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Chris Coghill: Head coach of Bellingham Bay Swim Team

CDN's weekly community profile

Bellingham Bay Swim Team head coach Chris Coghill stands in front of a team banner Friday, May 3 at Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

Chris Coghill

Age: 32

City: Bellingham

Lived here for: 4 years

Originally from: Jefferson, Maryland (most recently Austin, Texas)

Notable: Swim coach, board member at Pacific Northwest Swimming, former collegiate swimmer at Saint Mary's College of Maryland.

What attracted you to coaching? Was it something you always wanted to do?

My first coaching job was while I was still in high school, coaching for my summer league swim team, which I grew up swimming for.

I had a ‘real job’ right out of [college], and then there was a team that was opening a location at the University of Maryland … over the next year and a half, I just kind of found that was what I was spending all day looking forward to. That was really what was filling my bucket for me, and I kind of took a leap from there to see if I could make that a career, and it’s been successful.

How much has the club grown since you arrived?

When I showed up, I think we had 60-something swimmers on the roster … today we’re just over 180, which has been tremendous growth. It’s taken a lot of teamwork to get there.

How would you describe your coaching philosophy?

I’ve summarized it as doing things correctly, consistently … consistency is probably my No. 1 word that I try to carry day in and day out — both in my expectations for my swimmers, for the coaches, for the team and for myself. Because that’s how we are. That’s how you build trust and then that’s also how you build skill, is through consistent repetition of the right thing.

When you took over Bellingham Bay Swim Team, what was your vision for the program? How has that vision been fulfilled and/or altered?

I had some specific goals that I wanted to accomplish before I got up here that were performance-based, organizational, professionalism goals that I wanted to accomplish, and I ended up getting all of those goals in the first year.

We’ve added a full-time coaching position, we’ve been able to offer benefits to our coaches now, which were all goals of mine when I came here.

I ran a member engagement survey in the first year or so of being here … to get a gauge of what the community was looking for. That was not to shift my priorities — because I still have my priorities, my goals, my interests, my ambition — but be able to blend those two together to really try to define what Bellingham Bay Swim Team is all about.

How did you navigate repairing the relationship between BBST and the high school swim programs?

My compass north has been … to be in the best interest of each individual swimmer.

It’s clear to me some of the benefits of participation in high school athletics of any variety, and also high school swimming in particular.

Once you get to know [the swimmer], then it’s about having that conversation with everyone who might be a part of that who is willing to participate in that conversation — be it the swimmer, most importantly, their parents, other coaches and trying to get more people involved in that mission of serving the best interest of the individual.

By demonstrating what my priorities were by speaking about it, and then walking the walk, then we’re able to earn that trust and then it can become a two-way street, a two-way relationship.

What do you do in your free time?

I try to find as much time as I can to get out on a trail in some capacity.

I enjoy the outdoors. That’s part of the draw up to this part of the country. It’s the ability to go up a very steep hill in a very short amount of time right out the back door … currently, it’s taken the form of running, but I’ve also done some mountain biking and backpacking.

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