|March 12, 2012|
Gil Gonsalves has been at the helm of the East Longmeadow Boy's and Girl's Swimming and Diving program for the past 20 years. Prior to taking over as head coach, Gil was the assistant for a number of years alongside long time coach Dick Bolles.
East Longmeadow Swimming and Diving is not a team that kids try out for. It is a family that they join. Always made up kids from a wide range of talent, Gil Gonsalves has conducted and maintained a program that is, in my opinion, unparalleled in high school sports. From accomplished swimmer or diver, to those brand new to the sport, there is a place for everyone.
"Coach G" has created a welcoming environment for aspiring athletes of all levels. It is never about how good the kids are when they walk through the door (although some are exceptional); it is rather about their progress and growth both in and out of the pool. He and his coaching staff (Ali Claffey, Alisha Harlow, Keith Brownlee and Dave Flahive) are all uniquely gifted in delivering a gratifying experience. By providing team members with a feeling of inclusion and importance, the end result is always heightened self esteem.
The swim team is unique in that the boys and girls practice and compete at the same time. Regardless of the challenges of a sub-standard facility, this co-ed arrangement only contributes to the cohesiveness of the team. The atmosphere is enhanced in practice and in meets due to the close bonds established between the boys' and girls' teams. Everyone pulls for one another, helping each other strive to reach new goals. This is the environment that Coach G has created. He has also continually stressed the importance of the "diving" part of the swimming and diving program always giving it equal attention and praise. That is not always the case from your typical swimming coach.
Gil is a coach in the truest and purest sense of the word. As their mentor (and every kid's biggest fan), he noticeably and genuinely shares their excitement when personal milestones are met keeping in mind that these achievements are strictly individual and may not compare favorably to anyone, anywhere else. It is, and always has been, about perspective.
Coach G has positively affected the lives of many, many young adults. They will remember him (for that) forever. This is a coach's reward. The life lessons, the values and the humility that he has imparted on these students over the years will be his legacy as his wisdom is passed on by those who benefitted from it.
Recently, at the team's year-end banquet, Coach G announced his retirement. By the emotions in the room, it wasn't hard to tell what he has meant to this program and what this run has meant to him.
Gil, you are a class act. Thank you.
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