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Mary Bolich, head of men's and women's swimming, wants her swimmers to be mentally strong in the pool and in the classroom.
 
Posted 02.01.06

Swim Coach Makes a Splash with Division III Athletes

Q: Mary, where did you grow up and when did you develop an interest in swimming?

A: I grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a town just outside of Philadelphia. The neighborhood I grew up in had a summer club pool just down the street from my home. My siblings and I lived at the pool each summer. I would say this is where my early interest in swimming started.

Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in? What events did you swim in college?

A: I attended Temple University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Much to the dismay of my distance swimmers I was a sprinter in college. My events were sprint fly, back and freestyle.

Q: Why did you decide to become a swimming coach?

A: I started coaching in college with summer league programs to make some extra money, and really enjoyed it. When I graduated undergrad my college coach asked if I would be interested in being his assistant coach and offered me a graduate assistant position. I earned my masterís and continued to enjoy the experience, so I accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh.

Q: What year did you come to Wesleyan to coach, and what are the teamsí records?

A: I came to Wesleyan in July of 2000. The menís team record this year is 12 Ė4, and the womenís team record is 12 Ė 6.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, where did you coach?

A:, I spent four years at the University of Iowa as the head coach of the womenís program. Before Iowa I was at Penn State for seven years as the womenís assistant coach, and also taught in the Exercise Science program. I also coached at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Pittsburgh.

Q: Why did you leave a Division I school to come to Wesleyan, a Division III?

A: I had a strong interest in living on the east coast. I also was curious about Division III athletics. When the Wesleyan position opened I saw it as a great opportunity at a school that offered outstanding academics with an excellent swimming facility. A great combination for success.

Q: In 2005, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America reported that the Wesleyan team members had an impressive 3.27GPA in the Academic All-American Standings Division III. How important is it to you that your student-athletes are physically, as well as mentally strong?

A: Academics are the number one priority for the Wesleyan swimmers and divers. We discuss the importance of time management, and our individual and team goals to achieve excellence in the classroom, as well as the pool. As a program, we are very proud of the recognition both teams and several individuals have received as a result of their success in the classroom. The menís and womenís team have received national honors each of the last 10 semesters for their team GPAs. Many of the semesters the teams were ranked academically at the top of the NESCAC Conference and top 10 in the country for their overall team GPAs. We have had many individuals recognized with conference honors, and several individuals have earned Academic All American accolades during the last five years.

Q: Who are the teamís key athletes this season? What team or individual records been broken?

A: I would say our seniors play a key role in their leadership and guidance for both teams. Rob Mitchell, Dan Devine and Stephanie Lasby as captains, and Josh Tanz, Will McCue and Alec Zebrowski also add to the positive direction for our large underclassmen group. During my six seasons at Wesleyan the menís team has set 12 new team records, and the womenís team has also set 12 new team records.

Q:: Who else do you collaborate coaching with?

A: The other members of the swimming and diving coaching staff are Mollie Parrish and Jeff Miller. Mollie is in her fourth year as the assistant coach for the menís and womenís swimming teams. She came from Denison University where she majored in biology, and had a highly successful collegiate swimming career. She earned 20 All-America honors, won seven national titles and set three NCAA Division III records and was a member of the 2001 NCAA Championship Title team. Jeff was a national level diver at the University of Pittsburgh, and coached at University of West Virginia and the University of Maryland. Jeff also serves as the associate director of facility management for the universityís physical plant.

Q: The annual New England Small College Athletic Conference begins this month. How are you helping the teams prepare?

A: The Womenís NESCAC Championships are Feb. 17 Ė 19 at Bowdoin, and the Menís NESCAC Championships are Feb. 24 Ė26 at Williams. The teams are preparing to swim their fastest performances of the season at these meets, as well as at the NCAA Championships in March. Our training focus at this point is speed, recovery and attention to race detail.

Q: Why did the Swimming and Diving Team go to Puerto Rico this year?

A: The menís and womenís swimming and diving teams traveled to San Juan for our winter training trip in early January. This is the time in our season where we train at a very high level. We are swimming double workouts plus dry land training that consumes a good part of our day during this training phase. Being able to do this intense training in a warm and pleasant environment enhances the experience for the athletes.

Q:I understand you have coached athletes at the Olympic trials in 1992, 1996, and 2000. What is it like for you to work with the worlds top athletes?

A: It is fun and exciting being a part of training and competing at the national and international level. It is a great opportunity to meet many people and travel to places I may have never gone to with out this experience.

Q: What physical education classes do you teach as an adjunct professor of physical education?

A: I teach Beginning Swimming, which is my favorite, and Advanced Beginning Swimming and Swimming for Fitness.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I like to run, and also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor