For the first time in seven years, the Yale men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams share a single head coach.
Jim Henry, who has served as head coach of the women’s team since June 2012, extended his leadership to the men’s squad last April. Henry has overseen the transformation of the women’s program and is trying to do the same for the men. The women’s team skyrocketed from a 3–4 Ivy record in the 2011–12 season before his arrival to an undefeated record and Ivy League title last year. Three meets into the regular season, members of both teams praised how Henry has made the transition to coaching both teams.
“I knew that we were in good hands, so I wasn’t worried at all,” captain Dirk Bell ’18 said. “Coach Henry is the most upbeat and positive person that I have ever met. He is always making us laugh during practice and making the hard sets manageable. That said, he knows when to be focused, and he is serious about helping us achieve our goals. I think the team has responded very well to him and his coaching style.”
Henry undertook the expanded coaching position following the resignation of former men’s head coach Tim Wise. Wise resigned after nearly two decades with the men’s program, which he led as head coach for seven years. Although the Elis saw improvement in dual-meet performance with Wise at the helm, they finished fourth in the conference in six of Wise’s seven seasons, never breaking into the Ivy top three.
When Wise resigned on April 18, the team was not left without a coach for long. Just over a week after the announcement, Henry was named his replacement.
Entering the season, Henry faced the task of not only continuing to coach the 36 women on the roster, but also getting to know the 32 men. Despite the daunting number of student-athletes under Henry’s leadership, several members of both the men’s and women’s teams lauded Henry’s continuous efforts to develop personal relationships with each team member.
“The biggest positive about Jim is that he listens to every person individually and cares about having an individual relationship with each swimmer, which I think is really important when trying to get the best out of every swimmer,” Aaron Greenberg ’18 said. “And we’ve already been starting to see some of the results this year.”
Tristan Furnary ’20 echoed that sentiment, noting both the range of one-on-one conversations he has had with his coach this semester and Henry’s attention to how the Bulldogs are doing both as swimmers and as students.
Since taking the helm, swimmers said, Henry has managed to balance his two roles without compromising either.
“Jim is not spread thin whatsoever,” Greenberg said. “He cares incredibly about both teams … I think that if anything, he’s putting more work into it to make sure that both teams are getting 100 percent out of him.”
Henry expanded the coaching staff, hiring Kyle Schack as an associate head coach for both teams. According to Bell and women’s swimmer Cha O’Leary ’20, the expanded coaching staff has spent time with both teams in order to give each the attention it deserves.
On the diving side, the head coach transition has not brought many changes because head diving coach Chris Bergere remains “the bedrock of the divers,” according to diver Wayne Zhang ’18. Zhang said that although Henry does not coach the divers during practices, he has made them feel like integral parts of the team. Henry also listened thoughtfully when Zhang expressed concern that the team’s swimmers knew little about diving.
“One thing I’ve tried to advocate for over the years was more integration between the swimmers and divers,” Zhang said. “And this year, under Jim’s new leadership, I actually was given a half hour where I talked to all of the swimmers about the fundamentals of scoring and technique in diving … I’ve noticed that the swimmers and divers are closer than they have been in the past.”
Team cohesion has been improving not only within the men’s program, but also between the men’s and women’s teams, as the men and women have been sharing a coaching staff and practicing together more frequently.
Swimming and diving is one of five varsity sports at Yale that shares a head coach between the men’s and women’s programs.
Selena Cho | email@example.com