Jerry Holtrey hung up his whistle as Hawken’s physical education teacher in 2008, but he has no plans to leave his post as head coach of the coed school’s varsity swim teams. This year, the 73-year-old led the girls squad to its 22nd state championship — a 14th consecutive title that bested St. Edward High School's wrestling record.
I taught for a total of 42 years — one year in Indiana, two years in Kentucky, and then 39 years here at Hawken. I was losing some of my enthusiasm and energy, and I thought it would be best for the students that I stopped teaching. But I still had the enthusiasm for coaching. The boys and girls who come out for the swim team are there because they really want to be there. They aren’t afraid to work hard and put in a lot of time.
I was a swimmer when I was young. I swam at the University of Michigan, then at Indiana University.
My YMCA team swimming coach was also a teacher. He was a very, very fine role model. He never swore. He was always helpful. He was very considerate. He was the person you could turn to for advice. I admired him so much that I wanted to be a coach.
Every job I’ve ever had I got primarily because I was a math teacher.
Very few sports work out twice a day, but swimmers do better in their academic areas than other athletes. They’ve learned how to budget their time better. They’re more disciplined.
Each year we have a big team meeting. We go over our team goals, and then I talk to each member about individual goals and how they can achieve those goals. I’ve always tried to stress the fact that if they achieve their own personal goals, the team goals will take care of themselves. It’s worked that way since we started winning.
Our boys and girls practice together. So if we happen to have some girls who are really outstanding, we’ve also got boys who are going to beat them. They go against each other, day in and day out. Because of that, they learn to respond to the pressure of somebody who’s swimming right beside them.
I never cut anybody. When students try out for the team, I work them out really hard.
I’ve had a few people quit the team because they didn’t feel like they could do the workouts.
I tell students that if they’ve done the very best they can, then they’re a winner. It doesn’t matter if they got first or last.