The Goshen, Ind., native brings nearly 20 years of coaching experience to the position, starting with club swimming in 1995, and most recently, serving as a high school swim coach the past three years. In addition, he has taught high school English the past 12 years.
Duell, who began swimming in the late 1970s, earned his undergraduate degree in English Literature from Wheaton College.
After a brief stint working in the entertainment business in California, he returned to Indiana, where he earned his teaching license from Goshen College. He later earned his master?s degree in education from Indiana Wesleyan.
Transition to Hillsboro
Duell began the application process for the Tabor head swim coach position last fall, interviewing in October before being offered the job in November. He finished his semester of teaching in Goshen, then moved his wife and three youngest children to Hillsboro in late December.
Duell and wife Cara have four children: daughters MacKenzie and Ainsley, and sons Duncan and Angus.
He said it?s been interesting to compare and contrast Goshen and Hillsboro, both of which have Mennonite ties.
?We?re not a Mennonite family, but growing up in (Goshen), that?s made that a little bit easier to be up here,? Duell said. ?Probably my favorite thing about being in Mennonite communities is that it?s so much about service and just taking care of people around you and not being self-serving as much.?
Starting a swim team
Once the logistics for the swim program came together, such as securing a practice facility?the team will practice outdoors in Hillsboro through September before transitioning to Marion?the process boiled down to recruiting.
?Really, I think some of the difficult parts for me have been assuaged by the commitment Rusty (Allen) and the school have made to getting this thing done,? Duell said. ?Logistical things were really in place, like having the facility. The fact that Marion has a pool we can use is pretty significant.?
When it comes to recruiting, Duell said he asks potential recruits three questions pertaining to their passion for swimming, their coachable nature and their integrity.
?If I had a team that?s full of kids that can answer yes to those questions, what can?t we do?? he said. ?I can guarantee a positive experience, and I can guarantee we?re going to be successful and we?re going to improve.
?As a Tabor program, we stand for something a little bit more than just what we do in the pool, so it?s important to me that I have athletes that understand that.?
Duell currently has 18 swimmers on the roster, he said, including four current Tabor students who were already on campus. He said he would like to eventually build the program to 50 athletes, 25 for both the men?s and women?s squads.
Duell said it?s important the athletes he recruits have their priorities in the right place.
?I?m very excited about the swimmers that we have coming in and their love for what we?re doing and their understanding of where swimming fits into their lives,? he said. ?No one?s coming to Tabor to prepare for their career as a professional swimmer. They?re coming to get a good, quality education and do something they love as well.?
The addition of a swim team puts Tabor in a class all its own. No other college in Kansas has both a men?s and women?s swimming program, Duell said, adding that the only other school in the state with a swim program is the University of Kansas, which has a women?s-only team.
?That has been a huge selling point early on,? he said. ?A lot of really quality swimmers have come out of Kansas and said they didn?t want to go far away just to swim.?
Part of his responsibilities, then, have included traveling the state to various swim meets and letting people know what Tabor has to offer.
With the decline of swim programs in the NCAA Division I and the Big 12?Duell said there may be as few as three men?s programs left in the conference?some NAIA programs are picking up the slack.
St. Gregory?s (Shawnee, Okla.) and Nebraska Wesleyan (Lincoln) are two NAIA schools adding new swimming programs, he said.
The Tabor swim team will compete against a variety of schools, including some NCAA Division I and II and some NAIA, he said.
Having the opportunity to become part of something new is a draw for many athletes.
?I?ve found a lot of people pretty excited about being at the beginning of something like this,? Duell said. ?I?ve had a lot of kids say, ?I want to be a part of that group that people say, ?They?re the ones that got it started. They?re the ones that got this thing off on the right foot.???
The team will start practice after Labor Day. A winter sport, the swimming season spans 24 weeks. Tabor?s first meet will be held the first week of October, and the season will run until the national championship the first weekend in March.
Duell said he would like to see Tabor represented at the national meet this year and is looking forward to the upcoming season.
?I?m just looking forward to getting back on the deck and coaching and getting a raspy voice from talking too much,? he said. ?I?m really excited about the recruits we have.
?They?re just great kids, and I?m really looking forward to having them on campus, because not only are we going to have a fun team, they?re going to make the campus better.?