By Riley Missel//USA Swimming Communications Intern | Friday, April 14, 2017
Kate Lundsten, 2017 FINA World Juniors women’s head coach and coach of 2012 Olympian Rachel Bootsma, has been serving as head coach for the Minnesota Aquajets for 13 years. In her home state, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” Lundsten grew up learning the importance of swimming.
“I was raised on a point in Minnesota, so I had lakes all around me,” Lundsten said. “I was always in the water, and swimming was always big in my life as a kid. I was a competitive swimmer, and while I wasn’t very good I’ve always loved the water.”
Lundsten studied art in college, and spent five years travelling the world, living for a short time in Israel and South Africa. During that time, she coached on and off and taught swim lessons. One woman approached Lundsten and told her story- she had watched her son drown in the ocean fifteen years ago, unable to save him, she desperately wanted to learn to swim so she could ease the pain of her loss. Lundsten happily obliged.
“I have a bigger picture of life,” said Lundsten. “If the kids don’t get a best time I’m not going to have a heart attack. I have been able to go to so many different places in the world. Every time you’re with a team you’re going to learn more about swimming, coaching, kids, representing your country. The first meet I traveled for was to Vancouver, which was when I connected with Sue Chen, and all the other [National Junior Team] coaches. Travel affects your coaching - it makes it wider, broader and better.”
Upon returning to the United States, Lundsten spent some time coaching a high school team and assistant coaching for a club team. Shortly after, she decided to move up into the woods of Northern Minnesota, where she could focus on her art and enjoy her morning coffee in the company of moose and elk out her kitchen window.
“‘Starving artist’ was appropriate for me,” Lundsten said.
This period didn’t last long. Her passion for the pool was calling, quite literally.
“My friend John with Aquajets was persistently contacting me to ask me to coach,” Lundsten said. I finally agreed, and I’ve been head coach of the Aquajets for 13 years.”
Lundsten is grateful for her background in travel and living overseas, as well as every opportunity she’s had to travel and coach, which gives her more to offer the kids she works with every day.
What really makes it all worth it is getting to know the kids she coaches.
“If you don’t love the kids, coaching isn’t for you,” said Lundsten. “You’ve got to be a special kind of person to swim. [I really enjoy] watching them grow up, mature and persevere. Swimming fast is fun, but it’s the other things you learn from it. It’s the relationships.”
And after all the touchpads have been lifted out of the lanes, the scoreboard’s been cleared and everyone goes home, the one thing remaining are those relationships - the bonds of a team.
“We’ve always looked at swimming as an individual sport, but you can see what USA Swimming has done on their trips- they become this incredible team,” said Lundsten. “When you swim for a team, you’re swimming for a bigger purpose than yourself. And I love that.”