Sophomores Megan VanValkenburgh and Mallory Stirrat go from swimmers to coaches


Courtesy of Mallory Stirrat

Standing next to the pool, sophomores Megan VanValkenburgh and Mallory Stirrat pose for a team picture. VanValkenburgh and Stirrat assisted the swim team in competing in meets over the summer against other neighborhood pools. “Ever since I was young, I’ve always helped out with Cedarmill, even if I wasn’t getting paid. My dad’s always been involved, so I’ve always been doing it alongside him,”

After swimming summer league for Cedarmill Swim Club for 11 years, sophomores Megan VanValkenburgh and Mallory Stirrat took on the role of coaching for kids ages 4 to 12 involved in the program, teaching them the proper techniques of swimming. 

“As coaches we make swim team a fun experience by teaching them strokes, they understand, and we use kickboards with Nemo, Frozen and Spider-Man characters on them. It helps keep them intrigued while also learning to swim at the same time,” VanValkenburgh said. “We also do fun drills such as diving off the diving block into a hula-hoop. It helps them learn how to dive correctly while also being a fun thing for them to do.”

VanValkenburgh and Stirrat taught the athletes 6 and under how to float, be comfortable in the water and swim the strokes, while they taught the older kids how to perform the strokes correctly to master the skills. 

“It’s fulfilling to see the results of the kids swimming instead of it just being myself who improves since I’m the one that’s helping them get better,” VanValkenburgh said. “It’s cool to be able to pass the knowledge I have of swimming onto the kids and to help them with the strokes and technique.” 

Cedarmill Swim Club is where Stirrat grew up swimming.

“My family has always been a part of the club, so I know a lot of the families involved, and I’ve never stopped going or taking part in the club activities,” Stirrat said. 

Like Stirrat, VanValkenburgh began her swim career at Cedarmill at four years of age.

“I have been swimming for the club for a while, so it just made sense to start coaching. I love little kids and Cedarmill, so it just seemed like the perfect fit for my busy summer schedule,” VanValkenburgh said. “As I grew up, I was coached by high schoolers, and I loved being with them. I knew ever since [then] that I wanted to be a coach.”

While they formed bonds with the kids they taught, VanValkenburgh and Stirrat put in an average of nine hours a week with hour-long practices each week morning and an additional four hours every Monday night for swim meets. 

“The effort can be hard sometimes because the kids don’t always want to listen and be cooperative, but most of them are pretty well-behaved,” Stirrat said. “I coach some wild boys and all they want to do is splash and pick on one another. They can get snappy at times, so I occasionally have to remind them that I am their coach not their play buddy, and in return, I hold myself accountable to never being condescending and critical but only helpful.”

While VanValkenburgh and Stirrat spent their summer mornings at the neighborhood pool, they had the rest of their days to do what they want. 

“Being a swim coach is different from any another summer jobs students may have because I think it’s more enjoyable. It’s something that’s not going to take up much of your time, but it’s also something that you can see results in. It’s rewarding to watch the kids grow as swimmers and people,” Stirrat said. 

Although VanValkenburgh and Stirrat were the coaches, they both gained the experience of being in a position of leadership.  

“I have learned how to teach and how to be ‘in charge’ of someone else besides myself. It also helps me to think about how I swim and how I can change my own strokes,” VanValkenburgh said. “It has also taught me how to have patience and work with people younger than me. This will help me accept someone’s teachings more and try to understand where other people are coming from. I can use these skills in my everyday life.”