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Swimming: CAC picks new leader

SCV club hires head coach after 2-month search

Posted: December 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Choosing a head coach was not something Canyons Aquatics Club took lightly.

But after a detailed two-month search, the club’s board of directors finally found someone as serious as they were was about its continued success.

CAC chose Coley Stickels as its new head coach to replace Jeff Conwell, who resigned on Oct. 17 after more than six years at the helm and 13 total years with the program.

There were many aspects of the job that attracted Stickels, 34, to apply. The biggest one for the former head coach of Phoenix Swim Club was the size.

“Obviously they’re a big team even when compared to most teams in the U.S.,” Stickels said of CAC, which has more than 600 swimmers. “So there’s a large talent pool to draw from and that’s always a large plus for coaches.”

Stickels’ hiring was made official on Dec. 14, making him the third head coach in CAC history following Conwell and Bruce Patmos, who coached the club for 16 years.

Conwell left the program to take over as CEO of Piranha Aquatics in Palm Springs.

“For a club that’s only had two head coaches in its entirety, we definitely researched it and did our homework and just wanted to make sure he’s the right fit,” said Mark Osowski, president of the CAC board of directors.

The new coach will step in for Mike Bechtholdt, who has been serving as Canyons’ interim head coach since Conwell left.

Bechtholdt will remain an assistant with the club.

Stickels was one of more than 30 applicants coming from throughout the United States and from overseas, Osowski said.

Of all the candidates, Stickels stood out because of his glowing resume and unique coaching style, the club said in a press release.

“I put a lot of emphasis on body positioning, technique and how the body travels through the water most efficiently,” he said.

He added that his training focuses more on explosive, high-intensity workouts rather than placing the emphasis on long-distance, aerobic exercises.

For the last year and a half, Stickels has coached at Phoenix Swim Club. Before that, he was both an age group coach and head coach at Lake Oswego Swim Club in Oregon starting in 2003.

During his time at both clubs, he trained athletes who set state records, attained national rankings and sent a combined 12 swimmers to U.S. Olympic Trials.

“What he is bringing is enthusiasm,” Osowski said. “A different kind of training regimen. He’s had tremendous success.”

At CAC, Stickels will have a chance to build on his reputation as he comes in to a large group of talented swimmers, seven of which went to the Olympic Trials this past June.

That was a club record number of participants for Canyons.

“My expectations are to build on certainly the number of people we have to qualify for the Olympic Trials,” Stickels said.

Beyond that, he added that he takes pride in sending athletes to reputable college swimming programs.

Stickels graduated from the University of Arizona, where he was a 14-time NCAA All-American and made the USA National swim team.

During his time on the National team from 1999-2000, he was teammates with Anthony Ervin, a Hart High graduate who won an Olympic gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle in 2000.

Ervin swam at CAC before that.

Now, it’s Stickels who will make his connection with the Santa Clarita Valley swim community when he arrives in town and officially takes his post on Friday.

The new era of Canyons Aquatics can begin.


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