Kipp: “a Team’s Culture is Far More Significant Than Any Practice Coach Writes”

2020 WOMEN’S B1G CHAMPIONSHIPS

FINAL SCORES

1. Ohio State: 1503.5
2. Michigan: 1306.5
3. Indiana: 964
4. Northwestern: 907.5
5. Wisconsin: 734
6. Minnesota: 617
7. Purdue: 602
8. Penn State: 517.5
9. Iowa: 430
10. Nebraska: 385
11. Rutgers: 291
12. Michigan State: 203
13. Illinois: 193

The Ohio State University Buckeyes claimed the women’s Big Ten title last week for the first time in 34 years, jumping from 3rd in 2019 with 1162.5 points, to 1st this year with 1503.5. It wasn’t Ohio State, however, that was the most improved team of the meet versus last year. That honor goes to the Northwestern University Wildcats, who improved from 7th last year with 490 points, to 4th this year with 907.5 points. Northwestern’s performance as a team last week improved upon 2019’s score by 417.5 points, nearly doubling their score from last year.

Jeremy Kipp took over as the head coach of Northwestern’s women’s and men’s teams in May of 2018. Kipp arrived in Evanston fresh off leading Boise State to back-to-back Mountain West Conference titles in 2017 and 2018. During his first season at the helm of Northwestern, the Wildcats repeated as 7th place finishers at the 2019 Women’s Big Ten Championships, scoring 38 points less than they did in 2018. Now that Kipp has had nearly 2 years to put his program in place, the Wildcats are quickly rising through the conference. We reached out to Kipp for his thoughts on the team’s performance last week, as well as his first two seasons at Northwestern.

According to Kipp, the culture that has been created in Evanston is the top reason for the improvement seen this year. “I would first credit our success to the culture that our team has created and the energy that they bring to the pool every day,” said Kipp of the team’s performance. He went on to explain how he fosters an environment in which his swimmers and staff can thrive. In Kipp’s mind, the culture of the team has more impact on swimmers than their workouts do. “It has always been my belief that a team’s culture is far more significant than any practice coach writes,” Kipp states, going on to explain that the team culture impacts everything from practice, to meets and races, and even the body language of his swimmers. Kipp says he knew the culture was on display at Big Tens because the girls were loose, and they were “dancing during warm ups.” When he saw the team dancing and having fun, that’s when Kipp says he knew it was going to be a successful meet.

Kipp also explained how he bagan to create a successful culture at the beginning of the season. “At the beginning of the year we took the team on a retreat and during which we separated the men’s and women’s teams. In that time each team created specific goals pertaining to their expectations and performance. The team created a vocabulary and vision of what their success will look like.” The team used both Big Tens and NCAAs as major metrics for measuring success. The team created Big Ten and NCAA specific goals, and had a team meeting at the conclusion of the Big Tens where they went over the goals and marked off the things that were accomplished. Kipp says the team didn’t meet all their goals at Big Tens, but “we accomplished a great deal and are proud of the results.”

Their 4th place finish marks the first time Northwestern has cracked the top 4 at Big Tens since 2002, and marked their highest score at Big Tens in program history by almost 300 points. It was also the Northwestern freshman that scored the most individual points of any NU class this year, accumulating 273 points. The Wildcat freshman nearly scored more than the juniors (180) and seniors (106.5) combined.

On top of the impressive gains Northwestern made as a team this season, they also made history individually. Junior Calypso Sheridan won the 200 IM on Day 2 of the meet, earning Northwestern’s first Big Ten title in a swimming event since 2008. Sheridan went on to take the Big Ten title in the 200 breast on the final day of the meet as well, marking 2 swimming titles for the Wildcats after a 12 year drought.

Freshman Diver Markie Hopkins won platfrom diving on the final day of the meet, continuing a tradition of strong Northwestern platform divers. The Wildcats had also taken the platform diving title just 2 years ago, when Olivia Rosendahl won the event. Rosendahl has since graduated, but she was also the NCAA champion in platform diving in both 2017 and 2018. Her two diving titles mark the only NCAA titles in either swimming or diving in Northwestern women’s program history.

Jeremy Kipp also credits Northwestern’s Athletic Department for creating an environment in which the swimming & diving teams can thrive. “Northwestern has given us every resource necessary to be competitive in the Big Ten,” says Kipp, adding that the entire department, from AD Dr. Jim Phillips down, “has created an environment that places emphasis on our student athlete’s total experience and in each of their roles make sure that our teams have every opportunity to succeed in our league and nationally.” He adds gets “text messages and emojis” from the Athletic Department senior staff during meets, and that “those kind of things are significant because the athletes and coaches feel that our efforts are appreciated.”

Kipp also credits the team’s performance t0 his “staff’s ability to get the job done.” Katie Robinson is the associate head coach of Northwestern, joining Kipp in July 2018, after spending 6 seasons as the head coach of the Tulane women’s swimming & diving team. Assistant coach Meghan Hawthorne spent 3 years coaching with Kipp at Boise State. Hawthorne spent her career as a college swimmer at USC, where Jeremy Kipp was an associate coach at the time. She was a two-time NCAA all-american during here collegiate career. Kipp said of Hawthorne, “I have known Meghan Hawthorne for a long time (I helped recruit her to USC as a student athlete) and she and I had success together previoulsy and created a great working synergy.”

Jake Tapp is also in his 2nd year on the Northwestern coaching staff. Tapp, a Canadian Olympian, and former Short Course Meters world record holder on the 4×100 medley relay, has previous served as an assistant coach at Wisconsin and the University of New Mexico. Kipp also brought in local Chicagoan Andrew Hodgson when he became head coach. Hodgson came to Northwestern from Virginia Tech, where he spent 2 seasons as an assistant. Before coaching at VT, Hodgson was a club coach, serving as the head coach of the New Trier Swim Club, which is located in the Chicagoland area. He also served as a senior chairman for Illinois Swimming during that time. The newest addition to the staff is diving coach Kris Jorgensen, who is just completing his first season with the Wildcats. Jorgensen dove for Minnesota during his collegiate career, and served as head diving coach for St. Catherine’s University and the University of South Dakota before Northwestern. Kipp said of Jorgensen, “I can’t say enough how much the addition of Kris has only magnified our energy and drive on the diving end of things. Markie winning the platform on the last dive was just an exclamation point on a fun weekend.”

According to Kipp, “Adding four new people (Katie Robinson, Jake Tapp, Andy Hodgson and Kris Jorgenson) into our equation created an opportunity to increase our energy magnification, but also added in new teamwork dimensions.” Northwestern was able to cement their 4th place finished thanks to a strong team efforts across the board on the final day of the meet. Those events include sprint free, distance, 200s of the strokes, and platform diving. Kipp notes that the team’s performances across the board shows that each coach has found success with their specific training group.

Northwestern heads into the women’s NCAA Championships looking to be in better shape than last year, where they finished 27th as a team with 27 points. Calypso Sheridan was 4th in the 400 IM at NCAAs last year, and is the 2nd fastest returner this year. If Sheridan were to win the 400 IM at NCAAs, it would be Northwestern’s first women’s swimming NCAA title in program history.

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Swimmer8

Go cats!!