Jamestown Gazette

Frewsburg Swim Team Coach Bruce Johnson

Frewsburg has a history and tradition of great swimming. Much of that is due to their longtime coach, Bruce Johnson. For the past three and a half decades Coach Johnson has pushed his kids to do their best for themselves and for their school. I sit down to talk to him today.

MARK HANNON: How long have you been doing this?

COACH BRUCE JOHNSON: I’ve been doing this for 35 years---35 long years. I’ve been coaching boys and girls swimming for that entire time. I’ve put in about 70 seasons between the two.

MH: What is your record?

BJ: WE have about 740 wins. I don’t know about the losses. I’ve never kept real good track of those.

MH: That’s quite an accomplishment. Congratulations. Let’s talk about your staff. Who are your assistant coaches?

BJ: We have two this year. We have Matt Moore who swam here at Frewsburg. He went on to swim at Cortland State, and is back as a guidance counselor. He has been with me for 9 or 10 years now. We also have Scott Scholeno. He is our diving coach. He dove here himself, and graduated in, I think, 1987. He is also my neighbor, which is nice. He works with our divers, and volunteers his time.

MH: How do put such an individual effort into a team sport?

BJ: That’s the nice thing about swimming. It can be both. The times make it easier. Each swimmer has an individual goal that we put in front of them. We stress those goals. What’s nice about swimming is everything is timed. We can concretely measure their performance. But within that individual sport is a team sport. We only have 12 events. Eleven are swimming and the 12th is diving. Within that we keep team scores. The kids know the value of every place from 1st to 5th. The kids are very aware of what the team score is. There is a lot of comradery. But for me the great part is that there is an individual aspect to this sport. They can strive for personal goals. We are getting into our championship season. We have our league championship meet tomorrow night. From there we go on to a class championship meet. There still is a team score, but now they are vying for a place in the Section 6 meet which is only the fastest 24 kids in each event. From there it is the State Championship which is a very, very fast time. We only compete on an individual basis at that level. It’s nice that we can do both.

MH: How do you set up your team for a swimming meet?

BJ: In high school swimming there is more freestyle swimming than anything else. So you definitely need freestylers. From there you designate kids by what you see in practice. If you see a kid who can do a legal breaststroke kick, usually he is a breaststroker. At the beginning of the season we do a lot of drills and work with strokes. We are looking for kids who can swim each of the strokes. After that you look at distance. You need sprinters, middle distance, and distance. You just pick kids out as the season goes on. Sometimes you discover something in the middle of the year and make changes. You plug kids in different places. Some of our kids are great all around swimmers and you move kids around to match the opponent.

MH: Your year is coming to an end. How did your expectations turn out?

BJ: To be honest, I’m pleased with what we did. We have a young team. We have 22 kids on the team. Thirteen of them are 7-8 graders. Only 9 were high school aged. Many times our kids were competing against kids who were older than they were. Our younger kids provided depth for us this year. We have some excellent swimmers who are older and have been at it a long time, but our younger kids have been the depth. This is different from the past. We finished the season 10-2. We lost to Olean, which is a much bigger school than we are.

MH: Are there any special traditions you have in Frewsburg Swimming?

BJ: We always gather together and talk quite a bit. We always have a time of prayer before the meet. But we don’t have any secret traditions like pouring our water in the opposition’s pool on the last meet of the year. I get pushed into the pool on the last meet of the year. This year it was last Monday night. And we have a nice spaghetti supper put on by some of the parents before the county meet. Years ago a sweatshirt was passed down from captain to captain, but I have no idea what happened to it. But nothing beyond that.

With another 10 win season, Coach Johnson has lead the Frewsburg Bears to another great season. We wish him and all his swimmers the best of luck in their league and sectional meets.

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