Men’s Swimming and Diving: Coach strives to train swimmers’ bodies, spirits
Megan Golden | Monday, January 30, 2012
During his 27 years as head coach of the men’s swimming and diving team, Tim Welsh has worked to educate the mind, body and spirit of all the men he coaches at Notre Dame.
“Our philosophy is this: ‘The purpose of Notre Dame swimming and diving is to pursue and achieve athletic excellence with self-discipline and love for one another,'” Welsh said.
A graduate of Providence College’s class of 1966, Welsh went on to receive his master’s degree in English at the University of Virginia. Welsh was an English professor at then-Winthrop College and later assistant swimming coach at Syracuse.
He said University President Fr. John Jenkins’ presidential address in 2005, which said the University’s role was to seek God, studythe world and serve humanity, convinced him he was finally at the right school.
“I came away from that, saying, ‘Sign me up, Father, that’s the vision I want,'” Welsh said.
Former president of the American Swimming Coaches Association, Welsh has had the chance to direct the program and teach coaches about social issues involved in athletics. He remains an active member of the Association, which is focusing specifically this year on how to coach boys.
“Boys and girls are not the same, and boys are a mess,” Welsh said. “Every educational area you want to look at, people will tell you that. Boys need to be boys. They like to compete, they like to race, they learn at a different speed than women. They don’t like to talk a lot about it, [but] they care about how they’re doing, and they even care about what kinds of suits they wear.”
Welsh said that his spiritual life definitely plays a role in educating young men on his Irish squad.
“[One thing] I’d like guys to see on our team is the spirit of Notre Dame. It’s bigger than all of us, it’s better than all of us, it moves all of us, it motivates all of us, and for me, Notre Dame wants you to be a better person,” he said. “The way you become a better person is to work very hard at what you’re doing — as hard as you can. I think what you learn almost by osmosis is it’s not about you, it’s never about you.”
Welsh has a copy of the Prayer of Saint Francis on his desk at all times. The goal of living a life like Saint Francis, he said, is difficult to achieve as a coach.
“When you go to church and you listen to people, you’re advised to care about people, to help people, to forgive people, to share, to do things together, and to trust,” he said. “Ain’t no football game like that. When you come to practice, I don’t care what the sport is, the players want direction —that’s why they came. They don’t want a hug; they want direction.”
With a passion for educating youth, Welsh said there is a major difference between teaching in the classroom and coaching a sport.
“I taught English for eight years, and I know if a person comes to class, does their assignments, hands in papers, does good work, [and] that’s about all I’m entitled to know. Whether they eat, whether they sleep, whether they’re on drugs or they like their parents, or they just got in a fight — [it’s] none of my business,” he said. “Here, it’s part of the game. Our sport is so pure, and it’s all about being your best. You have to be your best at a given moment on a given day. Everything matters.”
At the end of the day, Welsh said, there is a direct correlation between athletics and life.
“To some extent, what makes athletics important is because life is like that,” he said. “At the end of it, how fast you go or don’t go doesn’t matter, but how well you prepare to do what you say you’re going to do at a given time on a given day, that does matter. The discipline with which you pursue your goals, that does matter.”
Welsh and his Irish squad will compete next in the Big East Championship meet Feb. 10 in Pittsburgh.
Contact Megan Golden at firstname.lastname@example.org