Sean Redmond of Fallbrook, California, and head coach of Fallbrook Associated Swim Team (FAST) has entered the race for the next Western Zone Coach Director. USA Swimming’s Western Zone, which encompasses 17 different LSCs from Hawaii, to Alaska, to Colorado, is the largest of the four zones into which USA Swimming’s 60 LSC’s are divided into.
Redmond, son of a U.S. Army soldier, moved around frequently growing up, though he has spent most of his life in the Western Zone. A multi-talented athlete, Redmond was an age group swimmer, a gymnast, and a water polo player, though he went farthest in swimming, continuing to train and compete for two years in community college. After Redmond decided to hang up the goggles he got involved in coaching while attending the University of Maryland, where he volunteered his time on the pool deck as a student manager and student assistant coach to the Terrapins.
SS: You are nominated for Western Zone Coach Director, have you ever held this role before?
S. Redmond: “No, I have not.”
SS: Okay, but you’ve been the head coach of FAST since 1989, correct?
S. Redmond: “Yes. And prior to that I was the head coach for Coronado Swim Association…. That was from ’86-’89.”
SS: What do you view as the most important roles of the Western Zone Coach Director?
S. Redmond: “[To] represent the Western Zone, but also to help promote the sport and build the base. [At] our last Zone Championship Meet at the beginning of August, at our Zone Meeting, Ben Britton brought up the fact that the numbers of 10 & unders has actually decreased by 12 percent over the last four years. I consider myself more of an age group coach, and I want to try to continue that and keep building that base, and see what we can do to get more 12 & unders [and] 10 & unders in the sport and keep them in the sport, and I think that’s the hardest part.”
SS: And do you have any sort of strategy as to how you might go about doing that?
S. Redmond: “Right now, refer to the Age Group Development Committee, where I plan to be sitting in on their meetings at [the] convention. I’ve sat in on a number of their meetings the last several conventions. Pick their brains, see what else we can do. I’m good at listening and asking questions and trying to see all sides of a story or a problem, and trying to come up with a solution. [Also] getting other people involved because you can’t do it [alone]. And we’ve discussed that here in San Diego… and we’re still discussing it. We haven’t made a whole lot of inroads (increasing enrollment and retention of 10 & unders), but I think that’s one of the things that a number of people in San Diego are trying to do now.”
SS: What qualities about yourself do you think will make you a good Western Zone Coach Director?
S. Redmond: “One, my involvement in swimming; I’ve been involved with the Western Zone for just about 30 years, been involved in the [Zone] Meet, and helping with legislation and stuff that they do. But I also think the things that I’ve done here in San Diego—I’m now the age group chair for San Diego Imperial Swimming, and I’ve been trying to listen and see what we can do. I think the biggest part is listening and trying to get feedback from other people. And I think the biggest part is to find out, ‘what is it the athletes want?’ Because regardless what we do, it’s going to affect the athletes, and I think trying to get some of their feedback, and talking to some of the older athletes, [asking] ‘what was it that kept you in the sport?’ ‘Why did you start?'”
“Where have we gotten away from that? What do we need to do? You know, what worked 20 years ago, might not be [best] for today, so what is it we need to do? So I think [we need] to get more athletes’ input on that.”
SS: In your opinion, what are some of your biggest accomplishments as a coach?
S. Redmond: “I’d have to say having swimmers that have gone on and participated at Junior Nationals. A couple have fallen just a little short of making their Nationals cuts, or Olympic Trials [cuts]. But I also have to say that the swimmers that [have] come back… I have swimmers [whose] kids are swimming for me. To me, that’s a big deal. I believe that swimming is a life-long activity. And to have former swimmers coming back and to have their children participate in our program, and even for some of them, they’re still in the water, they might still be swimming, or some may be surfing, or on paddle boards, or in kayaks—but they’re still involved around the water. So I have to say the continued involvement that they’ve had around the water and in the sport.”
SS: Do you see any areas about the organization—the Western Zone in particular but also in USA Swimming as a whole—that in your role as Western Zone Coach Director, if you are elected, that you would like to improve?
S. Redmond: “Right now I would have to say trying to bring more younger swimmers in, more 12 & unders–but also keep them in. And then, if that’s changing, how we do some meet formats, we need to look at that. One of the things we’ve done here in San Diego is to help reduce how long some of our meets have gone during short course season. I think the Western Zone does a great job with the age group Zone Meet, and also with the Senior Zone Meet. It’s 1,000 swimmers plus that they’ve been having, and it’s running two different venues for prelims, and then they come together for finals. I think that’s a great meet that the Western Zone does a great job with. I think it would be interesting to see what the other zones are doing, because I don’t think their meets are as large as ours.”
