Get To Know McDaniel College's Jeff Hiestand

by Josh Huger (MrUtopia)

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Created January 13th, 2011 12:28:55 PM

Modified January 13th, 2011 12:28:55 PM

This interview is with McDaniel College’s Jeff Hiestand. Coach Hiestand, who is currently in his first season as the head coach of the Green Terror swimming program, has had a very successful coaching career thus far.

During his career Coach Hiestand has coached five individual conference champions in eight events, has helped his swimmers to no fewer than 30 program records, and guided Melanie Pulley to the 2002 NCAA Championships.

In addition to coaching the McDaniel swimming program, Coach Hiestand serves as the head coach of the Green Terror Aquatic Club. During his time there the program has produced Olympic Trial qualifiers, six national age-group records and many USA Senior and Junior National qualifiers. The Club was recently named a Silver Medal club.

In this SwimUtopia interview Coach Hiestand tells us about what motivates him as a coach and what he does to motivate his swimmers.

Let’s get started!

What team do you currently coach for?
McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. 

How many years have you been with the team?
This is my first year as head coach, although I spent nine years as the assistant.

What made you choose to take the coaching position?
I decided to take a break from club coaching at roughly the same time the former head coach wanted to stop coaching altogether.  When the position opened, I jumped at the opportunity.

What do you expect from McDaniel the rest of this season?
I set three challenges for the teams this year.  First, we would like to hold the highest gpa of all the teams on campus.  Second, fifteen new school records.  And third, forty new top-10 swims.  So far, we are on track. 
From a recruiting standpoint, we are looking to bring in another great class of student-athletes.  Every year I would like to bring in a class that will challenge the previous year’s freshman class.  We’re looking for the swimmers who hate to lose.   


What other teams or schools did you coach at before coming to McDaniel College?
I coached at Greater Baltimore Swim Association with Matt Cetlinski from 1993-1998.  After that, I went to work with Kirk Sanocki at the Green Terror Aquatic Club.   I spent 4 years as age group coach, and when Kirk moved on I became the head coach. 

What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been in coaching?
I am proud of a few accomplishments.  With the GTAC we had one Olympic Trials qualifier in 2004, three in 2008, and placed two swimmers on National Jr. Teams.  In 2005 we had three different swimmers ranked #1 in the country in their age-groups/events.  And what I thought was the coolest was being named a silver medal club (USA-Swimming) from 2002-2008.  This was all with the club hovering around a total of 70 swimmers, and working out of a five-lane pool. 
It was a lot of fun working with the kids to create an environment where hard work was not just admired, it was expected. 
This is the exact type of environment we are working to create at McDaniel, where excellence is inevitable. 

Is there any particular moment that stands out in your mind from coaching?

I’ll give you three:

Funny Story as a swimmer (I know, not from coaching)
When I was in college we used to travel to Florida for our annual training trip.  I used to love training trips because the only three things you needed to be concerned with were pummeling your body, eating, and sleeping… although on the rare occasion a broken nose was on the docket.  One year, in between workouts, my good ole’ assistant coach Dave Amato came up with the idea of swimming down to the jetty, and running back.  The jetty was probably a half-mile away, but for posterity sake we’ll call it an even six.  Not wanting to back down from a challenge I agreed to a few rounds.  Coach Dave donned his neck to ankle wetsuit (and probably fins and paddles), and I had on my 1980’s speed suit (please read: Speedo brief).  My heart rate was already jacked up because I am not too fond of swimming in the ocean with goggles on; I am not quite sold on the need to clearly see what is going to swallow me just before it does.  So we are about thirty yards or so off shore, and about 200 yards into our first swim and Coach Dave, with his ‘flotation’ suit is about ten feet in front of me when I think I see something pass underneath.  It was at least the length of me, but a bit wider.  For whatever reason the water was quite murky, and I surely didn’t want to have anyone think I was too scared to swim in the ocean, so I within a second or two I shook it off as nothing more than my mind playing tricks on me.  The next stroke I took landed right on Coach Dave, who by this time stopped swimming.  He asked ‘Did you see that?’  I don’t think I answered until I reached the beach.  To this day I believe it was a twenty-five foot shark that passed underneath… or at least that is what I tell everyone. 

