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“It’s about the kids”

Photo by Rudy Marquez

Photo by Rudy Marquez

PLYMOUTH – Coaches come and go. Those who have the staying power in the profession for a long career, generally speaking, are in it for the right reasons.

A 33-year career could come to an end on Saturday if no Plymouth boy swimmer can advance to the state championship as Plymouth swim coach Leanne Senter will say goodbye to coaching a sport that she has been involved with her entire life.
“(I’ll remember) the kids,” said Senter. “You know I’m a firm believer, number one that it means more to me that my kids are good people and have integrity than being the best swimmer in the pool.”
“We never cut anybody because I’m a firm believer that some kids just need someplace to belong,” she said. “Where somebody is encouraging them and cheering them on and they have an immediate circle of friends. If I can provide that then that’s all that matters.”
“I’ve worked with great parents all through the years. It’s been an amazing ride.”
Along with a love of the kids, a love of the sport added to the impetus to remain in coaching.
“I love the sport. I love swimming,” she said. “In retirement, I’m hoping to get back into the routine of swimming. I love teaching swimming. When I was hired at Knox it was part of my job.”
Senter started her coaching career in a less-than perfect situation.
“I grew up in age-group swimming,” she said. “It wasn’t a high school sport. I started at 9 which now would be considered a little late to start.”
“I went all the way through high school and my junior and senior year I helped coach the little kids,” said Senter. “The summer after my senior year my coach wanted to take the summer off. At 19 I was the head coach of our club. I was telling people a year younger than me what to do and some of them were okay with that some of them were, ‘Yeah, sure’.”
“I got the aquatics director job at Knox when in 1985 and the swim coaching went with that,” said Senter. “I got the high school team and it was a little different thing then. The girls swam with the boys but they couldn’t go on to the championship season. So the next year I wanted to separate the teams because that wasn’t fair to the girls. I also got to coach diving, and I never did that before, but I grew up as a dancer and could tumble and all those things so I used that experience and watched videos on diving and studied.”
“It blows my mind that I was 25 years old and doing all this,” she said. “The second year I was there I started the age group program and I was the only coach of that, so I’d put the youngest kids in the closest lane and tell everybody what they were going to do and then I just walked up and down the pool with them.”
Senter also has been a big part of Plymouth’s age-group team the Sharks.
“When I had children and I’m sitting in the stands with the parents I thought ‘you know I could help those little kids’ and I offered to but the coach didn’t know me from Adam,” she said. “Anybody could come up and say, ‘I know something about swimming’ or ‘I used to coach swimming’. When Andy Metsker came on board I got into it.”
“I was fortunate that my kids swam from a very early age and then continued to swim and that’s how I’ve been able to stay at it without noticing the years,” said Senter. “I enjoy teaching. I’m 60 years old and one of my favorite things to do is still is to teach swimming lessons.”
Now that her career coaching is over Senter hopes to stay involved but in a totally different way.
“Over half my life I’ve coached swimming,” she said. “I was okay being an assistant. At this point, I could be again. But I’ve always been very good at being bossy. My parents will tell you is was like that as a child. There was a window in my life where I wanted to be in charge. For the most part, I’ve moved past that.”
“I don’t have a desire to be an assistant,” she said. “If I stay involved with competitive swimming I would get involved with it from a meet management situation. I think I’d just like to run the computer and things like that.”
Monday night Plymouth high school said goodbye to their long time swimming coach with a special ceremony that included the naming of the pool at the Susan Bardwell Aquatic Center as the Leanne Senter Pool.
“I have to thank Michael (Delp), I couldn’t have imagined a better retirement ceremony than that night,” she said. “It was emotional. I didn’t sob like I thought I would but little moments around the last month hit me and I’ve been crying for a month. I’m 60 and you know it is a good day when your parents can come to your retirement party. They’ve been there for everything that I’ve ever done. I think they were surprised at how long I’ve been doing this.”
“It’s fitting that we swam Knox in our final meet because I taught their coach to swim,” said Senter. “He and I go way back.”
“It was a great night.”

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