NEJC Faces: Tiernan Shank, swim coach

By Tommy Sherk

Tiernan Shank, in her final year as a swim coach at Mission Hills Country Club


Tiernan Shank: The most important part of being a swim coach is making it a fun atmosphere for kids and showing them that swimming is a fun sport, but that it can also be competitive. It’s a sport they can pursue later in life.

Did you ever think you’d become a swim coach?
TS: Yes. It has been my dream job since I was about 10. I always looked up to my coaches— I thought they ruled the world. They were smart, they could help me with my swimming ability and I always thought it was the best job in the world.

I always try to be really friendly and try to be someone that [the swimmers] can look up to or ask for advice. It doesn’t just stay in the pool, it goes on past that.

My favorite part is spending time with the kids, but in a competitive setting. I like seeing them succeed and I like seeing them improve. They get so excited and it’s rewarding to see that. If someone drops five seconds, you say ‘Oh my gosh, you dropped five seconds’ and it’s amazing to see that look on their face.

Why did you choose to become a swim coach over another summer job?
TS: I wasn’t really ready to leave the league. I swam at Kansas City for around 13 years, and it’s something that’s been a part of my life for so long. I think that being a swim coach is valuable because of the learning experience having to spend so much time with kids. Also, you have to deal with a lot of parents, and you have to be respectful and answer any questions promptly. It’s kind of a different path than your regular internship, but I think I’ve learned just as much, if not more.

What is something important you’re going to take from being a coach?
TS: Go with the flow. There are so many changes. We have meets every Wednesday, and Wednesday morning there will be four kids who can’t swim, or don’t want to swim that event, and I’ll just say, ‘Okay, that’s fine’ and we’ll move stuff around. Just being able to act fast when you learn something and just out something together. You’ve got to be creative when adapting to different situations.

I hope I leave behind an impression of someone who is fun, but then someone who knew about swimming, and at the end of the day, when it all came down to it, could really help you with your stroke and technique. Someone who can make you a better swimmer. I really want to encourage kids to swim year-round, to swim in high school— it was one of my best experiences. This league gives the kids such an easy route to it because they’ve started swimming when they were such little kids. I want to encourage kids to keep swimming as long as I did, and to be a swim coach, because it’s the best job in the world.