Greg Walker is in his first season as head coach of the Big Spring swim team.
A 2013 Big Spring grad, former Bulldog swimmer, and coach with the Big Spring Aquatic Club, Walker took the program’s reins following the retirement of longtime head coach Les Stover after the 2017-18 season.
Walker took some time last week to talk about Stover’s impact, the state of the Bulldog program and what he hopes to impart to his swimmers as he establishes his own coaching identity.
Answers have been edited for length.
Q: You’re in your first year as a varsity head coach. How has the reality compared to the expectations?
A: It’s been about what I expected it to be. Coach Stover — I’m always going to refer to him as Coach Stover — prepared me so well last year. He knew last year was going to be his last season (after 36 years), and so he made sure I knew exactly what I was doing so there would be no drop-off. He cares about the program so much and wanted to make sure I carried that on.
Q: Les tried to retire a year before he did, but stayed on another season after the district couldn’t find another candidate. Were you feeling any pressure in taking on this job?
A: Oh, yeah. He deserved that, to be able to walk away and enjoy his retirement with his wife. I think there was some pressure then, and there still is a little pressure now, but the kids have made it easy for me. They knew me and that made it a smoother transition. I’m not saying I can be Les, nobody can say that, but I’d like to live up to that example that he set.
Q: Do you think it helped that you came from within the program?
A: Absolutely. That’s been a huge help in the transition. A lot of these kids came up through the club. Some of the seniors, even if they were little at the time, were there when I graduated. The transition has been easy because of the kids. They’ve responded well, and the results this season have show that. That’s not easy, to go from an older, wiser coach who has been around 30 years to a young coach in his first year. They have accepted it and embraced it.
Q: What’s one Les Stover lesson you’ve carried with you?
A: There’s so many lessons. He talked so much when I was there about making the team feel like a family. When I went to college it wasn’t the same way. When you feel like your teammates are your family, it’s so much easier to answer that call and not only swim for yourself, but for our teammate.
Q: What new ideas or concepts have you brought, whether from your college experience or elsewhere?
A: I’ve brought a lot of (training) sets that I either created or that I used in college. I’m also pushing an aggressive mentality when it comes to swimming. When it comes time for you to be on the block, you need to attack it. A race like the 500, if you let that swim take you, you’re not going to swim well.
Q: What are you looking for from your team when the postseason gets underway next month?
A: We’ve talked about this season as a bank. Every workout, every day, every dry land session, is like a deposit. As you’re going, you’re building interest. The investment pays off in the postseason, when times drop, you win medals, you get that Top 10 all-time spot, things like that. With this boys team, I think we can grab a couple of (district) medals. On the girls side, we are looking at big time drops, and we’re trying to get on podium as well. We’re trying to get as many kids there as possible.
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