“I’m hoping to share a little perspective on Shawn Delifus. He was like family to me, I got him into coaching, it’s hard for me to write this stuff without breaking down because I always had a vision of us as old fogies reminiscing about all swimmers and coaches we’d known. Shawn’s my goto for creative inspiration when practices start getting stale or I just want to get excited about swimming again. I’m not on Facebook, and for the first time I wish I was. Please share this with your readers if you are able.”
Shawn Delifus and Swimming: A love story for the ages
For the past decade there has been a force carrying the sport of swimming into a brave new future. Something was building that would eventually rip the sport free from those content to settle for doing what has worked in the past. Technology has come too far to avoid analytics in sport (and our sport is tailor made for certain types of analytics); access to knowledge in our society has come too far to avoid recognizing the synergy between mental/spiritual health, nutritional health, and physical health. Swimming is a sport that helps athletes learn great life values, and, with the new advantages that have been building in our society, this force would push swimming into a new world where every athlete could learn to get the most from themselves and give the most of themselves. Swimming would become more than just a sport, it would become a driving agent of social progress. Shawn Delifus was the force that I expected to push, pull, drag swimming into the future. He saw swimming as a way of life that could change our world, as it had changed his life. His vision was so great, his passion exceeded even his vision, and his work ethic was absolutely unstoppable.
I first got to know Shawn his senior year of high School. Shawn discovered swimming through George Ibanez and First Coast Aquatics. When I joined up with the team I was told stories of a swimmer who would ride the bus for hours a day to get to practice. Shawn’s love of swimming radiated from him in waves.
I knew pretty early on that Shawn had a future in swimming; just not as a swimmer. His passion was undeniable, his thirst for knowledge exceeded anyone I’ve ever met, and his ability to give a complement is pure poetry. Unfortunately, his feel for the water needed about a decade or two of work to catch up with the rest of his skill set. It was pretty clear that swimming would have to love Shawn back on the deck rather than in the pool.
It didn’t take Shawn much time to dive whole heartedly into coaching at NFS, and we even talked Beth Harrell, and her kind heart, into bringing Shawn on board to work with the college team when he was still the same age as the athletes. Shawn took on those challenges with the humor, energy, confidence, and wild abandon that he brought to every moment I knew him. Swimming has played a huge role in my family for generations. My goal in this profession is to be a good coach. I try to help my swimmers to be self sufficient and understand the sport, so they have the tools to reach any level of success they are willing to commit to achieving. My mother may have passed on a bit of zealotry to me when it comes to the why of drills and skills (I fear Shawn may have picked up a bit more of that insanity from me). I hope that our style of swimming will help our swimmers use the habits they learn in and around the pool to be successful at anything they set their minds to. Shawn absolutely knows that his program will.
Shawn’s passion for swimming made him feel like family. We had some amazing times at our coaches meetings. Going to swim meets together was the most fun I’ve ever had on a pool deck. We were serious about our swimming, but Shawn had the ability to smash through some heavy social barriers while laughing and joking the whole time.
You see, Shawn is the greatest coach I’ve ever met, because he wasn’t just striving to help his swimmers be great at swimming. Shawn was working to share his vision of swimming with all of us in the swimming community; and all of us he thought should be in the swimming community… pretty much every person in the world and probably beyond. Shawn fell in love with a sport that, at its core, would give each athlete exactly what they earned and allow them to tangibly track their progress. From the beep of the start, to the touch on the final wall, each of us is free to be everything we made of ourselves.
Shawn saw swimming as a sport that could change our society, change our world, the same way it changed his life. For Shawn, that meant doing what has been successful in the past isn’t enough. We have to push the boundaries of our sport out to a place where every kid who needs a chance, has access to the positive values that swimming brings and can take advantage of our beautiful sport. Actually, Shawn wouldn’t settle for pushing out boundaries, we need to smash through those artificial limitations and sweep them away like the illusions they truly are.
Find someone new to share your love of swimming with every week. Make yourself a smarter, wiser, stronger, healthier, happier, more enthusiastic, better swimmer and teammate every day. Expand your team to encompass every member of the swimming community and those who Shawn thinks should be, no matter what the name on their cap says. Make yourself a smarter, wiser, stronger, healthier, happier, more enthusiastic, better coach/teacher/parent/friend. Do it for each other and do it for Shawn.
Shawn has shown us the vision of a world, where every child has a chance to learn to swim, in programs with access to all the combined knowledge of progressive coaches from all over the world. Shawn never recognized the boundaries many of us create for ourselves, and as his vision evolved, he blasted through every limit with his incredible brand of energy and humor. It has been a pleasure to have been a part of Shawn’s journey. He left us much too soon. Those of us who have been blessed to know Shawn have work to do to ensure his vision lives on.