By David Krueger Herald Writer
Mike McCloskey enjoyed coaching the Archbishop Murphy boys swimming team so much he decided to double his fun this season.
McCloskey is pulling double duty, serving as the head coach of both the Archbishop Murphy and Bishop Blanchet swim teams.
“Well, it keeps me employed,” McCloskey said. “It’s challenging. But Blanchet’s a coed team. It’s a little different than Murphy. At Blanchet there’s 72 kids in the water. It’s just chaos.”
By contrast, Archbishop Murphy has just 14 athletes.
McCloskey is in his sixth season at Archbishop Murphy, a school where he started the boys program in his first year.
At Blanchet, there was an established program for McCloskey to join. McCloskey, who also started a swimming program at Seattle Prep in 1987, noted that his wife swam at Blanchet in the 1970s. His daughters, Meaghan and Molly, also swam at the Seattle high school.
Blanchet asked McCloskey if he would coach the Braves and he was able to work out a system — and schedule — that allowed him to lead both programs.
“A lot of it is just getting organized,” McCloskey said. “At Murphy I had to establish a protocol and the kids didn’t know any better. Blanchet had an established program. … I’m walking into a program that’s fairly solid. The biggest thing was learning all their names.”
McCloskey is able to coach both by being incredibly organized and arranging a schedule that works for both schools. He coaches Murphy practices in the mornings from 6-7 a.m. and Blanchet after school in Seattle from 3-4 p.m.
McCloskey said it can be exhausting coaching two teams, but the kids have a lot of fun, which helps fuel McCloskey.
“There are moments when you’re tired but the kids I work with give you energy,” McCloskey said. “I feed off them.”
Archbishop Murphy swimmer Stephen Boden said he didn’t know McCloskey would be working at two pools this season, but that his coach is incredibly organized and is doing a fine job of coaching the Wildcats.
“I was a little surprised. It seems like a lot to handle, to me at least,” Boden said. “He seems like he’s handling it exceptionally well. He’s doing a great job with both teams.”
Boden said he’s glad to have McCloskey guiding the Archbishop Murphy program, and said the coach’s knowledge of swimming is invaluable.
“I think the main thing he brings is experience,” Boden said. “He’s been in the sport for a long time. He definitely brings a lot of experience to other minds like us.”
As an independent program, Archbishop Murphy doesn’t have many meets after school. The Wildcats have had about six meets, including an 84-83 thriller over Lynden on Dec. 10, while the Braves average one meet a week on Fridays.
However, when Archbishop Murphy has an after-school meet, the Braves are not McCloskey-less. McCloskey’s daughter Meaghan, who swam at Blanchet and the University of Idaho for four years, is an assistant coach for the Braves and take over during her father’s rare absence.
“We haven’t had too many of those,” Meaghan said. “It’s definitely difficult trying to corral all the kids when he’s not there. I’m closer to the kids in age and have a little more fun and am a little more relaxed.”
Meaghan said she is learning a lot coaching with her father. She has worked with him over the years, and enjoys watching him interact with his young swimmers.
“He knows what he’s doing and he makes you feel welcome,” Meaghan said. “He’ll listen to you if you have an injury, he’ll work with you on your technique. He doesn’t yell at you. There’s coaches out there who will get angry with you or brush you off or only pay attention to you if you’re one of the best swimmers. He’ll treat you the same whether you’ve never swam a lap in your life.”
The biggest scheduling conflict for McCloskey will come during the district tournaments on Feb. 14-15. The two teams are in different leagues and will compete at roughly the same time in two different locations.
McCloskey envisions coaching the Wildcats during districts and then hoping both teams make it to state the following week. The 2A Wildcats and 3A Braves would both compete at the King County Aquatic. The 2A finals are scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 22 and the 3A finals are set to take place in the evening.
“Districts are tough because they’re the only meets I have at the same time,” McCloskey said. “State’s the same pool, different time of day. I’ll just stay down there after the meet and keep on coaching. At least that’s the hope.”
Last season, McCloskey led the Wildcats to a 2A state title. McCloskey has said that this will be his final season at Archbishop Murphy and with a large part of last year’s team returning — including juniors Boden and Austin Barnard — his swimmers want to send him out on top.
“I love swimming for him. He’s been one of my favorite coaches of all-time,” Boden said. “It’s going to be really sad to see him go. … (We want to win a state title) so bad. We’d love to. That’d be the best way to thank him for everything he’s done for our team.”