The Iola-Scandinavia Thunderbird swim team has started its winter season with two new coaches.
Tom Fucik and Eric Danielson have stepped up to fill the position after longtime coach Richard Wright retired.
“When I first heard that Dick Wright was retiring, I became interested,” Fucik said. “I knew he had built a tremendous program at a fantastic facility.”
“Tom and I were casually talking one day when he mentioned that he was going to be coaching the team,” Danielson said. “I mentioned that I would be willing to help and the rest is history.”
Both coaches bring experience to the team.
“During my career as a recreational facilities manager, I managed a swimming pool in Menasha, a swimming lake in Plamann Park and was coach or assistant swim coach for the Menasha summer team,” Fucik said.
He also swam competitively, taking home a gold medal in the 100-yard freestyle at the state swim meet in Beloit in 1964.
Born and raised in eastern Montana, Danielson spent his summers on the community swim team for nearly 10 years.
“I was employed as a lifeguard and instructor at the pool where we practiced,” he said. “Eventually, I was promoted to head lifeguard, as well as training our other swim lesson instructors.”
During his college years, Danielson was an assistant swim coach for a school-sponsored team in Jamestown, N.D. He would, however, return home to Montana in the summer months to coach the team he grew up with.
The success of the Thunderbird swim team is no secret, according to Fucik.
“I could only hope to maintain the program as it was,” he said. “With the help of Eric, we are able to offer two qualified coaches to work with the kids.”
“My first goal will always be to create an experience for each swimmer that they will look back on fondly as they grow older,” Danielson said.
The team consists of 54 swimmers and home meets are held at the Iola-Scandinavia Community Fitness & Aquatic Center in Iola.
“I have been very impressed with the performance of the kids over the first two meets,” Danielson said. “They have done a tremendous job during practice and the extra effort is showing in their meet performances. We have had a good number of personal records set, as well as at least one team record broken in the first two meets.”
The program would not be the success it is without the parents, the coaches said.
“There is really great parent support and participation,” Fucik said. “Without the parents’ support, the program wouldn’t be able to be as successful as it has.”
“The parents have been a huge help in getting Tom and I up to speed on the club operations,” Danielson said. “It has been a pleasure to work alongside all of them so far and we could not have accomplished what we have without their help.”
Fucik hopes to see the program be a continued success.
“Eric and I also hope to be able to assist facilities director Tim Welch in designing a swim lesson program that offers more to the community than it has in the past,” he said. “Swimming has had such a big impact on my life. I want to make certain that others have the same opportunity.”
An open meet is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 3, at the center, with warmups starting at 8:30 a.m.
“We are once again offering an opportunity for everyone in the community to come join the team for a fun day of swimming at our open meet,” Danielson said.
“This is a fun meet that everyone is welcome to join in on,” he said. “We hope to see swim team parents and alumni, as well as community members, swimming that day. The more folks we can get there, the more fun it is for the kids.”