Taylor Corley, editor-in-chief
After the end of the swim season in Febrary of this year, the Berry College head swim coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, Paul Flinchbaugh, resigned.
In 2008, Flinchbaugh established the Berry swim program and has served as head coach ever since.
“He started the entire team,” junior Noah Brand said. “He was the first coach that they ever had here.”
Brand has been a member of the Berry men’s swim team since he was a freshman. According to him, several aspects of the team that were different this year than in years past.
One distinct difference was that the men’s and women’s teams used to practice at the same time, however this year they were separated.
“We [practiced together] in the past, but this year, I mean some last year, but this year we had different practices.”
According to senior Riley Croker, the teams also practiced separately last year because of COVID-19 regulations.
“Last year we also [split up men and women] but that was just for contact tracing limitations, but this year we kept those rules because we had so many people [on the team],” Croker said.
According to Brand, with the separation of the teams in practice, there was a differentiation between the cultures and environments on the men’s and women’s teams and the two are very different.
“I didn’t really get the whole, culture of the women’s team as much as the men’s team,” Brand said. “But I mean the men’s team is great, like all the guys are super supportive of each other. And, I hope the women’s team is the same, I just don’t really know as much.”
This year the men’s team went 3-4 overall and finished with a 2-0 conference record. The women’s team went 1-6 overall and 0-2 in conference. According to Brand, Flinchbaugh remained head coach throughout the entirety of the season, and did not announce his resignation until the end of the year team meeting.
“I personally thought, just because of the way the year was going, I could kind of tell, I was like, ‘yeah I don’t think he’s coming back,” Brand said. “But no one really talked about it. I don’t really know if anyone knew specifically.”
One of the major shifts in the team was that Flinchbaugh was no longer as focused on the team’s future, according to Brand.
“Normally he was super focused on what we were going to be doing not only this year, but the year after, by making sure we’re getting recruits, and staying on top of all the new people coming in,” Brand said. “But this year he kind of stepped back from that a little bit, so it wasn’t really as big of a deal to him.”
Croker also felt a shift in the team’s atmosphere this year.
“I would definitely say, specifically over my past three years, I think the morale of the team was pretty high, like higher than normal, and I think this year was a bit different,” Croker said. “I still think the morale was high but not as high as it’s been in the past.”
Brand said that he feels the reason for the resignation was so that Flinchbaugh could take a step back given that he has been coaching for so long.
“I mean he’s a great coach though, he really is, but he just kind of got a lot of stuff going on this year I guess,” Brand said. “It’s kind of complicated, because he definitely was a really good coach. Like, he knew what he was doing and he has all this experience, he had all the connections, everything like that. But then, I feel like, he kind of got to a point where he didn’t really know what else to do.”
Croker said that there were issues with communication.
“I love Paul a lot, but I think he struggled with communication sometimes and a lot of swimmers got frustrated with that, whether that just be with communication with people on ther team or just a lack of recruiting, just in general,” Croker said.
According to Croker, the athletics department is currently looking to hire a new coach.
“I think as far as I know, I’ve had a couple meetings with Angel Mason and [David Beasley], our athletic advisor, and they’ve been talking to me and some of the other captains through the process of how they’re hiring a new swim coach,” Croker.
Although Croker will be graduating in May, he still hopes to see a shift in the Berry team moving forward.
“I think in recent years, our diving has not been as appreciated as it needs to be,” Croker said. “I would like to have at least some sort of coach with an understanding of diving because I think it’s been really shoved to the other side and put in a corner.”
Despite the loss of Flinchbaugh, the athletics department wishes him well.
“I wish Coach Flinchbaugh the best in his future endeavors,” Athletics Director Angel Mason said. “We are thankful for his commitment to the swim and dive programs during his time a Berry.”