a training partner, just as she does to him. He actively coaches by getting in the water with her and sees her as a “training buddy.” While in the water he can “demonstrate things we want to work on (related to technique) and once I’m in the water, I am not necessarily a coach, I feel like I am an athlete giving instruction. They receive the instruction much better because I will be on the same level in the water with them instead of someone out of the water with authority telling them what to do.” De Lucca swims beside the athletes stroke by stroke, kicking right alongside them, giving feedback along the way and getting a kicking workout in himself.
De Lucca has found that communication is important while coaching. He wants to find what motivates them and what they enjoy in order to make the sport fun, especially as he knows staring at a black line is not the most exciting activity. Physically, de Lucca finds that time spent in the water with the athletes really benefits them. It also allows him to understand what they are going through and gives him a better feel for what the movements feel like for them. He finds ways to explain the changes he wants, corresponding with the body movements and understanding that he cannot always just say “kick harder.” De Lucca finds it a good challenge because “I feel like it is a puzzle where I need to connect the dots so they can modify certain things.”
De Lucca enjoys his time as a coach now and finds himself becoming a better person. He wants to see his athletes shine. De Lucca says, “We get so used to seeing people succeeding and succeeding in life and a majority of the time we are struggling. They (his para-athletes) go through a lot of struggles and always overcome them and it motivates me.”