Indiana State University Newsroom

Coached to Coach: ISU grad heads swimming program at Maryland college

January 31, 2011

When Indiana State University graduate Jun Yamaguchi received a phone call early last fall, it quickly changed his plans.

Yamaguchi, a 2010 ISU master's graduate whose degree is in physical education with an emphasis in coaching, received a notice for a job interview that came rather late in the hiring process for collegiate swimming coaches. That call led to a job as head coach of the swimming program at Frostburg State University, an NCAA Division III college in Maryland.

"Because not many people have a master's in coaching, it makes me more marketable," Yamaguchi said of his ISU degree, "so it definitely helped me out in the process of getting this job."

For Yamaguchi, who has coaching experience in different sports at the high school, collegiate and international levels, his newest position is the latest chapter of his life's journey, which has already taken him halfway around the world. Yamaguchi, 28, was an avid swimmer when he was a child growing up in Japan. By the time he was 12, he was on a swim team. Then his father's job led the family on a trans-Pacific move to a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.

Yamaguchi couldn't speak English when he first moved to the U. S., but he could play sports.

"Because of sports, I was able to overcome the language barrier pretty quick," Yamaguchi said.

He was on the cross country and swim teams in high school, and after he graduated, he enrolled at The Ohio State University. After high school, Yamaguchi combined his two sports and began competing in triathlons. He sought advice from his high school cross country coach, who also participated in triathlons.

To have daily contact with his former coach, Yamaguchi began volunteering as an assistant coach of the cross country team. He enjoyed it, and began considering coaching as a career possibility.

He then interned coaching athletes with USA Triathlon twice, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and San Diego. Yamaguchi helped evaluate their technique, said Andy Schmitz, sport performance manager for USA Triathlon who worked with Yamaguchi.

"He was great," Schmitz said. "He could step in at any time and be a key, valuable contributor."

Schmitz said that Yamaguchi "is the most high energy guy that I've ever really known."

"He's somebody who's enthusiastic," Schmitz added. "He has a positive attitude and is so passionate about endurance sports."

He kept competing in triathlons, and in 2008 he represented the United States in an international triathlon in the Netherlands.

By 2008, Yamaguchi was working as a graduate assistant with the swimming teams at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., while he attended Indiana State.

"I got hired as a graduate assistant coach, which was very attractive to me, to work as a collegiate coach, and also working towards a master's degree, and ISU was one of the few universities that actually had a coaching program in master's study," Yamaguchi said. "I was very, very happy that ISU had a very intense and very high, top-quality coaching program, because not many graduate schools have coaching specific programs."

He described his master's program as a combination of exercise science, business management and psychology.

While at DePauw, Yamaguchi worked with the men's and women's swimming teams, which ranged from setting up events to designing and running practices for swimmers, said Mary Bretscher, head coach of the women's swim team at DePauw who hired Yamaguchi.

"He brings a lot of different things to the table," Bretscher said, "and I felt provided us with a lot of different things, not only for in water training," but for additional training outside of the pool.

Yamaguchi's work experience gave him a diverse work background that helped make him a viable candidate for the position at Frostburg State, said Jolynn Kuhlman, ISU associate professor of physical education who served as his graduate advisor.

"This is an unusual situation and he is very fortunate," Kuhlman said. "Collegiate head coaching positions are difficult to obtain without a significant amount of coaching experience. We are excited this happened for Jun and hope that the knowledge gained and his experiences during his master's program in coaching at ISU contributed significantly to his success."

ISU's coaching program supports an athlete-centered philosophy, Kuhlman said.

"We want to make sure that our coaches provide the best experience for their athletes, not only providing them with technical knowledge, but also helping them develop the beliefs, values and life skills," she added.

Yamaguchi has earned high praise for more than just coaching swimmers. He also instructed DePauw swimmer Katie Doogan for competing in triathlons. Doogan, who was a four-time Division III All-American during her collegiate career, finished first place in her age group at a triathlon last summer.

She expects Yamaguchi to be successful in his new position at Frostburg State.

He's getting his chance. His first season is already underway.

"My next step," Yamaguchi said, "is to make FSU a nationally competitive program."

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
Indiana State University graduate Jun Yamaguchi teaches during a triathlon clinic. Yamaguchi graduated from ISU with his master's in May 2010, and currently works as the head coach of the men's and women's swimming teams at Frostburg State University in Maryland.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
Indiana State graduate Jun Yamaguchi runs during a 2008 triathlon in the Netherlands. Yamaguchi represented the United States at the event. He graduated from Indiana State University in May 2010 with his master's degree, and currently is the head coach of the men's and women's swimming teams at Frostburg State University in Maryland.

Photo: (Submitted Photo)
Indiana State graduate Jun Yamaguchi and Mary Bretscher, coach of the women's swimming team at DePauw University. Yamaguchi was a graduate assistant at DePauw while attending ISU for his master's degree.