Michalski living her dream as coach of the Panthers

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Michalski living her dream as coach of the Panthers

The Daily Eastern News

The Daily Eastern News

The Daily Eastern News

Sean Hastings, Staff reporter

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Jacqueline Michalski is finishing up her first year as head coach of Eastern’s men’s and women’s swim teams.

Athletic director Tom Michael brought in Michalski to coach the Panthers in August 2014, which she said was a great career opportunity for her.

She said she was excited to become the head coach of Eastern’s swim program.

“It’s always been my goal and dream to have my own program and try to create a new culture,” Michalski said.

Making the transition from athlete to coach was not easy for Michalski.

“It’s been a challenge but you only grow with challenges,” Michalski said.

She added the encouragement she received from Michael and the support she has received from Graduate Assistant coach Rachel McGrath has made the process easier.

She uses what she learned as an athlete to help coach today.

Michalski’s first coaching experience came when she was only in junior high, where she went back and helped out the young kids in the same club team that she participated in when she was young.

She slowly moved up to coaching slightly older children.

In high school, she coached the 10, 11 and 12-year-old groups.

Before she coached at Eastern, Michalski was coaching at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania from 2012-2014. It was a Division I women’s only team.

Michalski said they were a great academic school and also a powerhouse in the sport of swimming.

While she was at St. Francis, she was able to coach them to three straight conference titles.

Before Michalski became a coach, she swam from a very young age all throughout college.

“I started competitively swimming when I was four years old,” Michalski said. “I was moved out of the learn to swim group into the eight and under group, so double my age, and keeping up with them.”

Once she was moved into the eight and under group, and the coach told her she was a good enough swimmer to keep moving on.

Michalski is from upstate New York, but her parents were from Long Island, New York so they wanted her to make sure she knew how to swim.

“They just knew the importance of being able to swim, and I just fell in love with it,” Michalski said.

When Michalski was in high school, she was able to compete in almost any race.

She swam wherever the team needed her to swim in a meet, and it would be the same way in college.

Michalski always knew she wanted to swim at the collegiate level but did try to play other sports in high school

“I tried a lot of other sports but I never really took off at them,” she said. “It didn’t come natural and swimming was just very natural and relaxing to me, and I just wanted to stay with what I was best at. My freshman year in college, I actually swam every event competitively.”

After her freshman year, Michalski injured her shoulder, which she said was her best year of swimming.

Michalski never really fully recovered from the injury.

She had some nerve damage in her shoulder, which caused her to lose feeling in half of her hand. Despite needing not to have surgery, she did need to participate in a lot of physical therapy.

“I never wanted to actually ever sit out,” Michalski said. “We altered how I trained. I didn’t do weights as much because that’s when it really hurt, and I lost coordination. If I just swam, I was kind of okay.”

Her freshman year stuck with her the most, though.

Michalski was top seed in the 400-yard individual medley in the conference.

“Going in on top was good,” Michalski said.

That was the year her team won the conference title.

Of the many challenges Michalski faced when she got really sick her junior was one of the most difficult during her athletic career.

Michalski was hospitalized and lost a lot of weight during that time and did not have the energy to swim.

Michalski attended State University of New York at Oswego where she received her undergraduate degree in wellness management and masters in healthcare administration.

In her junior year, she learned at a seminar, she could coach at the collegiate level and make a career out of it but still knew the importance of getting an education.

“I made sure to get an education outside of coaching just in case coaching didn’t work out, or I didn’t fall in love with it like I did the sport,” Michalski said. “

Now as a coach, she makes sure the athletes are performing well in the water but also in their classes.

Freshman Amy Smith really appreciates how much Michalski cares about how they do academically.

“It’s really nice because she doesn’t just focus on our swimming but how we are doing and adjusting to school (especially the freshmen) and how classes are going,” Smith said.

Smith added she loves the encouragement Michalski gives in practices.

Michalski learned, as a swimmer, to make sure the swimmers do have fun.

She said having fun means not taking it serious or joking around but truly loving the sport.

“When you love something, you can do it much better,” Michalski said. “You have to do it because you love it, not because it’s what you’ve always done.”

Michalski will be coaching the rest of the Panthers at 5 p.m. this Friday at the Radovan Pool when they take on St. Louis University.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].