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It is not always easy to take on the role of a leader, especially when one doubts their resolve to continue competing in their sport, yet alone leading others.
Despite occasional doubts, the helm of leadership sits well with Linfield College junior Lee Rivers.
Rivers applied to numerous colleges before deciding to attend Linfield. He selected Linfield because it was the only school with a swimming program. Soon after arriving, Rivers fell in love with the campus and the one-on-one attention he received from the coaches, especially head coach Gary Gutierrez.
Rivers said he appreciates the dynamic between himself and assistant coach Scott Kimura, a former Division III swimmer at the University of Redalnds. The two raced against one another when Rivers was just starting his college career at Linfield.
“Reid definitely motivated me to be my best,” says Rivers. “I really appreciated his ability to push me, since my biggest obstacle has always been myself. I am able to motivate myself, but I can also get comfortable with just cruising along, and that is where it gets dangerous for me. I can’t get too comfortable with the status quo. I need to keep pushing myself until I can overcome my desire to coast along.”
As a captain of the Linfield men’s swim squad, Rivers is gaining valuable leadership experience. Back home in Renton, Wash., he is taking over this summer as the head coach of the very summertime club team he swam with during his adolescence.
“I started two years ago as an assistant coach then last year I was the co-coach. This year, I will be coaching alone. I am excited, but completely terrified.”
In addition to coaching, Rivers is working towards achieving an English Literature major while also being certified in secondary education.
“My ultimate goal would be to teach high school English. I would love to coach a swim team wherever I end up teaching as well.”
Rivers has proven he is motivated to achieve his goals. He began swimming when he was eight on both a school and a club team and continued doing so until his sophomore year. That’s when he decided to quit club swimming.
“I would leave the house at 6:00 in the morning and not be back until 9 at night. It became too much, so I decided to quit club, he says. “That entire period between summer after sophomore year and senior year was really hard for me. I had some really high moments and some really low moments.”
Luckily, Rivers had a coach who helped him through his rough patches. Tom Schutte coached him on the O’Dea High School swim team. Schutte motivated Rivers to continue swimming, even through times when his passion was waning.
Rivers carries forward the spirit and love for coaching his mentors passed along to him, as well as drawing inspiration from some well-known household names.
“I definitely look up to Michael Phelps and Lance Armstrong. I race bikes as well, and I am amazed by what Armstrong has accomplished. I have read about and known them for many years and I feel a personal connection to both of them. Armstrong is from Plano, Texas, my hometown. Phelps did many great things for the sport of swimming, and both Phelps and Armstrong have reached the peaks in their sports.”
Whether it is in swimming or teaching, Rivers is developing into a great leader. He speaks fondly of the new talent on the swim team and is excited for his future in teaching. He brings his own sense of humor to everything he does.
“I’ve done a lot of funny, weird things in front of a lot of people. I love making people laugh,” he says.
Rivers may be a jokester, but he has also been through his fair share of trials and setbacks.
Rivers’ self-doubt about his own future in swimming has strengthened him. He is able to see past the frustration and focus on methods of attaining a better tomorrow.
“Lee has always been a great leader and a great teammate,” says Wildcats teammate Chris Purdy. “You can always rely on him for a good laugh.”
-Kelsey McGarry ‘16