Braemar Blasters Coaches Build Powerhouse Swim Team, Community

Coach Gideonse looks on as his swimmers dive into the Braemar pool.

Whether they are in or out of the water, there is no denying the palpable charge in the air that is the Braemar Blasters spirit. With this enthusiasm and drive, combined with their ever-improving times in the water, it is no wonder why so many other teams in the Prince William Swim League (PWSL) admire the Blasters.

Blasters coaches attribute their team’s prowess to the swimmers’ humble mindset, striving to always improve, love of the sport, and most importantly, overall sense of community.

“It’s very hard in other sports, like football, basketball, or lacrosse to be able to develop a community team,” said Head Coach Will Gideonse. “Here, it’s extremely easy to have a community team.”

He says that the wide range of people available to join the team creates a well-rounded group of swimmers, many of whom are already familiar with one another.

“You’ve got from age five to 19, boys and girls, friends, neighbors, classmates, people who go to the same religious institutions, all come together and make up this team,” said Gideonse. “So, if that isn’t the best example of community, I don’t know what is.”

Coaches Will Gideonse and Annie Livengood cheer on their swimmers from the poolside.

Gideonse says much of the strategies and coaching techniques he applies to his team were inspired from experiences he had when he was a swimmer in a summer league.

“I can think back to when I was a kid [and I had a] summer league coach by the name of Steve Volley,” said Gideonse. “He was a swimmer himself and he made our workouts fun.”

Gideonse says these experiences impact the way he coaches today.

“I’m not really reinventing anything; this is what I used to experience when I was really young and I had a lot of fun,” he said.

“If I can reach out and make swimming important to [someone], and help them be better individuals, or healthier individuals, or more social individuals, I think that’ll pay off for them in the long run,” said Gideonse.

The Braemar Blasters grew over the years in both talent and size, generating a team of over 270 swimmers, with a waitlist of 100 people. This growth is just another testament to the Blaster’s increasing popularity.

Student coach Jacquelyn Katuin helps younger Blasters learn the basics.

Being the first year that the county had to put a cap on the amount of swimmers who can join, it is no wonder that those enrolled genuinely appreciate their place on the team, and work hard to do their best, have fun and drop times at meets.

Their past swim meet, the Blasters narrowly missed beating the Sudley Seahorses by 47 points. This is no small feat, considering that the Seahorses have not lost a meet in 15 years, and are coached by Dennis Miller, who operates the entire PWSL.

“It was insanely close,” said Gideonse. “When you take 47 points out of 5,200, that’s less than one percent, so we’re right there.”

With each year, the Blasters earn more points per meet.

“[When we first] swam Sudley, we lost by 800,” Gideonse said. “The next year, we lost by 400. Last year, 200. This year, 47.”

Coach Will Gideonse demonstrates a streamline.

Miller even paid the Blasters a great compliment at the end of their last swim meet.

“He was very cool,” said Gideonse. “He said, ‘I’ve watched you guys coming for a while, and I wouldn’t feel bad if we ended up losing to you.’”

Gideonse says he is extremely proud of the Blaster’s improvement in times, as well as their growth as a team.

“[Miller] knows it—he knows we’re coming,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of heart, and a lot of spirit.”

Coach Annie Livengood agrees.

“We’ve been together for so long,” said Livengood.

“For the past seven years, I’ve seen us grow. We grow in depth, and we grow in socializing and we grow in speed.”

Livengood says that the relationship the coaches build with the swimmers helps them target each individual’s strengths and what can be improved.

“We know where kids can do better, because we work together,” said Livengood. “I think that makes a big difference.”

Jacquelyn Katuin, a Blaster since the age of seven and a student coach of five years helped many younger swimmers learn the basics and develop their skills.

“We’re very hands-on,” said Katuin. “We get in the water, we work with the kids.”

Katuin says that being a student coach is her most rewarding role in the Blasters family.

“For me, I love coaching more than I love swimming,” she said.

Katuin feels strongly that when the time comes for the Blasters to face the Seahorses again in Divisionals, her team will stand a good chance.

“We had some really fast eight-and-unders missing [last swim meet],” said Katuin. “Everyone’s rooting for the underdog—that’s us.”

The Blasters are rising to the top. As this year’s motto states: “We are resilient, we are persistent, we are determined, we are Braemar.”

“Swimming is a very psychological sport,” Gideonse said. “If you believe that it’s your time to do well, your mind will make your body do it.”

Without question, the Blasters will continue to give any team they go up against a run for their money. All they need is some water, and the cheers of their teammates.

“They like what we do, and I like what we do,” said Gideonse.

“Other teams see us for what we do at meets, but underneath the tip of the iceberg . . . deep underneath the ocean, there is a larger iceberg that is social, it is belonging, it is a sense of community.”

© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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