Hillsboro’s swim team roster listed 85 swimmers ages 5 to 18 who were coached by a mother-daughter duo this summer.
Since 2011 Stephanie Moss has been the head coach for the Hillsboro Recreation Commission’s swim program with daughter Kalen as assistant coach for the past five years.
This season, which ended the first week in July, was Kalen’s last as next summer she will be in Branson, Mo., as a student manager as part of the work program for the College of the Ozarks, where she’s a junior majoring in history and business administration.
“It’s a really important job and you take a lot more responsibility than other students,” Kalen said about her responsibilities at Keeter Center, a restaurant and small hotel patronized by the public. It’s a job she also holds during the school year.
Kalen said she’s learned a lot observing her mother’s coaching philosophy in which she seeks to establish personal connections with each swimmer.
“Personally, I’m more of the black-and-white person where, ‘OK, let’s get this done,’” Kalen said. “But she will take time and see the strengths and weaknesses (of the swimmers).
“So that’s definitely been my big thing in growing over these last five years—it’s just learning how to see each person for what they have to offer.”
Stephanie grew up in Overland Park where she competed in swimming as a high schooler. She said she considers yelling at athletes and pushing them too hard as antiquated coaching.
“And I grew up with some coaches just like that,” she added. “But I was also fortunate to grow up with coaches that showed a different light.”
Good coaches help their athletes work through and discover their strengths, she said.
“We all have things we’re good at, whether it’s in the water or on the playing field,” Stephanie said, adding that good coaches also help their athletes manage their weaknesses.
“That’s kind of like life, I guess,” she said. “I think that’s one thing we do really well (as coaches). We see each of our swimmers—each of our swimmers is seen.”
By being seen, Stephanie said she means focusing on the individuality and uniqueness of each swimmer.
“We’re recognizing their importance in our eyes,” she added.
Swim season normally lasts seven weeks, with six weeks of competition among area teams.
Typically the first week of practice starts right when school is out, “give or take, depending on weather and pool filling,” Kalen said.
The Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center and local rec commission help to benefit the city’s swim program.
“We’re luckier than most because the facilities here are just so amazing between the pool and the rec,” Stephanie said. “We’ve got heated water. It doesn’t always feel like bath water, but I tell ‘ya, take a dunk in the Peabody pool one day and you’d know how lucky we are.”
During season, the Mosses hold practices five days a week.
“We run two practices every morning,” Stephanie said. “For older kids, and that’s usually 11 and up, we run a practice from 8 to 9:30 a.m., and that’s kind of the harder practice. They’re definitely swimming more. The second practice runs from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., and those are our younger swimmers.”
To manage those practices with a pool that is 25 meters long, the Mosses definitely have to do some planning.
“In swim team we count like quarters to a dollar, So first practice warm-up might mean a 400 swim, a 200 kick,” Stephanie said. “So they’re doing 16 lengths of the pool—that’s their warmup.”
Some swimmers may be doing smaller sets that challenge them to swim fast or work on specific strokes.
“I think we do try, as we move through practice, to parr things and individualize things enough because I think that’s one of the things,” she said.
Some swimmers are more skilled and need less individualized instruction.
“But then you’ve got some younger swimmers who really do need it,” Stephanie said. “So sometimes our practices are designed so we can move and just talk to the swimmers about what they’re doing and what they can be working on.”
Kalen said practices often look like “organized chaos” with as many as six to eight swimmers in a lane when they put in the lane lines.
During the season, Stephanie said 76 swimmers was the highest number of Hillsboro swimmers at a meet.
“Of course, summer is about more things than swim team,” she said. “And we tell our families this too. So any given week we might have certain kids out for volleyball camp or we may have certain kids gone to junior high camp. And that’s just to be expected throughout the season.”
Hillsboro hosts the first meet on the first Saturday in June because the pool is heated.
“And then other teams just take terms hosting meets for the weekends,” Stephanie said, adding that the stiffest competition is often within Hillsboro’s own age groups because we have some really significant age groups with a lot of talent.”
This year Hillsboro also hosted the final meet that brought all nine teams together.
While swimming has physical benefits as a low-impact, low-injury sport, the Mosses have sought to create a family rather than team atmosphere with their swimmers.
“Most of the other teams are there solely for competition and don’t really spend time investing in each other, so you’ll see less interaction,” Kalen said.
“But with our team, there’s families sitting all together and kids are playing games together. It’s just more of a community feel.”
Stephanie said at this point she plans to coach again next summer.
“We are the lucky ones all day long, every day to have such amazing people to work with and their families,” she said about coaching the swimmers. “Oh, my goodness, we are the lucky ones.”