The Peachwood Pirates swim team, which operates out of the Peachwood Recreation Club in Logan and competes in the Suburban Swim Association of South Jersey, has been a mainstay in the community for years, providing a competitive outlet for swimmers young and old. However, there recently has been a revamping of the coaching staff, one which looks to have both immediate and far-reaching effects on the program.
This spring, the Peachwood board of directors hired Caitlin Hess to take over the head coaching duties. A former high school swimming star at Our Lady Of Mercy Academy in Newfield as well as a collegiate soccer player at Ramapo College, she just completed her first season as the Kingsway High School head swim coach in the winter.
She immediately filled her staff with youthful knowledge and enthusiasm. She brought on as her assistants, Jordan Hess, a student at Rowan University and former coach at Elmer Swim Club, and Carly Misiewicz, who swam competitively at Rider University and teaches math at Princeton High School.
So what attracted Coach Hess to Peachwood?
“As the Kingsway swim coach, I wanted to have more of a presence in the local swimming community,” said Hess. “This is another experience that can help me grow as a coach, as well as help the local swimming community grow together towards success. When the board approached me about this opportunity, I was humbled and excited.”
In assessing the immediate returns on this change, the marks are positive. At the time of this article was written, the Pirates were sporting a 4-2 record, much improved from records of the recent past. The point differential in their two losses weren’t nearly as dramatic as in past years, which bodes well for future meetings.
Also, the depth that the program is displaying, particularly with the 9-10 girls and the 15-18 boys, is something that wasn’t apparent in the past. They have 14 kids qualified in 22 events for championships, which is another recent mark of improvement.
When taking over the program, Hess immediately focused on a few key aspects. She wanted to see individual improvement in time AND in the quality of their strokes- both which would translate into better team performances.
Using positive reinforcement, she instituted a ribbon reward system when the athletes beat a personal best time, which has been widely successful. She wanted the kids to also be team focused, often swimming events that would benefit the team as opposed to swimming events that they individually prefer.
She hopes that this focus will eventually help the Pirates take down Suburban League powerhouses Haddon and Collingswood, earning the divisional title. Hess is committed to building a program that has longevity and success; she plans on being here for the long term.
“I want our kids to be better prepared for contributing at the high school level,” said Hess. “If we can get down stroke technique now, we then can focus in on endurance, yardage, and versatility later on down the road.”
Expectations are high around the local pool, and the Pirates look ready to accumulate lots of gold.