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Coach’s Corner: Meet Andy Clark

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Andy Clark, the head swimming and diving coach, has been coaching at Carleton since 1993. This California native loves Carleton for its inquisitive students and strong Geology department, but not for its cold weather!

SW: How and when did swimming become a part of your life?

AC: I mainly played soccer growing up…but I swam summer league, and I swam club sporadically…My senior year I went and swam on the high school team because I had a lot of friends on it…and when I went to college, I decided to pursue swimming in college. I swam at Whitman college, which is where I got my undergraduate degree… I’m not as thorough of a swimmer in terms of background like some coaches are, but I definitely like the sport.

SW: What did you find rewarding about athletics?

AC: I liked competition. In soccer I like the challenge of working with your teammates…I thought swimming was great as well because it was really different from soccer. It was up to me to really make things happen, and I liked that sort of individual control. But at the same time I liked the team aspect too, and swimming had both. It had that team environment where you really could feed off of one another, but you also had to take care of yourself.

SW: Many people think of swimming as a very individual sport. Why do you see swimming as a team sport as well?

AC: The team aspect for me is more the component that serves as the catalyst for great individual performances…That presence of a group of teammates provides that support, that motivation, and that inspiration to do things every day that maybe on an individual basis you would be challenged to create for yourself. I think the team atmosphere helps take the pressure off yourself as well, because you know that at the end of the day, your teammates will support you, even during those tough times when you knew you had to perform, but maybe you didn’t get your best mark. That support helps you recover, helps you rebound, and helps you be more resilient. It also provides you motivation so that when you’re up on the blocks, you’re not just swimming for yourself, you’re swimming for your teammates…. I always remind [my swimmers]: look around, what more do you need to be inspired…. As important as times are, the most important things are the relationships you foster with your teammates.

SW: How did you get into coaching?

AC: I coached a Whitman college and had a blast, it was just really fun, however, I thought that my dream wasn’t to have a full time coaching job, but to get an undergraduate job in geology. So I stayed another year at Whitman as an assistant swim coach but also as a geology technician. I applied to graduate school in Geology, but I still had this interest in exercise. I thought the study of the human body was interesting, so I applied to one school for exercise science. They offered me a fellowship at the University of Oregon…I just loved learning about the body, studies about goal setting, and studies about testing human limits. When that was over, I was lucky to land a position as a volunteer swim coach at Stanford….Coaching at Stanford was unbelievably exciting. It was great to work with these elite level student athletes…I was able to work with these olympic coaches and olympians from the 1992 Barcelona olympics. What I learned there was that these students are just like every other student…They’re eager to learn and they work hard. In my mind, I always thought: “these students never break.” Well they break. They have their moments too.

SW: What do you like about coaching Carleton students?

AC: The students here have so many different levels and layers to who they are. Carleton’s a great school. In Minnesota the winters get a little long for me still…I’m surprised I’m still here at some level, but on another level I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, just because of the quality of the people here. And it’s fun! In division three athletics, you’re not paying the students scholarships, you’re not giving them money to swim, and it’s very pure in that sense. I love the idea of the student athlete…you can have that good balance. I always appreciated the coach I had at Whitman; she was very supportive of our academics, and I always felt like I could be the student I wanted to be, and also be the athlete I wanted to be…so I really try to take her philosophy and apply it here at Carleton.

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