Get to Know the University of Richmond's Head Coach Matt Barany

by Josh Huger (MrUtopia)

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Created March 14th, 2012 10:06:28 PM

Modified March 14th, 2012 10:06:28 PM

This interview is with the University of Richmond’s Matt Barany. Coach Barany, who is in his seventh season at Richmond, has enjoyed many successes while with the Spiders.

During his time with the program his swimmers have reached the NCAA Championships, earned All-American status, broken over 60 school marks, earned Atlantic 10 Outstanding Performer of the Meet honors, and qualified for the U.S. and British Olympic Trials.

In this interview Coach Barany tells us about his biggest accomplishment in coaching and his favorite set to give his swimmers.

Let’s get started!

What team do you currently coach for?

I am employed at the University of Richmond.

How many years have you been with the team?

I started in 2005, so I'm completing my seventh year.

What made you choose to take the coaching position?

There wasn't a single factor - that's never the case. Some of the most important factors in my decision to return to Richmond included my mom, my alma mater, the city of Richmond, and the University of Richmond.

I was coaching the men and women at James Madison in 2005. JMU was discreetly phasing out their men's team, and the future of their women's program was yet to be determined. JMU men's swimming in the 1990s was a modestly funded, yet successful, group of young men. I took the JMU job in 2001 because it was my alma mater. I wanted to contribute to their success (even without scholarships). In 2005, more ominous clouds were building in Harrisonburg.

I was very familiar with the city of Richmond. My parents had moved our family here before I started high school. My mom still lives here; therefore, I call Richmond "home." This is my third, and longest,  stint residing in Richmond. The city has a lot going for it - a young & healthy population, a system of running trails along the James River including Civil War routes, a raging art and music scene, a variety of restaurants you'd expect in a much bigger city, a large commuter university which is revitalizing our downtown, and a superb liberal arts university with a great swim team tucked away in a southern suburb.

Matt Kredich also played a role in this opportunity. He knew my connection to Richmond. I am thankful he took time to share his feelings about the potential of the women who remained at Richmond after he went to Tennessee. The body of work of his four Richmond teams is impressive. I am thankful.

What other teams or schools did you coach at before coming to Richmond?

Randolph-Macon College 1999-2001
James Madison University Men 2001-2005
James Madison University Women 2004-2005
University of Richmond 2005-

What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been in coaching?

My biggest accomplishment? I'm proud that I found something I love to do (coach swimming) at a place I love (Richmond). And, I can be a part of the lives of young adults (education). I taught high school English for four years (I love Shakespeare!). Although I have strayed from the classroom, I have remained devoted to education. Over the last few years, I've asked a lot of "whys" about my life. I realized it's not really about me - it's about my potential impact on others that matters. It's about the series of connections we make in our lives. Whether it's a former student/swimmer taking a second to text or email me to include me in their "news" or it's a current Spider trusting me with a joke or a secret or a newly-hatched ambition, those are the proudest moments.

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

I don't catalog "moments." I catalog conversations. There are many private conversations that accumulate over the years. In these discussions, the sport is stripped away from our lives and layers are revealed. I can remember a brutal conversation with a rising senior in Omaha '08 where I suggested she retire after Trials, and I can remember a very comedic conversation with her one year later at NCAAs in College Station. Recently, one of our swimmers confessed she has "trust issues." It was important for me to communicate with her that I trusted her and she can trust me.

What do you do to keep everyone focused on the “big picture” throughout the season?

We draw a lot of big pictures. We find that helpful. We don't take ourselves too seriously. I'm serious.

What is the number one thing you look for in a recruit, other than times?

Their potential to impact our campus community.

I also pay attention to birth order. If they are a middle child, I consider breaking NCAA rules to attract them to Richmond.  The world needs more middle children. That's an advantage we have over the Chinese. They want one male child...that doesn't help us.

What is your favorite set to give your swimmers?

Warm-up. I love this period of practice because they are giving off so many signals. When coaching women, the nonverbal cues are vital. Not only can you see the different levels of motivation or different levels of excitement, you can also pick up emotional signals that serve as the legend to that practice. Watch closely and you'll see exam stress, homesickness, boy problems, happiness, mischief, and more. All of these might help a coach build a better practice.

What motivates you as a coach?

I want to represent the University of Richmond the best I can. I believe in education, and I want to be a small or large piece of the learning experience for our women at Richmond.

I enjoy winning because there are extremely valuable lessons to be learned from success. There are also valuable lessons to be learned in defeat. I just don't like those lessons as much.

What do you do to motivate your swimmers?

I encourage them to set goals to serve as motivation. Then, I make sure they know I respect them and I believe in them.

Do you have any personal routines before the start of a swim meet?

Espresso. The more, the better.

What caused you to go into coaching?

I needed money.

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

I taught in Kenya for two years as a member of the Peace Corps (1996-1998).

I am a current MBA candidate at Richmond.

Do you have any advice for up and coming coaches?

Who am I to give advice?

Don't think it's a 9 to 5 engagement. You'll go months without a day "off."
There is a lot of work that doesn't involve actual "coaching"'s called paperwork. We all do it, so learn to be efficient at it.
Respect your elders & the legends.
Respect your supervisor.
Respect your university.
Be loyal.
Don't make assumptions.
Tell people you are a middle child.



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