By Lauren Gaskill//Contributor | Friday, November 13, 2015
Most 2-year-olds are apprehensive about swim lessons or will kick and scream their way out of being in the water until they are three or older. But not King Marlin Swim Club (KMSC) head coach Kathy Mendez. Quite the contrary, by the time Mendez was two she was already jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side of the pool.
Most would credit this feat to Mendez’s mother, a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor who taught her how to swim. But when you meet Mendez, there is evidence of a greater force at work. Whether in or around the water, Mendez is in her element. It’s as if she was made for the water.Despite being involved with the sport from a young age, Mendez says it wasn’t until a few years ago that she knew she wanted to commit her life to coaching.
“Swimming is how I want to make a difference in the world,” she says. “And I know [coaching is] my life’s mission.”
USA Swimming sat down with Mendez to learn more about her secrets to coaching success at KMSC and as a member of the USA Swimming Diversity and Inclusion Committee:How long have you been in your current coaching position?
I’ve been co-owner/co-head coach of KMSC since the team was formed in March 2014 with co-owners John Brown and Josh Everett.
What's your coaching philosophy?
My philosophy is simple: make it fun and inclusive, teach technique, and listen. I think what makes me unique is how I look at swimming from many different lenses. I’ve been involved in competitive swimming as an athlete, mother, coach, official, aunt and grandmother, Age Group Chair, and Diversity and Inclusion Chair.
I look at the sport and want it to grow and be as inclusive as possible. I want every child to have the opportunity to learn to swim, and if they want, the opportunity to be on a USA Swimming team. It’s this vision of ALL having the opportunity that drives me to be the very best coach and mentor I can possibly be.
What has been the crowning achievement of your career?
My goal and hopefully crowning achievement, as I mentioned earlier, is for all youth in Oklahoma to have the opportunity to learn to swim and, if they would like, to be able to join a USA Swimming Team so they may compete at the highest level. Some of my accomplishments toward that goal:
- My involvement for over 20 years with New Day Camp, a camp for children who have a parent incarcerated. I offer a swim lesson clinic for the kids. If anyone would like to come and volunteer at the week-long camp this summer, please let me know. It’s just an amazing experience.
- The Native American Swim Meet and Native American Clinic, which I helped organize five years ago with Oklahoma Swimming and Oklahoma Swimming Diversity and Inclusion Committee. It’s a tiered program that includes a swim clinic and ongoing swimming lessons, all free and open to any Native American youth who wants to participate.
- Oklahoma Swimming’s Elite Camp, which offers Oklahoma’s fastest swimmers age 14 and under a combination of motivational and educational sessions; starts, turns and relay training; and social opportunities.
- Forming King Marlin Swim Club with my partners Josh Everett and John Brown.
All of these allow me to continue to pursue my vision that all Oklahoma youth will have the opportunity to learn to swim and then compete for USA Swimming at the highest level.
How do you maintain work-life balance as a coach?
You have to schedule your family time or your family will be scheduled out. I’ve been to many conferences, trainings, and women’s leadership summits. Scheduling “your” time is always a topic. If I don’t schedule my day, week, month and year, I can easily find myself working non-stop from before sun-up to well after sundown. It’s not a healthy lifestyle and obviously not healthy for family life. I’ve done this, as I believe every successful coach I’ve met has. Somewhere along the way however, we learn to listen and manage “our” time.
Mendez’s Five Keys to Coaching Success
- God: Gave me vision and wisdom, and sustains me.
- Robert: My husband, No. 1 fan and supporter.
- An inclusive vision: Vision of ALL
- Peers: John Brown, Josh Everett, Sue Anderson, Paul Thompson, USA Swimming Diversity & Inclusion, USA Swimming Women’s Leadership Summit.
- Technique: The center of my program.