Gabe Woodward: From Competitor to Coach

Gabe Woodward is the head coach of the aquatics program here at The Master’s University. In 2004, he placed as a bronze medalist in the 4×100 meter freestyle.

“The team is off to a strong start. We started the year having added 19 new freshman and/or transfer students. We have set multiple individual and team relay records. We have a number of events where TMU is ranked in the top 10 nationally for the first time ever,” Woodward says.

With all of the new swimmers coming into the program, it is still very important to the coach and the team to see them move as a cohesive unit.

The team wakes up at a steep hour of 4:30 a.m. to race over to practice, which begins at 5 a.m. in the pool. The early morning swim is intentional. It allows the swimmers to practice consistently while leaving the bulk of more conventional hours free for other responsibilities. Also, the discipline it instills in this level of athletic competition is helpful.

“Part of being an athlete at a more elite level is the ability to recover from practice on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday etc. and getting good rest is definitely a need. So, it definitely takes discipline to have the early morning practices but it is setting up each of our swimmers and divers well for life as they learn the discipline of rising early to work hard,” Woodward states.

Since competing in the Olympics and being an athlete himself, Woodard has had to change his mindset as his roles shift from the competing athlete, to the coach position. This has been a different hurdle altogether; however, it has given him the ability to be the coach that he wanted for his own self to succeed, and give that gift to his swimmers.

“When I was an athlete I always wanted a coach that believed in me, in my ability to improve and be one of the best in the world. I actually felt like I rarely got that. One of the things that has come easiest for me is the belief that every swimmer on my team can swim much faster than they ever have before. I’ve told them numerous times this year that sometimes and actually often I might believe in them more than they believe in themselves,” Woodward explains as he recounts his competing days.

“Another difference … being a coach definitely doesn’t keep you in shape like being an athlete does,” he adds.

Being a coach has been a highlight for Woodward. He is excited about building the program. But there are even more important things to coach Woodward than just the success of the team.

“I think relationships have been the biggest blessing.  We have loved meeting the kids as recruits starting in high school, then having them come for a visit to campus and then having them here training, getting their work done in the classroom and most of all maturing in the Lord,” says Woodward.

Both he and his family have enjoyed the transition and the relationships that they have been able to build because of the new position they have taken on. The relationships that have sprouted have been one of the most rewarding things for him as a coach, making his experience with the program far more rewarding then just the titles they’ve achieved together.

For water sports at TMU, there are potential developments ahead. The university is considering the idea of building its own 12-lane pool on campus. The goal would be to develop the swim team further on its own turf and possibly expand into other sports such as water polo.

The future of the aquatics program is just warming up with horizons constantly expanding. Coach Woodward has been really pleased with his time here creating relationships with students developing in their competitive career that could last years.

From athlete to coach, Woodward continues to take his team through success in this new branch of The Master’s University’s competitive programs.

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