Interview with Wheaton College’s New Head Coach

D3Swimming was able to get an interview with the new Wheaton (MA) Head Swim Coach Barrett Roberts. Barrett was a stand out sprinter for the program and was recently an assistant at Springfield College. We wish Barrett the best of luck!

When you graduated from Wheaton and got into coaching, was it your goal to someday return to lead your Alma Mater?  Can you elaborate on the opportunity at Wheaton and the advantage of being an alum?  Is there a disadvantage?

Although I was always aware that the opportunity to coach at Wheaton might one day present itself, I did not expect that opportunity to come this soon. To be honest, I was prepared to apply to coaching positions all across the country, so I can’t say that coaching at Wheaton was a specific goal of mine until recently. When the Wheaton position opened, it soon became a goal of mine to coach my Alma Mater, not just because of my connection to the program, but more so because I believe Wheaton is one of the region’s premier academic institutions that attracts highly talented and motivated student-athletes.

Being an alum, I can speak about Wheaton and our team in a detailed and passionate way that others may not be able to. I hope to convey this knowledge and passion during our daily practices as well as the recruiting process.

If you could be a superhero, which would you be an why

Tough one… I’d probably go with Batman. At the end of the day, I’d rather go home to Bruce Wayne’s mansion than Peter Parker’s studio apartment.

You were an exceptional sprinter (probably still are) and you led the sprint group while at Springfield.  Is it fair to say that is your greatest strength as a coach? Do you have a unique approach to coaching sprinters that you’d like to share?

That is probably fair to say, simply because I’ve had more experience working with sprinters than I’ve had with distance or mid-distance swimmers. However, I think there is a lot more to coaching than simply writing sets and executing practices. I believe one of my greatest strengths as a coach is my ability to motivate athletes (regardless of their group) to give their best effort each and every practice.

I don’t think it’s very unique, but I make sure that our sprinters step up and race during most practices. Our sprinters will also do a lot of technical work at full speed in addition to the typical slow pace drill work.

Are you a better coach because you were a great swimmer?  If so, why?

I definitely think that I am a better coach because I was a swimmer, but I don’t think that my ability to swim fairly fast 5 years ago makes me a better coach today. I think I am more knowledgeable in regards to stroke technique and training methods based on my history as a swimmer, but I’m sure most of that knowledge was acquired by many of my former teammates, regardless of their swimming ability.

If you could make any sandwich you wanted for lunch, what would you put on it?

Easy… lobster meat and mayo.

There is another Wheaton College in Illinois, any chance you can start a heated rivalry of the Wheatons? Battle of the Wheatons… which is more fearsome a Lyon or Thunder?

Haha, I doubt it. I remember many of their swimmers from when I attended Division III Nationals as a swimmer. We would joke around that we should just combine teams to form extra fast relays. That obviously never happened.

How good can the swimming and diving program at Wheaton College be?

We can be as good as any other program in Division III, athletically and academically. Obviously, it is going to take some time before we can compete with the Kenyon’s, Denison’s and Emory’s of our sport, but that is definitely the goal. Our immediate goal is to win our first conference championship, but our long term goal is to be a national power year after year. I would hope this goal is shared by most coaches in our sport.

Do you think John Taffe taught you everything he knows?  After all, now you’ll be standing across the pool from each other!

First of all, I am so grateful to John for everything he has done for me this past year. I’ve never met a coach who puts so much trust in his or her assistant coaching staff. Coaching at Springfield was an amazing learning experience, mainly because of John’s leadership and his willingness to put responsibility on me. However, it would take a lot more than one season for John to teach me everything he knows.

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