New Coaches Bring New Attitude To Swim Team

Rachel Breault, Staff Writer

Millikin University’s men’s and women’s swim team will be experiencing something that most teams probably have not. A new coach has been hired after the resignation of their previous coach, but this new coach just so happened to be a former teammate to some of the seniors on this season’s team.

Previous to the 2013-2014 swim season, Paul Yemm was head coach for Millikin’s swim team. Yemm was assistant coach during the 2007-2008 season and then took position as head coach in 2008.

Yemm was definitely loved as a coach here at Millikin.

“I have never had a better coach in my whole life,” John Billimack said. Billimack, a senior history major here at Millikin swims the freestyle sprint and breaststroke for the team.

Yemm’s success as a swim coach could have a lot to do with his experience as a swimmer beforehand. Swimming for Millikin his 4 years while attending, he was a 3-time NCAA qualifier. “He really challenged us,” Billimack said.

Yemm coached an outstanding Millikin swimmer named Kaley Wittrock. She was an all-CCIW swimmer in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. Wittrock has also broken many women records such as the 500m, the 100 fly, and the 200 fly.

When news came about Yemm’s resignation, swimmers on the team were not happy to see him go.

“We knew it was going to happen,” Billimack said, “We were heartbroken when he left.” Yemm resigned as coach to be closer with his family down in St. Louis. He was sad to leave them as well, but wishes the team the best of luck.

A new coach can bring a whole new attitude to a team. After Yemm’s resignation, Millikin University hired Jeff Smith as head coach.

For Smith, this job opportunity was a blessing in disguise. “Paul was my coach here at Millikin,” Smith said, “I didn’t want to see him go, but I am happy I now have the opportunity to coach for this team.”

Smith is a 2011 Millikin graduate with a degree in sports management. Not shy to Millikin, Smith was also a swimmer for the Big Blue for 4 years and served as team captain his senior year.

“Half of my groomsmen in my wedding were Millikin swimmers,” Smith said. Swimming for Millikin really was a bonding experience for  him.

Before taking position as head coach, Smith was Millikin’s assistant coach for the swim team for the 2012-2013 season. Coaching at a new school would be tough, so he says that being a student at Millikin prior to coaching has helped him out.

Since the team has yet to start official practices and only have had a few pre-season practices, it is hard to tell how much they like the new coach.

“I have no opinion formed yet since we are only a few days into the season,” Billimack said. “I only know him on a friend level, not as a coach.”

He is also worried that he will have a hard time seeing Smith as a coach rather than a friend. Smith also agreed that it will take a little bit of adjustment for the team to get used to him being a coach; especially the seniors whom he was teammates with.

Smith will not be coaching alone this season. Blake Braden was hired as assistant coach for the swim team. Braden, also a Millikin swimmer, was a 3 year letter winner for Millikin from 2006-2009 and also roommates with Smith for a few years.

“It was strange at first when we began coaching together,” Braden said.

They are both excited for a successful season. It is Smith’s first time as a head college coach and he will try his best to get the swimmers used to his coaching style.

Along with being head coach for Millikin’s men and women’s swim team, Smith is also head coach for the Decatur Swim Club. “It will be a time management issue,” Smith says on being a head coach for two large teams.

“He knows the responsibilities,” Billimack said. Luckily, Smith has Braden to fill in when he cannot be there. Braden is also assistant coach for the Decatur Swim Club.

Smith is ready to improve the team in the CCIW conference as well as getting more individuals in the top 16. He’s excited to get the Millikin name out there.

For Billimack, he is ready to break personal records. With many new people on the team this season, he wants to get to know the team better.