By: MADISON MCCARTHY / SPORTS CO-EDITOR
One year ago LIU Athletics hired Bobby Smith as the new Head Coach of the women's and men’s Swimming teams. Since then, the team has done nothing but grow and improve, including the addition of Assistant Coaches Zach Towers and Emma Brown. The new coaching staff had only a short period of time to get ready for the season, and their results were impressive.
The sharks finished the season at the 2022 Northeast Conference Championships, finishing 3rd on the women’s side and 2nd on the men’s. The season finale included 32 personal best and 18 season best times. The team also had two first, two second, and four third place finishes.
Among the personal bests and medals, the team broke nine different tem records with Marcell Matyiko setting a new NEC record in the 400 IM.
Here’s what Smith, Towers and Brown had to say about their first year with LIU.
First Year Review with Head Coach Bobby Smith
After leaving Adelphi University, Coach Smith was faced with a new set of challenges at LIU. The swim team is made up of almost 60 athletes, making it one of the biggest teams on the Brooklyn campus. He explained the size and how he handles the large team:
“Trying to give sixty people equal attention… Luckily I don't have to do too much balancing, of course there are also certain people that need certain things, but a lot of the personalities on the team are very similar. We don’t have too many big egos that take up too much of my time.”
After having some time to reflect on his first year as a Division I head swim coach he said,
“I think more work could have been done out of the water for the team. I think we probably could have prevented a couple of injuries, if we had a little bit more support outside of the water, especially in weights [training].”
Looking forward, Smith is continuing to focus on growing the team. However, starting with this upcoming recruiting class, the LIU Athletic administration updated their policy on scholarship packages. As previously reported by Seawanhaka,
“New LIU students receiving an athletic scholarship of any amount may now have their total merit aid limited to a maximum of $10,000.”
Given the tight budgets of swim teams across the country, Coach Smith explained how the new guidelines effects the team’s recruiting process,
“It’s certainly made it more difficult. It’s an interesting thing to have an athlete that, if you want to give them athletic money; that they deserve, they have earned, and then to tell them that it's going to hurt them from also being a good student. Now, take one of those away, it doesn't make much sense to me but that's the rules we were given.”
On a positive note, Smith is looking forward to the continued success of the team this season and beyond.
“I just want to build upon what we started last year. Coming in kind of late, I feel like everything was done on the fly. This year I feel a lot more prepared. My goals are to make this season a lot more smooth. I just think we are already in better place.”
The team was projected to tie for first for the Men’s team and third for the women’s team in the NEC preseason poll. However, it should be noted that the previous NEC Champion Bryant Bulldogs, announced their exit from the conference late last year. Coach smith spoke about that announcement,
“Bryant was a dominant force here, and that makes the competition a little bit more spread out now. On the Men’s side with only four teams, of course we’d like to see some more competition but it will be interesting. I think it will be better for us overall.”
First Year Review with Assistant Coach Emma Brown
Shortly after the publication of last year’s spotlight, Coach Emma Brown was added to the swim team staff. Brown is in her second year with the sharks and coaches the distance swimmers.
The Albany native swam for four years at Adelphi University for Coach Smith from 2016 through the 2020 season. Starting at twelve years old, Brown fell in love with the sport and hasn't looked back. She has turned her love for participating in the sports into a coaching career.
“When I swam club, my younger brother, (who) is six years younger than me, and I would stay for the younger kids sessions. I would help volunteer for coaches there. I got a position over the summer iin college, being the head coach at a country club for age group swimming. I was also the head coach for a club team in upstate New York.”
After swimming for Coach Smith, she said, “Bobby wanted me to be his assistant right after I graduated but I couldn’t afford to live on Long Island during the pandemic. When he told me he was coming to LIU, he had a full time position available.”
Coach Brown mentioned that her first year here was a big adjustment, but is excited to see what the future holds for this season. She is looking forward to supporting her athletes in the best way possible, she says.
“I want everyone to recognize where they are and how much work it took to get them here. For you to be swimming at a division one school it says it for itself.”
First Year Review with Assistant Coach Zach Towers
Joining the staff just in time for the 2021 season, Zach Towers brought a lifetime of swimming experience with him. The Huntington native formally swam for the University of Buffalo for two years and the University of North Carolina Wilmington for two years.
Towers coaches the sprinters on the team and sums up his first year as “exciting, challenging, and educational.” Taking everything he learned last year, he’s excited to see what the team can do this season.
“ I would like to see a lot of improvement across the board. My big goal is to create a team tradition. Something we don’t have.”
After spending four years at the Division I level as an athlete, Towers knows everything that goes into competing against the best. The best part of coaching, he says, “Seeing the athletes' hard work pay off.”
He also noted that being with the sharks gives him and the team an opportunity to make a name for themselves as a first time college coach and a young program.