By: Peter Yao
At the start of her middle school years, my daughter Cana joined NCAC, one of the best year-round swim teams in the triangle area. She loved it and made great progress thanks to the three extraordinary coaches – coach Eli, coach Justin, and coach Watts. They are all very dedicated, and each has a unique way to motivate kids and win their hearts. My wife and I are truly grateful to all of them, especially Coach Watts.
Coach Watts is a coach with 40 years of experience in teaching swimming. He has won multiple Coach of the Year awards at state and national levels.
He is adamant about ensuring consistency for swimmers. One example is that he demands that swimmers make over 90% attendance rates for the weekly seven trainings (two hours or more each – double practices on Wednesday and a break on Sunday). If swimmers have to miss practices, he requires them to make them up – to the extent that he helps swimmers on vacation to find a local swim team and join their practices. Swimmers get a good lesson about work ethics by observing the attendance rates.
Coach Watts is strict but treats each kid with respect and communicates with them in a way easier for them to accept. Since Cana is relatively slow in this team (she just barely made the cut last summer), she cannot make the intervals sometimes. Once, after praising Cana’s good set, Coach Watts said, “Cana, there seems to be two Canas, one swim as well as this, the other, not so much. I wonder why”. Later he often used Cana No. 1 and Cana No. 2 analogy to push her to show up with their best self at each practice. Another time, Cana made the first 6 intervals but not the 7th. Coach Watts asked her: ”Cana, why didn’t you make this interval?”. Cana hesitated: “because I am tired?”. Coach answered, “I know, but why No. 7?”, an interesting way to show Cana that the limit might be set in her mind. To my amazement, Cana retold all these stories with smiles, without any hurt-feelings. How I wish to have that power, as a teenager’s parent!
He leads by example. At age 70, coach Watts still shows up at every practice whole-heartedly, no matter if it’s indoor or outdoor, rain or shine. At 5:00 Am on a cold rainy morning in January, at the Heritage outdoor pool, I was in awe watching him standing tall with a steady voice amid the rain. A surge of peace and gratitude overcame me. In addition to practices, NCAC goes to various swim meets monthly. At each of those meets coach Watts always stands by the pool, cheering for swimmers with piercing whistles and providing feedback to them after each event. At one of the meets, he was helping with a younger team since their coach was away. I saw him leaning over all the time to talk to those young kids half of his height. I joked with my wife that my back hurt just watching him.
Under Coach Watts, Cana learned perseverance, consistency, and striving for her personal best no matter how far behind she is when compared with others, all invaluable life lessons.
Recently NCAC swimmers and their parents held a surprise birthday party for Coach Watts, among the gifts and cards, the sincere gratitude and love from everyone is a great testament to what a great coach and person Coach watts are.