Homewood-Flossmoor water polo coach Tim Caldwell oversees a practice. | Supplied photo
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:10AM
Tim Caldwell started at Homewood-Flossmoor School in 1989, and is a member of the physical education faculty. He is the varsity head coach for the girls swimming team and the boys water polo team, and an assistant on the boys varsity swim team. He began teaching and coaching in 1978 at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, Ill. Caldwell is a graduate of Eureka College and was a graduate assistant at Illinois State while he earned his master’s degree.
How did you originally get into coaching?
I had some really great high school coaches: Bob Milnes, Ed Aldridge, and Dick Taylor in swimming, Jim Runkle and Mike Shanahan for water polo. These are Hall of Fame guys, and they made quite an impact on me. Getting that graduate assistant job did a lot for me. I worked under Archie Harris, who is an Illinois coaching legend, and he taught me a lot. He is quite a guy in many, many ways more than just swimming knowledge. I love sports, I love competition, and the camaraderie of being on a team, as a coach or an athlete.
Have you seen high school sports change since you started coaching? If so, how?
There is much more specialization of the serious athletes, including personal trainers, sports academies, travel leagues, and leaving fewer two-sport (and very, very few three-sport) elite players. Weight training in high school sports has changed immensely, and very much for the good. There are fewer “content” bench players than in the past. Role players seem to be a thing of the past. Too many athletes spread themselves too thin trying to beef up college applications. They want to be in sports, music, drama, clubs, etc. and expect to participate in all of them, and many end up never rising above mediocrity in anything because they are over-programmed.
If you had free rein to do so, would you change anything about swimming in the IHSA? High school sports in general?
In swimming we need, desperately, a new venue for the state finals. I also would allow three swimmers to enter the sectional meet in each event from each team instead of two. We enter three swimmers all season and then only two at the sectional, I find that strange. I would also make the sectional meet a two-day meet; Thursday prelims and Saturday finals. I would tighten up the qualifying standards so only 32 swimmers in each event would qualify for the state meet and then the top 16 would advance to swim in the finals. Currently, there are 40-50 swimmers vying for 12 spots in each event which is not realistic for a meet with very close quarters and creates a very long qualifying session. I like the water polo format except I would like to see the sectional seed date be moved at least a week or more later in the calendar giving more clarity in ranking the seeds.
Do you have a favorite dual/meet you look forward to?
I get excited any time we play Jim or Jane Caliendo’s kids at Sandburg. They are always well prepared for competition.
What’s the hardest part about coaching?
Seeing a kid who is doing the best they can, being the best they can be, getting the playing time they deserve or performing at their optimum level with the skills they have, and (their parents) aren’t happy for them. That’s hard for me. Believe me, I will let the kid know when they are more capable. They don’t need another coach at home or in the stands.
Is there a certain thing you’re most proud of as a coach?
Whenever I get an email from an athlete I coached 25 years ago telling me thanks for kicking them in the butt and being there for them, or a recent one just stopping by to say “hi.” That makes me feel good.
As told to Tim O’Brien