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Varsity swim coach Wilma Wong reflects on coaching career, Archer swimmers describe her impact 

Senior Lacey Thompson dives into the pool. The varsity swim team won first place in their first league meet Tuesday, March 5, at Crespi. Photo by Archer Athletics.

On a sunny, chlorine-scented day in 2018, Wilma Wong attended her daughter, Saskia’s, varsity swim meet. Prior to the meet, she had intensely reviewed Saskia’s scores and calculated specific times for her to beat. Every detail was closely examined for success — but Wong was just there as a spectator. “I’ll be your stopwatch, but I’m not a coach,” Wong said.

Wong said attending her daughter’s swim meets inspired her to help more swimmers perfect their strategies. She started coaching Archer’s varsity swim team later that year and is now preparing to coach at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Wong has been a high-performance coach since 2008. A high-performance coach guides elite athletes through managing stress and making long-term career decisions. Wong started coaching swim specifically in 2018. Throughout her career, she has coached Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Notably, Wong has trained with Paralympic swimmer Jamal Hill, an athlete who is set to compete in the 2024 Olympics.

Sophomore Alexa Grant has been swimming at Archer since middle school and competes in club swimming outside of school. She had the opportunity to meet Hill during swim practice and said she was impressed with Hill’s experience and perseverance throughout his career.

“Hill used to come and help out with the swimmers and talk about his experience being a Paralympic swimmer,” Grant said. “I liked how that shaped his mindset, which I thought was really empowering.”

As a high-performance coach, Wong advises athletes, teaching them how to improve their mental and physical health. According to Missouri University, participating in athletics should be an essential part of life for adolescents.

“If you exercise, you actually get less depression. You’re happier in life. You study better,” Wong said. “You should always exercise even if you don’t [play] a sport.”

The varsity swim team competed in their first league meet Tuesday, March 5, where they finished in first place. Freshman Ashley Chan said swim competitions and practices are a way for her team to demonstrate skills they have worked to improve throughout the season.

“It develops some people’s swim skills and teaches technique, which is really nice,” Chan said. “At Archer swim practice, Wong teaches you techniques, methods and strategies to swim more efficiently.”

Wong said a key aspect of coaching the varsity swim team is motivating players to focus on personal improvement. She said she works on helping swimmers improve their technique rather than focusing on their performance times.

“It’s difficult for people to focus on their technique, and not on the time,” Wong said. “If you focus on your technique, your time will drop — but if you focus on the time, then you just put pressure on yourself, and then you actually don’t swim faster.”

Lacey Thomson (’24), Amelia Hines (’24), Chloe Resnick (’24), Alexa Grant (’26) and coach Wilma Wong pose at a swim meet. The varsity swim team will compete in their CIF state championship May 9-11. “[Wong] is very understanding and prioritizes us being better swimmers, and better people,” Grant said. Photo by Archer Athletics.
According to Trine University, athletes who compete in an individual sport like swimming are more prone to anxiety than athletes who compete in team sports because they deem themselves responsible for losses, rather than their whole team. Grant discussed the strategies her teammates use to bond throughout the season.

“Everyone has a very mutual understanding of each other because we’re all there to do the same things, although swimming is technically an individual sport,” Grant said. “We had a lot of fun cheering each other on, eating snacks and talking about leaving school early.”

Grant said she deeply values the commitment Wong puts into coaching the team. She said she and her teammates are fortunate to have a coach who is passionate about the sport.

“She’s just very understanding and prioritizes getting us better as swimmers and getting us better as people,” Grant said. “I think that is something a lot of people should definitely should value in a coach, that is very hard to come by.”

Wong said one of the most significant achievements thus far was her swimmers’ teamwork during the first meet. She said she hopes the team emulates that passion at their next meet.

“To me, the biggest triumph was they were cheering the entire team — that was our biggest win,” Wong said. “I would love to get that kind of quality when we get to CIF championships —  that to me is the closest thing we get to college swimming.”

The varsity swim team will compete in their third league meet Friday, March 22, and compete in their last league meet of the season Wednesday, April 24. With CIF state championships fast approaching, Wong plans to lead the team to another victory.

Wong integrates Archer’s values of ambition and enthusiasm for learning by encouraging students to advocate for themselves. She said she is continually impressed by students who take the initiative to improve their scores without being asked.

“There’s been one swimmer that would like to swim in college — she’s been coming to practice and wanting to drop time,” Wong said. “I love helping people like that because they want big things and have big dreams, and I want to help them get it.”

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About the Contributor
Lola Thomas, Senior Reporter
Lola Thomas joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She is a part of the Ambassador Leadership Team, serves on the Black Student Union Board, and is a member of the Unaccompanied Minors. You can find her listening to music, hanging out with her friends, and playing with her puppy in her free time.

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