Drake Gilmore felt the need to give back to swimming and picked up some valuable lessons along the way.
This year, he joined forces with the Chanute Sharks’ coaching staff to become one of the assistant swimming coaches for swimmers 4-18 years of age. The transition was seamless, as Gilmore, who is a former longtime Shark himself – along with Betsy Olson, Kellie King-DeNoon, Anna Bumgarner, Linda Rubow and Britton Eastman – coached the Sharks to their sixth SEK League Swim Championship this past Saturday in Chanute, as well as the B division Championship for the second year in a row.
The Sharks scored more than 1,500 points, winning the meet by a wide margin, and Gilmore was stoked that his team blew the competition out of the water – literally.
“We won by a pretty big margin,” Gilmore said. “There was a lot of self-improvement and personal best times. I’m really proud of the kids. I saw so much growth in the last year. And then always a ton of improvement, either attitude-wise or skill-wise throughout the summer.”
From starting out as a Shark learning the ropes, to becoming one of the more gregarious swimmers in Shark history, Gilmore, 21, has his own way of coaching his swimmers, as he likes to impart advice and then physically show what he means.
“Before a race, I’ll tell them verbally what they should do, focus on things like having a solid kick or like really stretching out their strokes and using their body rotation for power,” Gilmore said. “And then usually I will follow that up with demonstrations, like physically showing them what I mean. And I think that combining those verbal instructions with physical cues really helps them see what I am trying to talk about. Hopefully, that helps them in their race.”
Along the way in his first year as a Chanute Sharks swimming coach, though, Gilmore said he picked up on a specific trait, one that could make athletes less dejected.
“I think I really learned that confidence is a really part of a learning process and when you have that confidence, you can learn much faster,” he said. “Like if you are confident that you can learn to dive or learn to stroke, then usually it will come to you a lot faster.”
And during the Sharks’ championship season, this trait wasn’t learned from other coaches; rather, he said, it was learned from the kids themselves.
“I think I learned it from the kids, trying to build up their confidence really helped learn the things I was trying to teach,” Gilmore said.
Teaching confidence was the premise, and so Gilmore said he would invoke the trait in swimmers before every meet – and practice five days a week – leading up to the League Championship, a necessary coaching move in an effort to put the swimmers in the best position to come up triumphant.
“Every meet I would try to get the swimmers excited and confident that they would do well,” Gilmore said. “That includes giving them high-fives and giving them things to focus on during the race, and then having them acknowledge they are ready to race.”
Still, imbuing confidence isn’t the only trait he learned. Having an amiable personality, he said he learned a way to deal with people in all facets of life.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about managing people and how to get the best out of people,” he commented. “I think everyone is capable of performing at a higher level than they think they are, and so that was one of the lessons I learned is how to get the most out of people and getting them to believe they can do well.”
Preaching confidence and managing his swimmers are by-products of his developed coaching ability. But before he coached, he focused on his own swimming.
Gilmore is a Chanute native, and for 13 years – since he was 5-years-old – he was one of the young Sharks striving to backstroke, breaststroke, dolphin kick and freestyle his way past his competition. As a swimmer, he racked up 13 high-point trophies.
The love of swimming didn’t dissipate when it was time for Gilmore to go to the next academic level in 2016: the University of Kansas. Gilmore, as a chemical engineering major, has been a part of the KU swim club team – a team that faces other Division I club teams – and has been excelling in the 50M butterfly and the 50M breaststroke, including placing in the top five in college meets and in the top 200 in nationals.
The Chanute High School graduate was swimming competitively as he was coaching the Sharks. And he fully intends to use valuable lessons learned in swimming and coaching in all aspects of his life.