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  • Jun

    Coaches' Corner: Q&A with Marisa Cozort

    In this month's Coaches' Corner, we interview Marisa Cozort of Swim South Bay in San Jose, California. Swim South Bay is a busy Bay Area, family-oriented team focusing on teaching balance to their swimmers. Read more to see how their staff encourages their athletes to experience all that life has to offer while maintaining a strong swim-life balance.

    Q: What makes Swim South Bay stand apart from other teams in that area?

    Marisa Cozort: I’m a mom, and I started a swim team because I wanted a place for my kids to swim. Where we live, it’s very busy and everyone has a million activities and it’s very easy to get caught up in all of that. I don’t want to fight against it. We lead a very different program that looks at the whole child. Swimming does not have to be the only thing in your life. On our team, you earn the chance to come to more practices a week. It’s unique to our program. Kids are being pulled in a million directions. We start kids at 2 days a week and then they earn a third day. You’re letting swimming become part of the family fabric. The kids shouldn’t feel bad because they miss practice because they’re doing other things.  Kids should not have a mid-life crisis because they want to do the school play at 12yrs old.

    As a swimmer, you know that the more you swim, the better you will be, but kids are different these days and we need to embrace it because these are the times we are in. We have to stop trying to believe that we are in charge of these families. WE are not in charge.  Bottom line, these parents are doing the best they can with their kids and if they get frustrated, we have to communicate with them. They don’t have to be hard conversations because we all want what is best for the kids.  We are not their parents, we are the coaches. We must know our role.  

    Q: In such a densely-populated swim area, how do you recruit kids? 

    Marisa Cozort: We don’t really recruit, we haven’t advertised since we started our team 8 years ago. It’s all word of mouth and we have waitlist still. The best way to advertise is the parents, talking in the parking lot, Facebook, your friends and friends of friends. We have 2000 kids that swim in the summertime though our Swim Lessons and Summer Camps, and some of those move into our program. Not all of them do, but most of them end up swimming in some way whether it be High School, Triathlons, Water Polo.

    Another thing is all our lessons are private lessons. The best way to learn a skill is one on one and that’s what we do because the kids are really swimming. I hand pick all the teachers and they had to work with my children and I feel like if they can work with my kids and I’m happy, I want them to work with me. 

    Q: What keeps you innovative in your coaching?

    Marisa Cozort: I read a lot, I read a lot of articles. I’m not as swim-nerdy as many of my friends, but I think about my coaching and what I wanted to know more about when I was swimming. I wish I knew more about using yoga in our training and so now I do that. I wished I had more time with my friends, so we do that. On Wednesday mornings in the summer, we swim for an hour and then we have breakfast on deck all together. We hang out and sit with no phones and talk to each other. In the summer, we have Dr. John Mullen come in and do pre-physical therapy dryland because we have to share the pool with Water Polo, so we try and maximize our training time. You have to use those resources and if the kids are feeling like they need a little more, then they can go see Dr. John if they need help. 

    Q: What is your training model for the team?

    Marisa Cozort: Once they graduate from the seasonal swim team, they move into the year around groups where they have practice 3 times a week, JV is 4 times a week (8-12 yrs old). JV Plus is 5 days a week with the older kids, giving them an opportunity to see what the old kids group is like. It gives them a chance to say “YES” or “I’m terrified”. We ease them into it. In my group, they have practice 7-9 times a week. We tried to keep the practice times shorter because they’re taking AP class for example, or they have school, or homework. 

    Swimming is swimming, and if my swimmers swim so fast and they make JRs, etc. that’s great, but if we don’t have a dozen kids at those meets, it’s not the end of the world. The kids have to be the ones that put in the work to get to that point. It’s not me. My purpose is to get them swimming and have them fall in love with the sport and then take the shuttle when they’re in the old folks home to the lap pool. I learned so much from all of my coaches, that I want to be able to share that to the rest of the world. I have coaches on my staff that swam for me and that’s like the biggest compliment as a coach because they love it and they know what a gift it is to swim.  

    Q: Who are your mentors in coaching?

    Marisa Cozort: My college coach at Purdue, Cathy Wright-Eger. I had one female coaching in my age group life and it was my first coach.  All my other coaches were men and so I was a little nervous to have a female coach for college. She had just had a baby and it was amazing to watch her as a mom, able to coach just as good as the men. She was everything, she changed the course of my life. 

    Q: Do you have a coaching philosophy that is universal from the senior groups on down?

    Marisa Cozort: Yes, absolutely. I don’t think anyone would work in our program if they did not buy into what we’re doing. There are so many teams around us that are trying more traditional ways. We must give these kids the freedom to choose other things and if they love swimming they’ll come back. I’ve had kids leave and 99% of them come back. We want them to be happy. The kids have it in them, you just have to find a way to get it out. We aren’t treating the kids like they’re a dollar sign, we are treating them like they’re kids. They sometimes spend more time with us, than their parents and we have to make sure we are providing the right guidance with boundaries. We celebrate a lot of failure on our team...let’s do a set and see how many of you fail. It’s okay to try a super fast interval and then realize you need to move down a lane. We have to give these kids a chance to make their own decisions. 

    Q: What do you want your legacy to be at Swim South bay?

    Marisa Cozort: I’ve never really thought about it before. I guess, that all of our kids still love swimming and maybe the kids that come back to run the team are all swimmers from our program. I would love to see our lessons still running and just that kids and adults finished their swimming whenever they're done, with the same love and appreciation of the water that my staff and I have. We know that it’s just a sport and it’s just for fun and it’s a game where we chase the black line back and forth and we keep that in perspective. 

    Q: What is your greatest coaching memory so far?

    Marisa Cozort: I think when both of my kids were on the swim team, I started the team when my oldest was 3 and my youngest was a few months. I wanted a team for them, before I knew they would swim. When the both started really swimming and at their 1st meet, and watching them at meets manage themselves, I know that I’ve done a good job and my coaches have done a good job. Watching my kids swim and knowing they’re good swimmers, that’s fun. Swimming is not always fun, but at the end of the day water is fun and chlorine smells good!  

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