By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
A team is only as strong as its leadership. Luckily for the Grand Canyon University Club Swimming team, strong leadership is plentiful this year.
Lopes’ Head Coach Jeremy Phung has plenty of reasons to be proud of the club swimming team, which has thrived under his leadership. Not only has his team shown continual growth in attendance, but they have also displayed incredible increases in success year after year. While it would be easy for Phung to take credit for the accomplishments of his team, he was quick to explain how minimal his role has been in his team’s development.
“My purpose as a coach isn’t to dictate this program, but to serve the athletes and make the program something that they are proud of and that they want to be a part of,” said Phung.
In order to do this, Phung relies on the leadership of his designated student leaders, such as second-year athlete Nathaniel Lee.
“It means a lot to me to be named a student leader,” said Lee. “It’s great to know that the coaches and my fellow athletes trust me to help improve the program.”
With over 15 years of competitive swimming experience, including two years with the GCU Club Swimming team, Lee has become an invaluable veteran voice to the other athletes on the team. Perhaps even more important than his experience, though, is his incredible dedication to both the sport of swimming and the team itself. Despite being busy as a full-time computer programming student, Lee’s resolve and dedication to his craft is what Phung says makes him an exceptional team leader.
“Last year, he was one of the very first people to join our program, and he had such high attendance and worked his butt off, which really payed off for him at nationals at the end of the year,” said Phung. “That dedication made it easy to appoint him as a student leader.”
While Lee’s hard work behind the scenes was a driving factor for his selection as a student leader, his performance in the pool certainly hasn’t hurt, either. Ensuring that he gets plenty of chances to compete, Lee currently swims four events for the Lopes (100 back, 100 free, 50 free, 50 back). Additionally, he also holds four separate club records for the 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly, and 400 IM.
“His role is to help facilitate the team, and give feedback between student athletes and coaches,” explained Phung. “He’s like the ‘glue’ that holds everything together and keeps everyone working hard and up to date.”
As a student leader within a still-developing team, Lee finds himself in a very unique position, which Phung says helps reveal his true character.
“He’s really been a great foundation for this program, and he knows that he is laying the foundation for the years to come,” said Phung. “It’s incredible to be that unselfish and understand that he won’t have an aquatics center or that much of a spotlight, but he still wants to help build that up for athletes in the future.”
With both the coaching staff and student leadership sharing the same vision, the sky is the limit for the GCU club swimming team. In fact, Lee said it best when describing his own hopes for the future of the program.
“It would be really nice to come back and see that the program has grown a lot in the years that I left,” explained Lee. “If this team grows the way that the university grows, it will be unrecognizably big after a few years.”
Want to be a part of the club swimming team? Contact the coach to learn more!