To add valuable coaching experience to the Warren Area High School swim team, head coach Jeff Walters looked no further than names of school record-holders on the wall.
Amy Corbran and Brian Collins, both WAHS graduates, have joined Walters' staff as volunteer coaches for the 2012-13 season. It doesn't seem long since they were competing for Warren in the same pool.
Both Corbran and Collins set multiple school records at Warren, and both went on to swim in college. Corbran swam at Saint Francis and Edinboro university, while Collins competed at Hope College in Holland, Mich.
Times Observer photo by Andrew Morrison
Amy Corbran and Brian Collins
Corbran set Warren school records in the 100-meter butterfly, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard medley relay, 200-meter freestyle relay, and was the 2003 District 10 Class AAA champion in the 100-yard butterfly.
Collins set WAHS records in the 100-yard backstroke, 100-meter backstroke, and 200-meter individual medley. He also swam backstroke for the record-setting 200-meter and 200-yard medley relays while anchoring the 400-meter free relay.
This type of experience translates into knowledge that the pair can teach to the current Dragon swimmers.
"I have experienced a lot of frustrations and accomplishments in swimming throughout my life, and I feel like I am able to relate and help emerging swimmers become more confident," Corbran said. "(Swimming) has taught me focus, discipline, dedication, and goal-setting, which I hope to pass on to future swimmers."
Been there, done that:
"I have empathy for the kids," said Collins. "I know what it's like to be up at 5 a.m. for the better part of the school year. I know what it's like to not understand why you have to do something. I can explain to the kids exactly what they're feeling because I've felt it, too."
Corbran balances a full-time job in speech services with coaching both the high school swim team and YMCA youth swim team.
"I would have to say I was very excited and honored to have even been thought of for this position," she said. "After working with the Dolphins (the Warren YMCA swim team), Jeff Walters asked me to come to the high school practices to help out. Without hesitation, I said yes."
Collins, who skipped his senior year of swimming at Hope College to concentrate on rugby, is excited to share his experiences.
"I came back to Warren in the middle of October," said Collins, currently a news reporter at the Times Observer. "I called Jeff Walters, who had coached me back when I was in high school, as I was driving back home from Florida, and asked him if he wanted help. I never thought I'd be coaching my own high school's team, but when I decided to move back home I knew I had to be part of it. He told me he had a special group of kids this year and that he wanted them to reach the next level. That was enough for me."
Both Corbran and Collins focus on stroke technique and development. They also help write the workouts for each day, but, "Jeff (Walters) ultimately has the final say," Collins laughed.
Although they both specialize in teaching swimmers the finer points of technique, Corbran and Collins each mentioned that swimming taught them much more.
"Swimming has taught me to be a team player inside and outside of the pool, time management skills, setting life goals, responsibility, and work ethic," Corbran said.
"Swimming taught me discipline," said Collins. "Waking up at 5 a.m. to go do more work in two hours than most people do in a day? It's crazy unless you're dedicated. Even then, it's all about attitude and personality and Walters has that. Even when you're exhausted and can hardly breathe, he will make you want to work harder and end up laughing somehow as you finish. That's what this team needs."
It has to be special, if not downright motivational, for swimmers to look up at the wall during practice and see it covered by records set by their own assistant coaches.
"It's kind of a unique situation (for me), really," Collins said. "Not a whole lot of people get to coach at their alma mater and this year we have three alumni volunteering their time (Collins, Corbran, and assistant coach Fred Kylander), along with Walters, who swam for the Y team, and Jill Bunce, another assistant coach, who is also a former swimmer. So yeah, it's special, but at the same time I owe it to give back to the community that supported me for years."