Nathan Duell has never coached swimming at the collegiate level, but his first opportunity comes at Tabor College, a school that has never had a swim program before.
Tabor College’s new swim team will be unique in itself because the University of Kansas is the only other collegiate institution in the state that offers competitive swimming. Tabor also will offer a men’s team, something KU does not.
Duell said many in-state athletes that do not have the opportunity to continue swimming after high school give up because they want to stay close to home. Tabor will offer some of those students that opportunity.
“We’re definitely relying on that for sure,” he said. “There’s a lot of good swimming in Kansas.”
Being the only NAIA competitor in the state also presents the challenge of finding schools to compete with regularly. Oklahoma Baptist University is one of the closest competing schools in NAIA, with a three-hour drive.
Duell figured Tabor would be competing with lower division NCAA schools and other institutions in Missouri to begin with.
“I think part of what we realize is that we’ll have to deal with a bit of traveling,” he said. “What it really means is we’ll initially have fewer competitions, but in swimming, you can really work toward one or two big meets.”
Duell currently owns and coaches at Goshen Swimming Inc. in Indiana, also serving as Goshen High School’s head boys’ and girls’ coach. He said he looks forward to the heightened competition of collegiate swimming.
“I think the biggest thing is the mentality of the athletes. That’s your passion,” he said. “In college, a lot is riding on the decisions they make, so you know they’re in it all the way.”
Once formed, teams will practice at USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center in Marion. Duell said he had already taken the chance to see the facilities in town, and said he thought it was very usable.
“The thing is about swimming, just give us a pool and we’ll do what we can to work hard and get better,” he said.
The Tabor swim team will begin preparing for competition with the start of the 2014-15 school year.