Coach whips Wahoos into championship shape

Story and photo by Wendy Brown
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office

Swim coach Deb Kruecken conducts an intensive swim clinic with 21 members of the Wiesbaden Wahoos at the Hallenbad Hochheim am Main Jan. 8.

Swim coach Deb Kruecken conducts an intensive swim clinic with 21 members of the Wiesbaden Wahoos at the Hallenbad Hochheim am Main Jan. 8.


Where the untrained eye looks into a pool and sees swimmers doing laps, swimming coach Deb Kruecken sees individual potential.

Kruecken, an Olympic qualified swimmer, traveled all the way from British Columbia, Canada, to conduct an intensive five-day swim clinic Jan. 7-11 with the Wiesbaden Wahoos before the division championships later this month. Team members said she has the unique ability to look into a pool full of swimmers and determine exactly how each person can improve. When it comes to swimming, her eye is extremely well trained.

“She pays attention to everyone and she always corrects our technique,” said Chantel Wynn, a member of the team for four years. Kruecken is sensitive to what each swimmer needs to learn as an individual, she said.

“Deb is always a nice person to be around. She has always helped me with my swimming, and I felt like if I came back it would make me a better swimmer,” said Wynn, who also swims on an A-level German team and plans to swim competitively in college.

The clinics and the team’s hard work have paid off. The Wahoos have been the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Tyrolean Division champions. The team, which is affiliated with the European Forces Swim League, hopes for a fourth championship this year.

Kruecken, who has 35 years of experience as a swim coach, qualified for the 1980 Olympics, but that was the year the United States boycotted the games because they were held in the Soviet Union. She began giving clinics to the team in 2004, when her brother Earl Price was stationed in Wiesbaden.

She lived in Munich at the time and her university-level coaching job did not allow her the time to coach the Wahoos throughout the whole season, Kruecken said, but she began giving the team clinics each year in August and January. Next year, because of the distance she must travel, she will only be able to give the August clinic, she said. Previously she lived in Germany and did not have to travel so far. British Columbia is about 4,800 miles from Wiesbaden.

Chris Bradford, a member of the team for eight years, said he has taken all of Kruecken’s clinics since she began giving them in 2004. “It’s a different style from our normal training,” Bradford said. “It’s fast and really hard. It gets us ready for the championships.”

This year Kruecken pointed out ways he could improve his swim stroke technique, Bradford said. “She’s got a fiery personality and she is really energetic,” he said.

By day two of the clinic, which took place at the Hallenbad Hochheim am Main, Antonia Wright, 16, said Kruecken had pointed out that she needed to stop arching her back because keeping her body straight in the water would help her swim faster.

“It’s intense, but it’s good,” said Wright of the clinic.

During the clinic Jan. 8 Kruecken watched the swimmers carefully as they practiced various swimming strokes. Periodically she let a swimmer know how to improve.

“Where is your head when you’re doing the back stroke? Looking straight at that ceiling,” Kruecken told one swimmer.
A few moments later, Kruecken noticed that a swimmer was not maintaining a streamline position. “If you streamline, you don’t have to swim half the pool,” Kruecken reminded the swimmer. For the vast majority of the two-hour clinic, the swimmers were in the water quickly swimming and improving their strokes.

Matt Garcia, a member of the team for three years, said he has taken Kruecken’s clinics every year because she is a tough, good coach. “She focuses on the little things so they become second nature,” he said.

Kruecken said she took a 20-year break from competitive swimming, but recently started swimming again in the Masters Swimming Canada, which is for adult swimmers. She is ranked number one in her age group in the 50-meter freestyle and second in the 100-meter freestyle.

She plans to compete in the nationals in April, Kruecken said.

Kruecken said she has always loved swimming, but when it comes down to it, swimming, like any other discipline, is about learning how to focus and create a sense of self belief that carries over into the rest of life. “It’s not only about swimming,” she said. “It’s about learning life skills.”

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