When it comes to being genuinely good at something, there are some people who work their entire lives to master a skill, and then there are the rare, incredible people who are so naturally gifted, you just have to stand back and appreciate their work. This second, rare type of person fits the profile of Valpo Swim Club's own head coach, Lisa Starkey, our Life in the Spotlight this week!
Having only been at VSC for about six years now, a rookie head coach when she first came in, Starkey has completely revamped the program and continues to lead the club in aiming for and reaching new goals every season.
A Hobart native, Starkey grew up in the region as a Hobart age group swimmer, SLY team member, and finally a Hobart High School swimmer. She then went on to swim at the collegiate level in Wisconsin, and also spent time in college in Boston. After briefly living in New York, Starkey decided to move back to the region where she worked as a graphic designer until she got married and starting raising her family.
After this absence of swimming from her life for a few years, it was by chance that Starkey's sister reached out to her one day in 2009 with news that Valpo was looking for new coaches for the club team! Although she had never been a head coach before, Starkey was excited about the idea of being involved with the sport again, and was confident that she could help get the team back on track through her shared love of the sport.
With over 47% of club members qualifying for state now, four relay teams heading to Speedo Sectionals this month, a state title for the 10&Under Girls last summer, and countless other team accomplishments, it is evident that Starkey could not have been a more flawless fit for the program. For Starkey, though, it is less about the big titles and more about the little steps.
"There is nothing more fulfilling than watching a 5 year old join the team who can barely swim a 25 yard freestyle, and watching them grow into an Indiana state qualifier just 2 seasons later, all while gaining complete confidence in what they can accomplish," says Starkey. “All of the coaches stress the same values of personal work with each swimmer, finding individual strengths, and developing them as a whole.”
Besides the skills developed in the pool, Starkey feels strongly about the skills each child is able to develop as a person.
"Whether it's personal character, commitment, sportsmanship or education, the kids are always able to learn values that go far beyond just 'fast swimming'," Starkey said, "swimming really is 90% mental and 10% practice, and those positive personal growths go hand in hand with the mental aspects of the sport."
Another awesome characteristic of VSC that Starkey loves and appreciates is the family dynamic that is ever present, both in and out of the pool. Parents are always ready and willing to carpool, drive the distances to meets, put team parties together, and generally step up to accomplish whatever needs to be done for the benefit of every child on the team.
This unity and genuine care is what Starkey says creates the family dynamic, even though there are over 100 swimmers.
“We are strong and united because of all our swimmers at every level," Starkey gushed, "and the parents and community bring it all together like one big family."
One of the most admirable traits of Starkey is her continued enthusiasm looking ahead in the program. She is thrilled about the continued growth of the team, and looks forward to more record-breaking times, state championships, Speedo Sectionals meets, Futures Meets and even Junior Nationals.
Most importantly, though, Starkey is most excited about the growing bond of the team as a whole.
"I'm excited about us staying tight as a group, and keeping Valpo humble while swimming fast."
It truly is rare to find someone possessing so much natural talent with so much humility and care as well. Starkey is an amazing leader and role model for the kids of VSC, and our community is incredibly lucky to have her. Thanks for all you do, Lisa!