For the past eight years, Andalusia Stingrays 11-and-older coach Gavin Donaldson has been building confidence and self-esteem in his swimmers.
Starting as a board member, Donaldson became a coach the second year his daughter swam on the team.
“One of the assistant coaches for the 9-through-14-year-olds was not going to be able to continue doing it, so I stepped in at that point in time,” he said. “After two years as an assistant coach, I became the head coach.”
He said it is enjoyable seeing the swimmers growing into young men and women.
“I enjoy working with the kids and seeing young people try to build confidence and self-esteem,” Donaldson said.
On Thursday, the Stingrays competed in a swim meet and came out with a victory over Eufaula and Troy.
“A lot of them cut some drastic times off of their previous meet times (at the meet Thursday),” he said. “Out of the 35 swimmers, I would say probably 90 percent of the team is swimming faster times right now than what they swam at district last July (which the team won).”
Donaldson would not say whether the team has a good chance of winning district again this year because it’s too early to tell.
“I’m not going to go out on that limb,” he said. “You never know what Dothan is going to have on their plate.”
Donaldson said he tries to instill a hard work ethic in each of his swimmers, each summer.
“I get each one of them to set goals in their minds as far as what they want to accomplish,” he said. “They don’t tell me what their goals are, but I remind them at practice that through hard work, that they can carry that over into their school and other things they will do in life.”
Donaldson added he has enjoyed coaching on the Stingrays team since he started.
“I enjoyed it from the time I got out there and started to get involved with the team,” Donaldson said. “Competitive swimming is a unique sport because you have two forces that are against you — gravity and the resistance of water.
“Through years of swimming and their technique getting better and them getting stronger, you can see the improvement over a time period even in a year’s time.”
Donaldson has a wife, Mary Susan; daughter, Taylor; and son, B.J., all of Andalusia.
The Stingrays’ next swim meet will be Mon., June 29, at 6 p.m. at Cooper Pool. They will compete against Troy and Eufaula.
Donaldson said he is pleased with the way his swimmers are looking right now.
“I’m extremely proud of what my group of kids have done up to this point,” he said. “They have really worked hard. Their times are reflective of their hard work. They see it and they’re reaping the benefits of what hard work they’ve done at this point.”