Swim Coach Starts 19th Season with Gators

Assistant coaches Molly Burke (left) and Jenna Osterholt lead a Gators practice last week. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Dooley says main goal is fun for 130 youngsters on roster

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

Head coach Sean Dooley last week at the first practice of the season. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

For a swim coach who doesn’t care whether his team wins, Sean Dooley sure wins a lot.

His Brentwood Gators have won their division in the Gateway Swimming and Diving League for each of the past three years. And yet his goals for the team of boys and girls ages four to 18 sound simpler than that.

“I want it to just be a fun experience for them,” said Dooley.”I’m not worried about winning the conference or anything like that. I worry more that they know how to swim properly. I could care less if we win or not, though winning is nice.”

The Gators started practicing last week with 130 people on the roster. Their first meet is on June 9 and the season-ending conference meet is July 11-12. Their five dual meets are with swim clubs in Ballwin, Chesterfield, Manchester, Town and Country and Wildwood.

It’s Dooley’s 19th season as the Gators’ head coach. He also coaches high school swimming at CBC in the fall and at Visitation Academy in the winter. He swam at CBC, where he graduated in 1993, and at Southwest Missouri State University, now called Missouri State.

“I’ve always loved swimming and this is my way of being around the water,” he said.

Of course, coaching the Gators is dramatically different from high school coaching.

“Obviously this is a lot more instructional,” he said. “You’re starting kids from little babies all the way up to high school. A lot of it is just reassurance, telling them everything will be okay. They say, ‘The water is cold.’ I say, ‘It’s okay, the water is cold for everyone.’ I’ve also heard, ‘Do I have to swim?’ I say, ‘Yes, you do have to swim.’”

Said assistant coach Molly Burke, “Sean does a fantastic job. I don’t know how he does it but he manages to get everyone’s strokes cleaned up by the end of the season. Most of these kids don’t swim in the winter so it takes a lot to get everyone back up to scratch.”

Sean Dooley surveys the troops at practice last week. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Burke and assistant coaches Kate Albrecht and Jenna Osterholt go way back with Dooley.

“All three of my assistant coaches were some of the itty-bitties that I coached when I started here,” he said.

“The swim team is like a family,” said Burke, who became a Gator at age five. “You start out when you’re six and under and just kind of grow up in this family. By the time you reach 18 you get to help out Sean. It’s a nice prize for making it through.”

Assistant coaches Jenna Osterholt (left) and Kate Albrecht talk about the upcoming practice last week. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

Dooley’s day job is as a firefighter paramedic for the Community Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County. He lives in Webster Groves.

Gators must be members of the Brentwood Swim Club. They learn four competitive strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breastroke and butterfly. Practices are held every day by age group.

All photos are by Steve Bowman, from Gators’ May 29 practice

Brentwood Gators 2014 Schedule
June 6, time trials in Brentwood, 5 p.m.
June 9, dual meet at Lake Chesterfield, 5:30 p.m.
June 16, dual meet vs. Cool Dell in Brentwood, 5:30 p.m.
June 23, dual meet at Missouri Athletic Club (MAC), Town and Country, 5:30 p.m.
June 30, dual meet vs. Castle Pines in Ballwin, 5:30 p.m.
July 7, dual meet vs Cedarmill in Brentwood, 5:30 p.m.
July 11, conference meet for 11-and-up at Cedarmill, 5:30 p.m.
July 12, conference meet for 10-and-under at MAC, 9 a.m.

Kate Albrecht answers a question.

Jenna Osterholt demonstrates how to swim with a float board.

Kate Albrecht says it’s time for another lap.

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