A peek behind the curtain of our recent High Performance success.

Benji DeMotte

Checking in with Coach Steven and our High Performance Team


In the Spring of 2021, Coach Steven created a High Performance Team at Excel specifically to focus on our elite swimmers and their pursuit of national competitions. Although our club has a long history of elite swimming, he felt that due to recent growth in both numbers and performance at the age group level, it was time to create a group that extends across all sites, but is specifically for those swimmers who have already achieved a national time standard. 


In only its second season in existence, even the draw of a High Performance Team has already seen big results as we have had 7 swimmers hit their first NCSA provisional cuts in the last 2 meets! Gabe Luepke, Gwen Bakker, Cam and Boden Richardson, Nick Cimorelli, Gracen Bailey and Caroline Netolicky all earned their spots in the High Performance Team. But those swimmers who have been in High Performance from the beginning have also seen a jump in performance. In the last few weeks, Jason Wang has hit his Winter Juniors cuts in three more events, Zoe Summar has set a team record in the 50 Breast and earned a second swim at Winter Juniors, Nick Zaharescue hit a few long course Futures cuts and then his first Winter Juniors cut in the 1,650 while Tino Ferranti hit his Futures cut in the 100 Breast. These are not normal mid-season results!


To try and get a little insight into the big jump in success, we checked in with Coach Steven who leads the High Performance Team and asked him what he thought was clicking so well.


Question 1- Is the High Performance team open to anyone with a cut or are there restrictions? 

Steven- “The high performance team is open to anyone who has achieved at least a B cut for a national meet. However, because of logistical differences from site to site, slight variations in standards do exist. For example, at Brentwood, our 13-14 year old swimmers who have achieved that standard will still stay in their training group while a similar swimmer at a smaller branch may choose to move up.”


Question 2- Do we have High Performance Teams at all the sites? 


Steven- “Actually, the sites have been leading the way in this respect for a couple of years. Our Senior swimmers from Murfreesboro, Gallatin and Longview have had incredible success over the last couple of years. So part of this effort to create High Performance was to capture the smaller site atmosphere that has contributed to their success. While those sites don’t have dedicated High Performance practices, their national level swimmers are very much a part of  High Performance and have served as an inspiration for this group.” 


Question 3- Why do you think it has worked so well?


Steven- “Part of my effort to jumpstart the level of our elite swimmers was to increase our staff availability to these swimmers. Our coaching staff has a wealth of knowledge that we are maximizing, and making accessible to the athletes. While I am leading the group, they spend a lot of time in very specific practices designed for their particular event. This model also reflects how college programs structure their training groups.”


Question 4- What are your ultimate goals for the group?


Steven- “At this level, individual goals are very important for the coaching staff to cater to. Each swimmer has very specific short and long term aspirations that we need to work with. Whether that be specific events at specific meets or rather long term college goals, we need to know those goals and work towards them. However, from a team perspective, we are striving to earn a club excellence medal starting this year and to have that be our expectation every year.”

If the first half of the short course season is any indication of the impact our High Performance Team will have on Excel’s presence on the national level, Coach Steven is onto something very exciting!