Everything Eagles: Welcome to Rocktober

As he heads into year two, Ryan Kauth further implements his culture into Biola’s swim team.


Photo by Aaron Zhang / THE CHIMES

Austin Green, Managing Editor

This story was originally published in print on Oct. 18, 2018.

The music blaring out from the Lansing Pool speakers on a late Wednesday afternoon are not what one would expect from an intense practice session. But any sense of ease that Ed Sheeran or The Lumineers would give is quickly drowned out by Ryan Kauth’s booming voice from the deck and the splashes from the swimmers below. The commands are mixed with praises and encouragement, displaying Kauth’s trademark intensity and positivity at the same time.

This is his team now, certainly much more so than when he was brought on as an emergency hire just before the 2017-18 swim season. Back then, stepping into a team completely comprised of players he had not recruited and barely even knew, Kauth faced what he now readily admits was a major challenge for him.

“It was really, really hard to come up with a structure and a plan,” Kauth said. “I thought that I could come in and just say, ‘Hey, here’s my culture and this is the way we’re gonna operate now,’ and it didn’t take long before I realized it doesn’t work that way.”

Still, the Eagles eventually bought in to Kauth’s philosophy and turned in one of their best meets ever at the Pacific Swim and Dive Conference championships last February. When the swimmers returned for fall practices, a team that had lost some top star power but gained plenty of depth hit the ground running. It helps that this season marks the Eagles’ first in three years that they do not have to adjust to a new head coach.

“The team came in with an understanding of what my expectations were, like the upperclassmen were able to teach the freshmen a little bit more about, ‘Hey, this is what Coach expects,’” Kauth said.

Kauth has seized the opportunity to take full ownership of the budding swim program. He now has a year of familiarity with his upperclassmen, time that he says was vital to get to know the way they tick physically and mentally and adjust accordingly. He also has added his first group of recruits to the roster and hired a new assistant coach, Nathan Harding, formerly of Pomona-Pitzer College.

One of the biggest changes Kauth has made, however, is how the team approaches practice. He has revamped the Eagles’ training program, instituting a new, intense regimen for the Eagles to conquer during October, or as Kauth has renamed it, “Rocktober”.

“This is the hardest month of training that we have all year,” Kauth said. “The tweaks that we’ve made [are] just a little bit more structure, a little bit more individualization where we’re looking at each swimmer and we’re able to break down exactly what they need on a daily basis [and] on a weekly basis to help them perform at a higher level.”

Sophomore Andrew Holmes describes the training times as a “process” but is already seeing the results.

“When it’s all over, I can… look back on it and and be like, ‘I’ve gotten faster because of the work I’ve put in during Rocktober,’” Holmes said.

It is the perfect encapsulation of the give-and-take training style between Kauth and his swimmers. They know to be ready for tough challenges every time they hit the pool, while their coach knows their limits and when to ease up on their tasks, according to Holmes.

The process has resulted in what Kauth alluded to multiple times as a much better rhythm for the Eagles as their season starts getting underway in earnest. Despite a new, detailed training plan, the team is “miles ahead” of where they were at this point in 2017, Kauth said.

“They understood the expectations that I had as far as starting fast and we weren’t able to do that last year,” Kauth said. “Last year, we were a step or two behind so we had to kind of gradually build, kind of hit the accelerator a little bit slower, whereas now we’re full speed ahead.”  

Still, the process of completely installing a new culture takes a long time, no matter the athletic program. The Eagles may have had some strong individual performances, but their team scores were near the bottom of the men’s and women’s leaderboards at the PCSC pentathlon on Oct. 6. The Eagles had fared better in the PCSC relay invitational on Oct. 5, but still came a distant second to Kauth’s alma mater, Concordia University Irvine.

You would not know of the team’s struggles by watching Kauth during the pentathlon, as he personally encouraged one swimmer after another following their meets. It signals a deep investment in his swimmers, one Kauth does not plan on backing out of anytime soon.

“You have a new coach, it takes four years because you get to have your recruits to come in,” Kauth said. “I recruited swimmers differently than the previous two head coaches. So… I think that for me, I’m kind of molding my team.”

Make no mistake, Kauth says he is “blessed” with “the right upperclassmen” and will be there for them, too. But the underlying message is clear—Biola swim has a coach who is in it for the long haul.

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