Sharon Weiss, PhD, Head Coach began coaching Lakeridge Swim Team in the spring of 1989. Since that first season, with 15 seasonal and novice swimmers practicing four times per week, she has been witness to and part of an evolution of a very special USA Swimming program, one rich with fast swimming, family, and friends. The journey to now, however, has several points of origin, one of which is in 1971, when she joined a local AAU team in southern California. An amazing age group experience on Aquarius Swim Team in Southern California Swimming during the 70’s in American Swimming is one of the things that brought her to Lakeridge and keeps her loving what she does. Junior Nationals in ’77 & ’78, US Nationals in ’79, and US Olympic Trials in ’80 & ’84 (breaststroke and IM) are highlights amidst many wonderful memories in swimming, including early mornings, races without goggles, nylon suits, ‘triples’, and meets without electronic timing – only cards you pick up at the clerk of course and give to your timer. Swimming as a full scholarship NCAA Division I student-athlete for the University of Arizona from 1980-1984 was an honor, a gift, and tons of fun. Competing in the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, chiefly responsible for promoting and advancing women’s collegiate athletics prior to their acceptance into the NCAA) National Championships in 1981, then the first-ever NCAA Division I Championship for women in 1982 and ’84, as well as serving as Women’s Team Captain from ’82-’84 rounded out a rewarding swimming experience, one that resulted in a lifelong love of and participation in swimming, as a coach, a swimming parent, and a masters swimmer. US Master’s National Champion titles in 1994, 1997, and 2001 in breaststroke events made going off the blocks as a ‘grown up’ especially fun, but mostly, swimming masters has brought more fun, more friends for life, and a richer perspective about what it means to be a swimmer and a person.
Other origins include a longtime interest in studying, understanding, and appreciating Human Development, Psychology, and Sociology. An undergraduate degree in Psychology, minor in Sociology (University of Arizona, 1985), a master’s degree in Psychology (Pepperdine University, 1990), and a doctoral degree in Counseling and Educational Psychology (UNR, 2010), combined with a love of sport, have made working with children and young adults a natural fit. In 2009-2010, this combination of psychology and sport was the impetus for her doctoral dissertation study, entitled Self-Esteem and Actual, Reflected, and Self-Appraisals of Swimmers in Early Adolescents. With the help of USA Swimming, Swimming World Magazine, and USA Swimming teams from 23 states, a sample of swimmers (ages 12-15) participated in a study, along with their parents and coaches, examining self-esteem and ideas about scholastic & athletic ability and physical appearance. With the expertise of Senior Coach and web designer Nenad Rodic and the wisdom of theorists, researchers, teachers, philosophers, mathematicians, and statisticians, Weiss departed from conventional paper-and-pencil research methods and conducted the study online. The results were consistent with more traditional methods of research, which offered support for both the reliability of the measures used and the potential benefits of internet research in the social sciences. More importantly, the results highlighted the intricate relationship between evaluations of others and the development of individuals’ self-perceptions regarding their own competence/adequacy in various domains (e.g., athletic ability) and their self-esteem. Specifically, this research supports previous findings that link self-knowledge and self-esteem. Self-knowledge refers to our ideas about ourselves, some of which come from our observations of how others react and respond to us, whereas self-esteem refers in part to how we feel about these ideas, or our self-worth. When self-knowledge is uncertain or unstable, we often observe a lower level of self-esteem, and this appears to be the case for swimmers in USA Swimming and the general population alike. A full report of this study will be available in 2012.
These origins, along with raising a family in swimming and over 30 years of coaching, have resulted in a very simple philosophy for Weiss: regardless of ability, there is something for everyone in the sport of swimming. Happy swimming careers come in many forms and variant lengths of time. Swimming offers people of all ages an opportunity to figure out how to move swiftly through water, but in the meantime, it also provides a rich social and engaging environment, with people working together, breathing & laughing together, and learning about themselves, others, and the world together. At it’s best, swimming facilitates positive human growth & development, not to mention a healthy lifestyle, friendships, time with family, and fun. The friends we make in swimming are often our best friends, our friends for life. For Weiss, coaching is as much about raising children as it is about imparting the art and science of swimming. For this and many other reasons, including a focus on continuity within our program, Weiss works with all training groups, including the Stroke Class, on a weekly basis.
