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by Michael Watkins

May 3, 2022

These three coaches help provide a wonderful environment for their swimmers

What makes a coach awesome is subjective, but there seem to be some universal traits that appeal to many Masters swimmers: Good communicator. Cares for their athletes. Offers social activities after major events. Creates an environment that both teaches and inspires.

That’s what Doug Hayden, Andy Dugan, and Sterling Fuhriman do each day to motivate their athletes to strive for greatness and achieve it each day in the pool—and why they are appreciated during Coach Appreciation Week.

Doug Hayden, MOVY Masters

“Doug provides creative workouts,” says MOVY Masters member Larry Fehner. “He mixes up short and long distances and began the April Fools’ swim-a-thon, which raises money for children’s summer activities who are financially compromised. He also participates in the event himself.”

Hayden also includes music to swim to, connects with swimmers, encourages swimmers to improve stroke and speed, and visits some in the hospital to cheer them up.

These are just a few examples of what makes Hayden such an inspirational coach to his athletes.

“Doug’s energy is always up,” Fehner says. “He has said that he comes in all tired from work and dragging, but once the practice starts, he just gets into it. His energy levels come up, and he gets excited and has fun.”

Fehner says Hayden works hard every day to keep the team workouts changing.

At holiday time, they get the Christmas tree workout. On paper it resembles a Christmas tree, and in the water, it’s a workout that just gets longer and longer.

On St. Patrick’s Day, there was a special workout with rhymes and a play on all things green. On April Fool’s Day, MOVY does 100 x 100s in 100 seconds.

And then there’s the music.

“When we talk about music, well, you get the usual tunes on the speakers, but on St. Pat’s Day, it was all Irish-inspired songs,” Fehner says. “You never know when Doug might break out in song, loudly. Well-known lyrics and tunes. He loves it when a few of us sing back at him—if we have enough breath!”

Fehner has been swimming with the club for about eight years and says Hayden’s coaching has taken him from slowest lane to the middle of the pool with the faster swimmers.

“I was a strong swimmer, but now I have gotten a lot faster,” he says. “Doug eased me in and taught and showed me by example how to be a good lanemate. I have never been on a swim team or swum competitively.

“He has improved my form and stroke a lot. I go much farther on a single stoke. My breathing is also much improved.”

Andy Dugan, Sylvania Masters Swim Club

Andy Dugan is so dedicated to his team and athletes that he usually arrives at practice before everyone else and welcomes everyone with a bright and cheery “Good morning.”

He gets club members prepared for the workout by writing the start of the hour-long workout on two whiteboards for everyone to see, including a start time so they are all in sync with the workout.

During the workout, he is in a constant state of observation and dedicates his time to observing technique for all strokes. He walks the pool deck to observe different lanes, and he never tires of explaining concepts and making suggestions for improvement.

He’s an awesome coach, person, and friend to his swimmers—and they appreciate him for it.

“Andy continues to improve and adapt as club needs have changed over time,” Sylvania Masters Swim Club member Samantha Rousos-Gage says. “In the past 25 years, he has coached professionally and positively, provided video-stroke clinics, run competitions for the club, and adapted his schedule to coach club members as needed to accommodate other pool scheduling needs.

“He adapts his coaching to the availability of technology. He incorporates the use of an iPad to track swim time statistics on each member so he can detail timed sets based on individual capabilities and levels. And on Saturday’s long swims (90 minutes), he brings a portable speaker for a fun change-up to practice with music. He drives a hard workout, but it’s always fun, personalized, and caring.”

Rousos-Gage joined the club with her friend Jacqui Barber, with whom she swam in college, soon after her first and only Olympic-distance triathlon in 1998. She swam with the club through two pregnancies at the same high school her youngest son is about to graduate.

The reason she still swims to this day with Sylvania Masters Swim Club is because she loves the water, as well as Dugan.

“The thing I enjoy most is the personal growth I’ve experienced being a part of this swim club and the incredible, somewhat ‘invincible’ feeling I carry with me on the days that I swim,” she says. “Andy always reinforces the positive side of having attended swim practice and all the health benefits that result from consistent, dedicated practices, including a good night’s sleep.

“As a coach, he has made a pivotal impact in my life. He may not know it, but the things he says during swim practice are carried with me mentally throughout the day.”

Sterling Fuhriman, Queer Utah Aquatic Club

Thomas Lundstrom, a member of Queer Utah Aquatic Club located in Salt Lake City, insists his club is unlike any other.

As a club dedicated to the promotion of adult amateur swimming regardless of age, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it operates with eight coaches who rotate every three weeks.

One of those coaches is Sterling Fuhriman, who, like his fellow coaches, instructs by showing swimmers something they are not getting or points out something to help them improve their technique on his days off.

“Sterling has been a coach for nine years, and for three of them, he was our head coach,” Lundstrom says. “Coach Sterling is a very funny and great coach that makes everyone feel welcomed and accepted no matter if you are a great swimmer or a new one that can barely keep your head above water.

“He does an amazing job of explaining how to swim and how to do the workout that we are doing that day. A lot of the time, he even includes a little dance on the side to show you how to make the proper strokes. He dedicates a lot of his time to the team and is very caring about each member.”

Lundstrom and his husband have only been members of QUAC for about nine months, and both are very new to swimming.

They started in the lower-level lanes, and within time, Lundstrom’s husband has made it to the second-highest level thanks to all of the club’s coaches.

He has been competing in swim meets that they never figured to do—and credits Fuhriman for helping him get there.

“We both have been enjoying the social aspect of the team along with the fact we have been getting into better physical shape,” Lundstrom says. “Thanks to this team’s coaches, including Sterling and the community, it has improved our lives.”


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