As Vassar nears the end of the semester, winter sports all have a good idea of how their season is going and what they need to do for the off-season. However, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving team has gone through a major shift in the recent weeks, losing their longtime Diving Coach after he sent in his resignation mid-season. With a team in turmoil, swimming and diving team Head Coach Lisl Prater-Lee and new Diving Coach Brian Bolstad have kept the group on a steady path, making them the two featured coaches of the week.
Lisl Prater-Lee is now coaching her 18th season as the men’s and women’s swimming and diving Head Coach. Prater-Lee graduated from Oberlin with bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Sports Psychology and joined the Vassar coaching team in 1993. Since then, she has made a huge impact on the swimming and diving team, steadily increasing the size of the program. “Lisl is one of the most passionate people I have ever met,” sophomore Elizabeth Balter, who is a competing member of the women’s swimming team, wrote in an emailed statement. “Her dedication has not once faltered. She is extremely committed to advancing our program, and puts in many extra hours outside of practice trying to do so.”
Prater-Lee takes a very unique approach when coaching her team. She looks at each athlete’s individual performances and works with them to make adjustments to their form and improve their overall skill level. “Her passion and dedication to the team shows through her willingness to help swimmers individually outside and inside the pool. She genuinely cares about the physical and mental well-being of her swimmers,” wrote freshman Anna Kuo. Kuo is one of the many teammates who was recruited into the Vassar swimming and diving program. Freshman Lilliana Frye commented on Prater-Lee’s keen eye when it comes to practices. “Lisl is very good at creating workouts: the sets she chooses and the intervals she chooses for them are not just random day-by-day. She has a long-term plan for us, and although not every single practice is bone-crushingly brutal, all the practices put together add up to us being the most successful at the end of the season,” wrote Frye in an emailed statement. “She is understanding and changes the practice for each person’s needs.”
Prater-Lee also relates to her team by participating in an excessive personal training schedule. Balter wrote, “One of the most impressive things about Lisl is that she is still incredibly active herself. Every day before practice Lisl has already swam, ran and/or biked multiple miles. She leads by example in this way, and has an incredible amount of integrity and passion. I work my hardest because I know how much time and energy she puts into coaching us. I strive to be a good sportsman and teammate because I don’t want to disappoint her. It is inspiring to have a coach like Lisl, and the whole Vassar community is very lucky to have her.”
Prater-Lee, with a history as a collegiate swimmer, has terrific insight on the sport of swimming and diving. “[It] has many pieces and parts. It provides the individual sport mentality with the team sport product. Trying to figure out how a group trains and covers 14 swimming and 2 diving events in a dual meet to the best of our ability, to enable us to be the most competitive group that we can be, can be a significant challenge. And that comes most readily when a bunch of individual swimmers and divers come to the realization that they have more left and can put that much more forward,” wrote Prater-Lee.
Contrary to Head Coach Prater-Lee, who has been coaching at Vassar College for many years, the new diving instructor, Brian Bolstad, is a very new addition to the swimming and diving program. Earlier in the current season, the former, longtime diving instructor left the team after turning in his resignation. The team struggled to find a new coach after his departure. The responsibility was taken on by Bolstad, who, a collegiate diver himself, knows a lot about the sport.
Bolstad was a Division I diver who graduated from Marist College in 2011. The current staff approached Bolstad and asked him to come on as the new diving coach for Vassar’s swimming and diving program, and his main focus is with the diving section of the team. During the interim between the retirement of the previous Diving Coach and Bolstad’s employment, Greg Sullivan, a 2012 graduate and former diver from Vassar, temporarily stepped into the coaching position.
Bolstad has already made an impact during his short coaching career here at Vassar. Junior John Nguyen, who is a diver on the team, is excited about the prospect of a new perspective on the team’s performance. “It’s an interesting experience being coached by him because it really brings out how different coaches will have different styles and notice different things about your form. After being coached by three individuals in the course of a semester, it’s nice to have another perspective that’s fresher because he’s been diving more recently. He’s in his twenties,” Nguyen wrote in an emailed statement. Although Bolstad has only been here for a week, the divers are hopeful. “From the week that we’ve been practicing so far, the team has made dramatic improvements, and I’m happy to see what comes of it,” wrote Nguyen.
A lot of the team members are excited by the prospect of having such an accomplished diver as one of their coaches. Senior diving captain Rafael Ricaurte is extremely confident in Bolstad’s abilities as a coach. “He knows what he’s doing. He knows his techniques very well and is able to use his previous experience to coach our team effectively. It is very nice to have a new perspective to our routine training. His coaching style seems very relaxed and focused on drill and techniques to fine tune small, but crucial aspects of execution of a dive. The focus on these will definitely help making learning new dives and working on the ones we already know much easier. As a person, he seems very charismatic and energetic. I feel that’s due to him being a young coach. Overall, he seems like a great guy who’ll definitely help us improve as athletes in our sport,” expressed Ricaurte.