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Most students sit down and look at Michael Magas as just their Intro to Business or Career Explorations teacher. A few look at him as their advisor and a close friend. But, over sixty students at Long River Middle School look to Coach Magas as their swimming instructor, and as a role model to help them achieve their goals in swimming, as well as prepare them for high school.
Michael Magas has coached multiple sports throughout his life, including baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis for many age groups. He started coaching swimming at Wallace Middle School in the early 2000’s and has continued to coach swimming for both the boys and girls teams at Woodland, as well as recently becoming the Long River Swimming and Diving coach in 2013.
In those 4 seasons, Magas has revolutionized the program, bringing in over sixty students to the program last year. Because he had so many students willing to swim for the team, he took a different approach than most other coaches would have: he took all the kids instead of cutting half the students, and split the team up into two groups.
“What I did last year was I decided to have multiple groups because I’m trying to build the program at Long River, and inevitably build the programs at Woodland,” says Magas. “I want to have as many swimmers as possible, but having sixty kids in the pool at once is just way too hectic. So I decided to break the team up into two groups, I call them the black group and the gold group.”
The two groups are divided by skill level: the black group is more advanced swimmers who are working towards perfecting their stroke, whereas the gold group is more suited for beginning swimmers who may be new to the sport or are still learning the basics of the strokes. Although the groups practice separately due to space restrictions, they both swim together at meets and participate in activities together.
“They are kind of at the beginning phase of their swimming career, they are learning strokes and all of the basics,” says Magas, in reference to the gold group. “My goal is actually to get them to a point where the following year, they either move up to the black team or stay with swimming in high school, depending on their grade level.”
During the season, he typically spends about two hours a day during the season coaching the swimmers — one hour per group at practice, and about 1 and ½ to 2 hours at meets. But, this isn’t the only time Magas spends on the team. He spends most of his time either at work at Woodland or at the pool during the season, and doesn’t really have much time for himself until the summer.
“I was telling my high school girls the other day, there was one meet during the season where it took me ten hours to prepare the line-up for the meet,” says Magas. “It’s a lot of time that people don’t realize I put in not just being at the practice. It is preparing the practices, and actually preparing the meets.”
Magas recently led the Woodland Girls Swimming and Diving team to first place at the NVL finals and plans on leading the Long River team to victory this upcoming season.
Although championships and accolades are great, Magas chooses to focus more on helping his swimmers to achieve their full potential. “My favorite memories are just seeing the kids enjoy themselves, achieving best times for themselves. When they put in the work and do something great, those are lasting memories.”