Paul Landes received the USMS Kerry O’Brien Coaches Award for 2021
Below is why Paul is deserving of the 2021 Kerry O’Brien Coaches Award
By Peggy Stringer
Paul has brought energy and has implemented new traditions in the swimming fabric of not just Helena but throughout Montana. His dedication as a coach has improved the lives of his swimmers and strengthened our team’s bond with our community.
“How we perform in the pool transfers to how we perform within our community.” This is the philosophy of Paul Landes that he brought with him when he moved to Helena, Montana in April 2017.
Paul’s swimming career began when he was 6 years old and continued throughout his college years. Taking a needed break, some former swim mates eventually introduced him to Masters Swimming. He swam for 15 years with Davis Aquatic Masters and served as a Board Member and Mega-Volunteer for club events. In 2016, Paul obtained USMS coach certification and served as an associate coach for DAM.
Upon arriving in Helena, Paul met with coaches Peggy Stringer and Deb Grebenc and offered to share his expertise and enthusiasm with Big Sky Montana Masters (“BSMT”) and Helena Ridley Workout Group. Paul shares the head coaching responsibilities with Peggy Stringer.
Here are only a few specific contributions Paul has made to the swimming community in Helena and throughout Montana:
- Held and sponsored social and swim events to raise needed funds and donations for local nonprofits including Helena Food Share, YWCA, Toys 4 Tots, Helena Regional Sports Association, and others.
- Covid resulted in a reduction of pool time in Helena and many parts of the country. Paul applied for and received a grant from USMS and the LMSC. The funds were used to obtain additional pool space at the Helena YMCA and to pay for lifeguards during open swim sessions. 6 new practices were created, and our swimmers had the opportunity to stay wet.
- Paul has been certified in 2021 as an Adult Learn To Swim instructor and is currently spearheading an effort to begin an ALTS program in Helena for the winter of 2022.
- In January 2021, Paul became the Coaches Chair for the Montana LMSC. Using BSMT as the vehicle, he set out to corral as many swimmers as possible to participate in the 1-hour ePostal. 46 swimmers participated in this event, garnering a 3rd place finish among large teams all while increasing overall USMS membership by 25%.
The following are thoughts from a few swimmers on why Paul should receive the award
Lydia Kuderna said, “He is a focused and committed coach, but his sense of humor is contagious! One of Paul’s gifts is that he individualizes his coaching to the swimmer’s specific needs. We work on techniques as a group, but he finds ways to help us with what we each need. Paul is extremely generous with his time. If you ask him for help with something, he figures out a way to work with you within the workout.”
Elizabeth Hughes commented, “It has been really fun practicing with the Helena Ridley Masters. I came from a big established swim club outside Seattle. With so many swimmers, I felt that individual attention was hard to come by. Helena might be small but is has a vibrant swim community thanks to dedicated swim coaches like Paul.”
Karen Simpson added, ”Since Paul started our new Masters group at the YMCA, it has steadily grown in popularity. Instead of coaching us all as a group, which I was used to before, he coaches everyone individually within the group and has us work on the things that we need to do. I’ve never been interested in doing an hour swim and this year Paul encouraged us all to do the swim. He is always willing to work with us on a specific stroke and breaks it down for us to understand. Paul motivates and inspires us by praising us when we do well and gives us encouragement when things aren’t going so well. He has truly energized our swim group and I feel so grateful we have him as our coach!”