SS: How do you believe your various roles throughout swimming and the other sports you’ve been involved in have shaped your perspective when it comes to overseeing the sport at this level?
S. Redmond: “It allows me to be able to listen, ask questions, see different sides, and then be able to make a decision based off of that. I’m not as naïve as I was even 25 years ago, so I understand that there are certain ways that, you know, you can get things done, and if you’re passionate enough you can help push things along to achieve some of the goals that you and others have that you think are going to benefit the sport. But [USA Swimming is] a large organization and we can’t push it and force it, we have to work with each other to see the common goal. And again, everything is predicated upon ‘what is it the athletes want?’”
SS: And when you say ‘we need to work together,’ do you mean ‘we’ as in all of the different zones and LSC’s, or just USA Swimming as an organization, members and administrators?
S. Redmond: “I think it’s all the above… we’ve been fortunate over the past year or so here in San Diego to have USA Swimming come down and do a couple of seminars for us, and we have a Swimposium coming up here in October. And it’s really fun and exciting to listen to what they have to say and what they’re presenting, and a lot of it is being driven by us. There’s a senior program, there’s an age group program, within the LSC’s and throughout San Diego Swimming, and throughout USA Swimming that sometimes don’t necessarily talk with each other, and I know that has been the case within some of the LSC’s over the years, and within our LSC, [but] I think it’s gotten better. I think trying to get them to realize that what you do with one is going to effect the other. And that was the thing that we discussed at the Zone Meeting was, ‘if we don’t do something to keep our younger swimmers in the sport, and to increase [those numbers], we don’t have a senior program. That’s the base, that’s the foundation. So we need to work together and figure that out.'”
SS: When it comes to keeping younger swimmers in the sport, what roles do you think the pros, like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky play in motivating younger swimmers or prospective swimmers to get into the sport. Obviously those individuals can’t go and visit every club, but just as icons or role models, do you think that they’re helping get younger swimmers into the sport and then stay in it?
S. Redmond: “I do. I’m seeing that right now with some of our swimmers. Some of them have been talking about… what Michael Phelps has been saying about setting goals and having a dream, and a lot of things that I and other coaches have been saying for years, and [Phelps is] saying that he was able to achieve what he did because he was willing to make the sacrifices… and I think what they’re showing is that’s possible. We have swimmers that started when they were in 8th or 9th grade and are talking about having that [Olympic] dream, and I think that’s possible, and I think we can continue to [enroll older kids] and get those kids excited. We do see [the pros] more often and hear about them more often [outside of Olympic years]–hopefully on a positive note–but I think that keeping them out there [promoting swimming] helps. With Make A Splash, I know Missy’s involved in that, and other national team swimmers are involved–that’s a great opportunity for getting those [younger] kids involved. I know one of our programs here in San Diego has used [Make A Splash], and has had Natalie Coughlin come down, and other swimmers have been getting involved as part of the Make A Splash Foundation. I think things like that is what’s going to help keep them out there and help promote the younger swimmers to think, ‘yeah, I want to be like Missy,’ or ‘I want to be like Mike,’ or Ryan, or one of the others.”
SS: Is there anything else about this position or about yourself that you would like to add?
S. Redmond: “I’m just looking forward to doing it and serving the Western Zone if [I am who] they choose. There is another very capable candidate running too, and I know him, so it will be fun. I enjoy seeing him on the deck, and it will be fun seeing him at the convention too.”
SS: Are you currently serving on any of the boards in USA Swimming, or any of the committees?
S. Redmond: “No I am not. I have tried and haven’t gotten on yet. There’s a lot of people that want it.”
Further information about the USA Swimming annual convention can be found here. Current members of the USA Swimming board of directors and all USA Swimming committees and committee members are also available on USA Swimming’s website.
The new Zone Directors will be elected next month at USA Swimming’s Annual Convention, taking place in Atlanta, Georgia. Nominations can no longer be made by mail, though nomination forms may be hand-delivered at the convention until 12:00 noon on Thursday, September 22nd. Nominees must be non-athlete members of USA Swimming and must have completed a background check and undergone the Athlete Protection Online Training Course before September 19th, 2016.
Links to previous other Board of Directors nominee interviews are provided below by candidate’s name.
Bob Vincent (Treasurer Candidate)
Jeff Gudman (Treasurer Candidate)
Tim Bauer (Technical Vice President, candidate for re-election)
Tristan Formon (Candidate for Eastern Zone Coach Director)