One of the lessons I will never forget
When I first started as head coach of the GTAC my plan was to move on within a  
year or two; I thought a bigger club would hold bigger possibilities.  We traveled to Austin for a meet in March, and Paul Bergen and his Tualatin Hills team were there as well.  Prior to moving to KING Hutchison worked with Paul, and since I knew Sean I thought I would introduce myself.  After a brief introduction, Coach Bergen asks me ‘what type of facility do you run out of?’  So I said ‘Well don’t laugh, but five lanes and 25 yards’.  He replied with ‘I won’t laugh.  When I was at Nashville, we had three lanes and 20 yards… and eight American records came out of that pool’. 
I think far too often people get too caught up in what they don’t have, rather than making the best of what they do.  Too many great coaches and swimmers have created phenomenal performances out of what is considered by today’s standards ‘less than’.  Coach Shoulberg and his staff out of Germantown, Murray Stephens and his NBAC staff out of Loyola (and they’re not slowing down at Meadowbrook), Bobby Hackett and Coach Bernal at Fordham with four lanes; there are too many instances where someone was just making it work. 
So a few years later, Ira Klein, who was at that time working with USA-Swimming, came to visit us during a workout.  I remember him stopping just inside the door to watch the water leak out of our ceiling and into a bucket.  It was one of those ‘I guess you expected more’ moments.  After the workout was finished he said ‘you get a lot out of very little’.  It is still one of the nicest compliments I ever received.
And so the lesson I share with our swimmers ad nauseum, and the one I will never forget is Attitude Is Everything. 

And one personal
Each and every time my wife says ‘I am proud of you’. 
My family has missed out on a lot of my time for my profession.  I will not say it was without difficulty, but my wife has always been supportive of my drive, and I don’t think I can ever thank her enough. 

What motivates you as a coach?
Working with swimmers who need to be successful; swimmers who will not accept failure.  I am sure I am not alone on this one, but I cannot express how exciting it is to get to a workout knowing you have swimmers ready to give it their very best.  The amount of energy that is created when you have athletes ready and willing is awesome.

What do you do to motivate your swimmers?
Whatever it takes.  I think that is one of the exciting aspects of coaching, figuring out what to do and what to say to get the best out of your swimmers.  I have noticed though that some swimmers don’t hear too well, so sometimes I have to raise my voice.
When I was an age-group coach I set up an excel worksheet that the swimmers would use to determine their distance-per-stroke.  Each week we would run through a set and they would enter their average time and stroke count.  The program would then determine their dps and plot it on a chart in chronological order.  Since no one wanted to see a dip in their chart, they would all work pretty hard to increase that dps every week. 
At McDaniel we keep track of program workout records.  On a personal basis, we’ll track lap speed, turn speed, number of pull-ups, etc.  Really, anything we can use for performance feedback is a motivator. 

Do you have any personal routines before the start of a swim meet?
I am a creature of habit, so meet day doesn’t hold any surprises. 

What caused you to go into coaching?
I didn’t start concentrating on swimming (year-round) until my junior year of high school, so when I finished college I think I had some more to give. 

What are some things that people may not know about you?

One, back in the day I shared a townhouse with Sean Hutchison and Chris Gibeau and I ruled the roost when it came to NHL Hockey on Sega Genesis. 

Two, I rarely spend more than a minute thinking about what I am going to wear for the day.

And three, although Rocky trumps all, I still believe Vision Quest is a better ‘psych-up’ movie than American Flyers.

Please provide any additional information about yourself that you might want to include!
I realize the catalyst for this interview was the article I wrote regarding Bryan Collins’ comeback story, and that is fine by me.  What he did to get back in the mix continues to amaze me, and I consider myself lucky to have worked with him.  Swimmers like Bryan have a curious way of making their coaches look good.  I have been terribly lucky with the number and quality of swimmers I had the opportunity to work with while on the pool deck.  And the plan is to keep it rolling at McDaniel College.