It started with a love of fish.
As a youngster growing up in Laurel, Strohm Edwards was persuaded by his mother to swim at the Seaford Golf and Country Club using a 10-gallon aquarium as an incentive. Swimming that summer ignited a passion for the sport that has developed into a full-time coaching career.
Edwards is head coach of the year-round Makos Swim Club and the seasonal Sussex Community Swim Team Makos, attracting young swimmers ages 4-18 from throughout Sussex County.
The idea for a year-round swim program originated with Lisa and Matt Morgan, who moved to the Harbeson area from Long Island, N.Y, in 2013. Lisa, mother of eight children with five swimmers, said her oldest child swam for a USA Swimming team in New York, but there was no similar program in the Sussex County area.
The idea for the Makos was born, and the couple went after Edwards to coach the team. At the time, Edwards had his hands full as general manager of Bethany Blues and coach of the Lewes Yacht Club summer team.
The Morgans’ persistence paid off, and Edwards came on board full time in February 2017.
The USA Makos team is for more serious swimmers, Edwards said. Practices are more intense and more technical, and workouts are harder with more practice days available to swimmers, as many as six days per week for older swimmers. The team practices and competes throughout the year, including traveling to USA Swimming-sanctioned meets throughout the Mid-Atlantic area.
The community team practices three days a week and competes for three months in the summer and three months in the winter. Both teams compete side-by-side in the summer and winter in local league meets.
The Makos rent lanes at Sussex Academy Aquatic Center in Georgetown for practices.
Recently, the program expanded to include Milford Boys & Girls Club, where community swim team practices take place and the USA team practices on Saturday.
Coach grew up swimming
As a youngster, Edwards swam for three years in Seaford before going to the Mid-Delmarva YMCA, now Richard A. Hensen Family YMCA, in Salisbury, Md.
While he excelled in the pool, he quickly became a student of the sport and knew he wanted to coach.
His first coaching job at 19 was as an assistant and then head coach of the summer Sussex Community Swim Team in the late 1990s at the former Delaware Technical Community College pool in Georgetown. He also coached at Mid-Delmarva YMCA and was an assistant for one year for the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club in Charlotte, N.C., one of the top club teams in the country. He coached the Lewes Yacht Club for two years.
While coaching, Edwards also worked at area restaurants and was a member of Rehoboth Beach Patrol.
Edwards and his wife, Kim, live near Long Neck and have three sons, Luke, 12, Jaxen, 9, and Mason, 5. The two oldest sons are following in their father’s footsteps as standout swimmers for the Makos.
Challenge the swimmers daily
Edwards is animated as he walks up and down the pool deck during practices and meets, constantly coaching his swimmers in the proper stroke techniques.
The coach said his job is to develop team members beyond swimming, teaching them sportsmanship, developing a strong work ethic and helping them show support for their teammates. “I challenge them daily. They get to see their accomplishments as they grow as swimmers. They can take this with them in anything they do,” he said.
“I’ve had shy kids on the pool deck who wouldn’t even look at me. By the end of the year, they are walking with their heads up, full of confidence and personality,” he said.
Edwards said a lot of the success of the program is due to the assistant coaches, including Sharon Buss, who works with young swimmers, and Mike Vansant, who helps coach older swimmers. A new coach, Matt McDonough, has recently been hired.
“We have some very athletic and talented kids here, but it’s hard to develop skills when you only swim in the summer,” Edwards said. That’s where the USA swim program steps in.
Program continues to grow
Morgan said the program is filing for nonprofit status and has a board of directors of parents to run the program. “We have a lot of great people to help us,” she said.
Morgan said the growth of the program has been great, starting with 15 swimmers in October 2016. Today, the USA team has 50 swimmers and the community team has 70 members, some of whom participate on both teams.
The Makos won their division in the Two Bays Championships last winter and the Delmarva Swim Association Championships this past summer. The team also hosted the summer championships at Sussex Academy.
“Some people thought I was crazy to attempt this,” Edwards said. “But because of our great core group of parents, we not only hosted it, but knocked it out of the park.”
For more information on the Makos, go to www.teamunify.com/team/mamsc/page/home.