Bruce Johnson is a name that has become almost synonymous with the Frewsburg swim program. And for good reason: Johnson has coached Frewsburg’s swim teams for four decades and has racked up over 800 victories in the school’s name. It has even been suggested that the school pool be re-named in his honor.
This year, as Frewsburg celebrates 40 years of having a swim program, Johnson is celebrating his own 40th year of coaching. He’s back at the helm as the head coach for the Varsity girls’ team, which after a successful season (8-5 overall, 6-0 in the division) is headed to the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association swimming and diving championships this week. First, however, Johnson sat down with the Jamestown Gazette to talk about his time coaching at Frewsburg, his hopefuls for Sectionals, and this season’s most memorable moment.
Cortney: What can you tell me about the girls on your team?
Coach Johnson: We have a big team, which is sometimes great and sometimes not so great. We have 37 girls on our team. We only have two seniors this year, so it’s also a young team. We’ve been stressing the idea of “team” all year: “we, not me” has kind of been our slogan. So they cheer for each other, they care for each other, and we do a lot of things as a team outside of the pool to build camaraderie. There are a lot of good friendships have started on the team and flourished. Sometimes girls’ teams have a lot of drama, but there is no drama with these girls. It’s been a fun year.
Cortney: Do you have any hopefuls for Sectionals or States?
Coach Johnson: We have about 13 girls so far that have qualified for Sectionals. Maddie Kramer is probably our number one swimmer and she’s only in ninth grade. Kiah Johnson, my daughter, is qualified in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle and she’ll do well in those. Our relays should also do very well at Sectionals. Kaylee Constantino, one of our breaststrokers, is another very strong swimmer. There’s a lot of potential. We hope to win our County meet and, out of the 15 or 16 schools at our Section VI meet, place in the top four.
Cortney: You’ve coached boys’ and girls’ swimming for four decades. How have you seen the sport change over the years?
Coach Johnson: When we started, we had little stopwatches that went round and round. Now we have digital watches. Those electronic time systems make the races much more precise. We also used to have nylon suits and now we have lycra and high performance suits. Training techniques have changed over the years, too… As for [the athletes], swimmers have always been nuts. The training’s still hard; the training’s not fun. Our kids swim 5,000 to 6,000 yards a day, six days a week. I give these kids so much credit that they stick with the sport and work as hard as they do.
Cortney: What does it mean to be embraced by a community the way Frewsburg has embraced you?
Coach Johnson: The school and the administration have always been very supportive. They’ve provided everything we’ve ever needed to build a strong swim program. It’s kind of fun to go anywhere in Frewsburg and see former students and swimmers. I even have a few swimmers now whose moms or dads swam on my teams…It’s fun to coach second-generation kids. When I get to third-generation, though, I’m out!
Cortney: What is your most memorable moment from this season?
Coach Johnson: We had a really, really good meet last week against Panama. It went down to the very last relay and we managed to pull it out and win by six points. Our kids swam so well. There was a huge crowd at our pool and it was standing-room only. That’s been our highlight to this point, but hopefully next week we’ll have a bigger highlight at the County championships.
To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.