Why he’s Coach of the Year: Now a four-time recipient of this particular award, Young directed the Maroons to the local sectional championship as they outlasted rival Centennial by seven points for the top spot. Central also booked six state berths through the sectional meet — via Nolan Miller in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races, Aidan Williams in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, the 200 freestyle relay tandem of Williams, Timothy Norcross, Austin Barker and Miller and the 400 freestyle relay foursome of Williams, Maddox Dempsey, Josh Lee and Miller.

What got him into coaching is ... I have a swimming background — I swam at Danville High School — and I coached when I was in college. Then I kind of got away from it, raising my family. And when my family got older, they’re like, “You need to go back into coaching.” And that’s when I got back into it. It’s usually the opposite — coaches say, “I got out of coaching to spend more time with my family.” I got into it because my family wanted to spend less time with me.

His most difficult thing to learn about coaching is ... that it’s hard to reach every kid. The swimming part is nice, but for me, it’s all about teaching these kids to be responsible citizens and learning how to set goals and work through adversity. If I see a kid not come out (for the team) the next year, that part’s difficult to me. But I am proud of the fact we do have 31 kids on the team. To me, that’s what makes a successful program is how many kids are willing to devote two hours after school to come stare at this line. We have kids that are trying to win state championships, and it comes with an awesome responsibility.

The biggest piece of advice he’d offer to a new swim and dive coach is ... just be you. Don’t try and be like somebody else. Whatever your style is, do it. Put your ego aside. It’s all about the kids. Don’t worry about what your win-loss record is. I couldn’t tell you the score of any swim meet. Every decision I make, at least I think, is what’s best for kids on the team. And have fun, too.

His favorite moment from this season was ... it’s a tie between every time a kid swam their personal best. One of my favorite moments was when Aidan Williams dropped a ton of time and won the 100 (freestyle at the sectional). Just seeing the reaction of all the kids that genuinely cared about their teammate, that were just as happy for him as he was (was great). Every moment is special. Winning sectionals is nice, but that’s just eight and nine of our 31 kids. When the JV won Big 12s, that was pretty cool. It shows that we do have some depth. It’s always fun to see somebody achieve their goals.

His most challenging moment from this season was ... working through the COVID protocols. We did have some issues, and so working through that. It’s also a challenge (that) we have 31 kids on the team. When we have divers here, that takes up two lanes. So you have all these kids, and trying to give them the attention that they deserve. ... To me, the challenging part is trying to give everyone their due and trying to be a good head coach.

The athlete on this season’s team he had to coach the least is ... I guess it starts with Nolan Miller. You could set the clock of when our practice would start, and every day he’d be on the block in lane six ready to dive in when our practice time started. Never had to tell him to get in the water, worked hard. Aidan Williams really jumped up this year and worked extremely hard. And then our three captains — Jack (Vazquez), Austin (Barker) and Maddox (Dempsey) — were just wonderful captains.

The athlete on this season’s team who he feels is the biggest class clown is ... Jonathan Smith. Trevor Plattner would be a close second, but Jonathan Smith — it was kind of good we had to wear masks for COVID because I’m trying to be serious, and he would do something funny and I’m laughing but nobody could really tell I was laughing. He was just a funny guy, but he also worked extremely hard. He knew when it was time to work, but he also knew when to have fun.

The athlete on this season’s team who he feels is most outgoing is ... I would say Maddox Dempsey. He’s a good captain. He’s always talking to the kids. There was one meet, when (officials) say “take your marks” you’re supposed to be silent, and he kept screaming for one of our swimmers and kind of got the evil eye from the meet referee. Honestly, it’s a team of characters, which makes it a lot of fun.

The athlete on this season’s team who he feels is most reserved but will speak up when necessary is ... Josh Lee. Josh is a freshman on our team who was really quiet. Kind of came out of his shell a little bit, but he kind of set the tone for the team because we threw him in a lane with Nolan Miller. That could’ve worked both ways — this is crazy, I’m going to quit, or embrace the challenge. And he did (embrace it). It was nice to watch him. Another kid that didn’t say two words was a guy by the name of Timothy Norcross. Timothy was new to swimming, a junior, and he came out and was in our new lane learning how to swim. And by the end of the year, he basically won our 200 free relay for us (at the sectional), which is crazy. He soaked everything in, was very coachable, and that was fun.

The athletes on this season’s team he’d want to serve as acting coaches if necessary are ... all of them. We had three great captains. I trust them. I’d also trust Nolan and Aidan. Even though they’re not our senior captains, they’d work hard, inspire some of our other kids. I’d trust those five, but honestly I’d trust them all.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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