By Lauren Gaskill//Contributor | Friday, January 20, 2017
If you’re the youngest in your family, you know what it’s like to grow up idolizing an older sibling. Maybe you were fascinated by, or even jealous of them. Or maybe you just wanted to follow in their footsteps because that seemed like the cool thing to do.
That’s exactly how Julia Czentye’s swimming journey began. After her older sister joined the local team, Czentye jumped at the chance to get involved too. And from the first moment her feet hit the water, there was no turning back.Before pursuing coaching as an adult, Czentye swam for the South Bend Dolphins, Racer X, Irish Aquatics and West Virginia University. Today, she is the North Marlin Division Lead for SwimMAC in Charlotte, North Carolina. We sat down with Czentye to learn more about her coaching experiences and what advice she might have for those interested in coaching.
When did you realize you wanted to coach the sport you grew up loving?
I’ve always loved working with children of all ages. I am the youngest of six kids and grew up babysitting my nieces and nephews. After nannying in high school, I ended up working a few children’s camps during college. But it wasn't until I began coaching with Sergio Lopez at the Bolles School that I found my true passion for coaching age group swimmers. I love to work with kids, and I try to provide the best experience possible for them, hoping they learn to love the water and the sport as much as I did.
As an age group coach, what makes you unique, and what’s your philosophy?
My coaching philosophy is very similar to SwimMAC's philosophies. That’s why I love coaching for the program so much. My focus is to do what is best for the swimmer to have longevity in the sport — that means quality not quantity — and educate parents and swimmers on how to set their kids up for their own success.
What makes me unique as a coach is the ability to adjust myself for each individual swimmer. We coach in big groups, but I work hard to focus on the individual swimmer as much as I’m focusing on the group.
Where did you start your coaching career, and what was that job like?
My first real coaching position was at the Bolles School. I had no idea what I was doing. The only knowledge I had was knowing things from being a collegiate swimmer myself. I realized quickly that while that gives a coach knowledge of the sport, being a collegiate athlete does not necessary give you the ability to teach. That was something I really had to learn and work on.
What do you love most about your current position?
I am a new mom, so right now the flexibility that coaching gives me is the best part of my position. I am able to take my baby on deck, and being a coach is a family-friendly position in general, so that is a huge plus. One of the other things I really enjoy is coaching the 10-and-under age group. They are sponges! They learn quickly and are easy to critique.
Tell us about one of your favorite coaching achievements.
I don't have any awesome awards to show off like NCAA titles or swimmers who are nationally ranked, but to me, every day is an achievement and making a difference in one swimmer’s life is all worth it to me.
How have you grown over the last few years?
In the past two years, I have learned to really own my career and continue to want to grow as a coach — not to compare or doubt myself, or do what other coaches are doing, but to share my knowledge and experiences. I think it has made a big difference in being a lead division coach here at MAC.
Another area I’ve grown in is finding my voice. My old boss Pam Swander can swear on this: I used to be a shy coach when I began with SwimMAC. I’m a social person, but speaking in front of peers or groups that I did not know brought out the insecure side of me. Since being at SwimMAC, I have found my voice, and it has really made coaching more enjoyable.
Julia Czentye’s Five Keys to Coaching Success
1. Communicate well with your swimmers and parents. Being a coach became much easier when I started communicating better. Even if something hasn’t happened yet, be proactive. Parents appreciate this and will appreciate and respect you more.
2. Learn from others. I used to think I knew it all as a new coach, but life told me differently. When I started learning from my peer coaches, swimmers and surroundings, coaching was a lot more fun, and I finally found my coaching style.
3. Be flexible. This is what I always tell new coaches to our staff and visiting coaches from other teams — a great coach can be flexible and adapt to change quickly. What I mean by this is that I’ve seen other coaches in the past be stubborn and not switch up a routine or know how to adapt to a change or situation in the coaching environment. That's hard on others around you and hard for swimmers, too. Swimmers need to learn how to be flexible as a life skill, so we need to demonstrate that for them. (Example: let another coach take your group and do something different with them, sometimes change is good!)
4. Think outside the box and get out of your comfort zone. If I hadn't taken a risk and moved to Charlotte for a job at SwimMAC, I wouldn't be where I am today. Also, try new skills to teach your kids in a variety of ways. This may lead to something big!
5. Show that you care. These kids don't just swim to swim. They like to be coached, critiqued, be part of a team, and think of you as a role model. This is the chance to show them that you care and empower them with the confidence they need in life.