WILBRAHAM – Patricia McDiarmid, a health science professor at Springfield College, was recently inducted into the Massachusetts High School Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame for coaching male and female swimmers at Minnechaug for 15 years.
McDiarmid, a Wilbraham resident and former coach and physical education teacher at Minnechaug Regional High School, told Reminder Publications she was never involved in high school or college level swimming teams. However, she studied swimming while studying physical education at Springfield College.
“Maybe because I wasn’t a swimmer, I had to think and train and get more professional development in an area where it wasn’t my natural expertise,” she added. “So I had to really be on top of the game.”
While at Springfield College she studied under Charles Silvia, a longtime professor at the college.
“The best coaches are the greatest teachers and you really can’t coach unless you can teach well,” she explained. “With high school sports you have to take time working on technique and the basics because not everybody comes to you with the same amount of skill.”
She became head coach of the boys’ varsity swimming and diving teams at Minnechaug in 1991.
“When I first took over the boys’ team, because I had been coaching the girls for a while, I was actually out on a maternity leave and my athletic director convinced me that all the team needed was a leader” she said.
“And when I walked in to start coaching with the boys, you could have heard a pin drop when I was having my preseason meeting because they had never had a female at the helm,” she continued. “One of the young men, after I got done with all my talking, said to me, ‘So, what do you know about coaching boys?’ And I took a long pause and I said, ‘Why don’t I answer that question for you at the end of the season after we’ve worked together.’”
Under McDiarmid’s leadership, the Minnechaug boys won the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Western Massachusetts Sectional Championship from 1991 to 1993. Prior to these years, the school had not won the title in 25 years.
“One of the young men [in 1991] won the 50 yard freestyle at that tournament and his father had won the same race when he swam for Minnechaug years ago,” she added.
The boys’ team also won the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference (PVIAC) Championship each of these years as well.
She also served as head coach of the Minnechaug girls’ team for 12 years. During those years, her girls’ team won the MIAA Championship in 1992 and 1993 and the Western Massachusetts MIAA?Sectional Championship title in 1989, and 1991 to 1994.
Some tips that she regularly shared with her swimmers were “perfect practice makes perfect,” and to focus on timing and good swimming techniques.
“It’s a case by case when you’re training swimmers,” she added. “You can’t just do it as a mass lot.”
When McDiarmid learned that she would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, she was “shocked.”
The Massachusetts Swim & Dive Coaches Hall of Fame, hosted by the Eastern Massachusetts Interscholastic Swim Coaches Academy, began inducted coaches in 1981 and features more than 60 people on its list including coach Mark Michelson of Longmeadow, inducted in 2009, and coach Dick Bolles of East Longmeadow, who was honored in 2012.
McDiarmid currently serves as the PVIAC Commissioner and the MIAA West Sectional Boys’ and Girls’ Swimming and Diving Tournament director.