One of the more cliche sayings used nowadays to inspire someone to chase after their goal is to “not let your dreams just be dreams, make them realities.” Simply put, make opportunities arise through passion, and keep pressing forward.
Forty-five years ago, an opportunity to coach the sport he loved knocked on Mick Westcott’s front door. Seizing the proposition to become head coach of the University of Rhode Island’s Division I collegiate swimming program, Westkott came and never left. He’s stayed for so long that he now holds the record for second longest tenure of any college coach in the entire country.
Since Westkott began coaching at the University, he has been awarded coach of the year twice and was inducted into the Rhode Island aquatic hall of fame – as well as the Lycoming College hall of fame. His reputation for excellence goes beyond the chlorine smelling pool deck as he received Academic American All-Honors after 10 consecutive semesters of having his team’s post extraordinary GPA’s in the classroom.
Westkott’s coaching days began when he was 16 years old. Lifeguarding at his summer pool, he decided to start a swimming program in 1960. He coached during the summer for five years, and resigned as the head coach of the program in 1966.
Westkott took over as the head coach for URI in 1972, just one year after the pool opened and the program took off. The original coach was forced to resign due to complications between himself, the aquatics director and the University.
“The true story is that I was teaching school in Narragansett, the job opened, and they basically had nobody else that would take the job,” Westkott said.
When he started off, there was only a boy’s program. The women’s team was introduced three years later in 1975, and he captured control of both programs.
Westkott admits that over the 45 years he has changed his coaching style to adapt with the times, and one of the greatest advantages we have accessible in the Tootell Aquatic Center is athlete-turned-coach advice.
“I think we’re really lucky because Lillian Falconer, who graduated in 2011 and is now an assistant coach, swam here, and she has first-hand experience of how an athlete will respond to training, and that asset has made us smarter,” Westkott said. “The textbook you can read, you can listen at a clinic, but getting ideas from the swimmers is what makes us smarter.”
He also noted that as science evolved training, his approach changed too. Westkott uses the phrase, “It’s not how much you do, it’s what you do” to guide his practices.
With no plans for retirement in the near future, Westkott has coached every swimmer on the record board, and hopes to have a few of the names swapped out before he leaves. Westkott has been coaching for so many years that some of his athletes have already retired from their jobs.
“It’s crazy,” Westcott said. “It’s really working with them that’s been the real honor. Not just coaching but seeing them grow as individuals and turn their lives into something really good. It’s too good. I grow every year with them.”
From a man who originally went to school for an Master’s in business administration, Westkott has done just about the direct opposite. His passion for swimming and coaching has been fueled for the past 45 years is still going. “The bottom line is that the real pleasure and the honor to work here is the tremendous opportunity to follow passion.” he said. “We have great athletes who are committed, focused, strong students and are a pleasure to work with. If the University lets me stay, I’m in.”