They've swam a lifetime themselves and now they're coaching the Guntersville Aquacats recreation league swim team.
The coaches are:
- Paige Townsend, the head coach. She swam at Arab as a youngster and has coached there and in Albertville. She is a recent graduate of Jacksonville State University with a degree in physical education. This is her 6th year of coaching swim.
- Elena Kovac is an assistant coach. She grew up swimming on the Guntersville swim team. She is a student at Auburn University.
- Mark Payne, another assistant, will be a senior at Guntersville High School. He has set a bunch of Guntersville pool records over the years and also plays soccer at GHS.
- Becca Kovac is Elena's sister. She has swam for the Rec Center and the Guntersville High team. She has wanted to be a swim coach for a long time, but she played basketball previously. "I would always have to go to camp with the basketball team previously and I couldn't coach," she said.
For Mark and Becca, the challenge early in the season was for the team to accept them as coaches since they're also swimmers themselves.
"Everyone has pretty much done that now," Becca said.
It's a good year for participation on the swim team program with 96 youth on the team.
The Kovac girls' journey with swim team started simply because their mom Carol wanted them to take swim lessons when they were small. Elena joined swim team. A week or 2 later, Becca did too even though she was only about 4 years old. She ended up winning the "spirit fish" award as a youngster on the team.
There are a ton of 4 and 5 year olds on the team this year. Just getting them to jump off the starting blocks can be a challenge for some of them. Others, they said, will surprise you with their daring and agility.
One of the rewards of coaching, the group says, is watching the young swimmers improve.
"Their times improve every single day," Mark said.
Guntersville swims in a tough league. They run up against teams like Madison and Scottsboro, where there are indoor pool and the athletes swim year-round.
Paige said the 4 coaches work well together and that makes the experience enjoyable. They can divide up and work with the team on different strokes.
All have experience with individual medley. Mark is strong in the breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and the relays. Elena has experience with the fly.
A tremendous amount of time is involved in being part of swim team, both for the coaches and for the competitors. Practice is every day Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until noon. Meets are at least once a week, usually twice a week, and start at 4 and run until they finish.
The city school system provides a contract bus to transport the team to away meets.
For the swimmers, there's a lot of down time between events, but that may be some of the beauty of swim team to those who participate.
"I remember hanging out with my friends between events when I was on the team," Paige said. "It was great."
"Cards," Mark said. "I always liked to play cards between events."
There's a lot of team spirit among the young swimmers. They often leave whatever activity they are doing between their own races to cheer on their friends as they swim.
Guntersville finished 3rd in state in their division last year, Paige proudly pointed out. Just how far they can go this year will depend on how many swimmers can qualify for state.
Important dates looming for the team are the county meet at Boaz on June 25 and the district swim meet on July 12-13.