This philosophy has been shaped and bolstered by a knowledgeable and awesome staff, great kids, and dedicated families since 1989. In the past two decades, Lakeridge has been home to countless age group swimmers who have grown up in a positive environment and a great sport. Lakeridge swimmers have learned proper stroke technique, training habits, nutrition, a strong work ethic, time management (i.e. academic achievement, other activities, etc.), and self-discipline. At the same time, they have enjoyed many personally rewarding and meaningful experiences, best times, and fun with friends who remain friends long after their towels have finally dried. Lakeridge swimmers have also been Nevada State Champions and Record Holders; Nevada High School State Champions and Record Holders; JO, Far Western, and Western Zone Champions and Record Holders; Sectionals, Junior, and National qualifiers and finalists; Olympic Trials Qualifiers; Scholastic All-Americans; academic and athletic college scholarship recipients; and NCAA Division I, II, and III competitors. Lakeridge alumni are teachers, artists, engineers, lawyers, policemen, triathletes, coaches, professional athletes, photographers, entrepreneurs, grad students, doctors, scientists, business people, and parents.
Nenad Rodic, Senior Coach, works primarily with the Gold group. Rodic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he also began his path to Lakeridge Swim Team at the age of seven. By 1993, Nenad was the Yugoslav National Record Holder in the 100m Backstroke, as well as a member of the Yugoslav National Team and a competitor at the World University Games. After winning the Yugoslav National Triathlon Championship that year, he came to the US “in search of better conditions for (his) development as a triathlete”. Here in the US, Nenad earned pro status with USA Triathlon, won numerous triathlon competitions, and continued to compete in Master’s swimming here in Reno, winning a USMS Masters National Championship title in the 1,650 Free in 1997. These days, when not coaching Lakeridge Swim Team, Sierra Nevada Masters, or his myriad of triathletes, he can often be sited on a bicycle, as he remains active, primarily fostering his longtime interest and passion for cycling. Nenad is also the sole proprietor of Northern Nevada Web Design Services and he enjoys classical music, film, philosophy, physics, math, and good food.
Since 1997, Lakeridge Swim Team has been strengthened by Rodic’s strong background in physiology, appreciation for work ethic, and uncomplicated style. As Albert Einstein said, “make everything as simple as possible, and no simpler”. In this vein, Nenad’s coaching is based on fundamental principles of training that have proven successful in swimming for decades. He sticks to what he knows, educates himself about what he has yet to know, and does not waste time with what he believes doesn’t work. He offers a balanced approach, one that results in an appropriate workload for developing age group swimmers. In other words, his approach fosters the natural and gradual development of each athlete, free from over training, coercion, or forcing progress. Further, Nenad’s no-nonsense and honest approach with his swimmers includes clear communication about ability, performance, and areas of strength and weakness. Similarly, he uses praise of his athletes sparingly, as he believes that an over-exuberance of applause diminishes the value of true excellence. This aspect of Nenad’s style is not only effective, but is supported by a substantial body of literature on self-esteem that suggests the futility of empty praise of children. Lakeridge has also been strengthened by Nenad’s latest contribution: the introduction of triathlon into our program. The integral role he plays in training our triathletes has added a depth and mutual benefit for swimmers and triathletes alike. Finally, in light of the central function of American college swimming in terms of goals and educational opportunities for swimmers, from Lakeridge and throughout the world, Nenad would like to see a more mutually compatible relationship between the NCAA and the world of swimming, specifically in terms of shifting focus to long course, post graduate training support, etc.
Josien Wijkhuijs, Age Group Coach
From across the globe, Josien began her journey to Lakeridge from Friesland, Netherlands. As an integral member of the Women’s Swim Team at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2019, Josien has been a Mountain West Conference finalist for the Wolfpack every season, specializing in sprint free, fly, and back. Among her contributions to Women’s Swimming at UNR is her school record in the 100 Back as well as her leg of the 200 & 400 Medley Relay school records set in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
As an integral member of the Women’s Swim Team at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2019, Josien has been a Mountain West Conference finalist for the Wolfpack every season, specializing in sprint free, fly, and back. Among her contributions to Women’s Swimming at UNR is her school record in the 100 Back as well as her leg of the 200 & 400 Medley Relay school records set in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Along with her outstanding background as a swimmer, on the academic side Josien is majoring in Elementary Education, which offers a wonderful parallel with age group coaching. “I like the profession because it is very rewarding and I like to see students’ development. This is also a reason why I like coaching swimmers”, said Wijkhuijs. When asked about her favorite aspects of coaching, this student-athlete added, “…when swimmers have fun and are progressing in practice and competition”, as well how friendships are made on the team. Lakeridge Swim Team is fortunate to have Josien’s passion for sport and fantastic attitude about life in general. In conjunction with the knowledge and skill set she offers our swimmers at the pool each week, she also shares insights for age group swimmers who hope to swim in college some day: “Never give up: Swimming comes with ups and downs. Sometimes it is difficult to see the bright side after a bad swim, but if you learn from your bad swims and enjoy the good ones, you will get there eventually”.