Assistant COY Honorable Mention: Brad Thornton

As members of the selection committee returned their choices, they were often accompanied by comments such as “I’d never heard of Brad Thornton until I read this.”  It’s only fitting considering that many coaches in the Division III coaching community have found themselves asking “What or where is Stevens?”  Well, the Stevens Institute of Technology is located in Hoboken, New Jersey and Thornton has been an integral part of the Ducks’ meteoric rise in Division III.  It is for these contributions – to the team, the school and the broader swimming community that he earns Honorable Mention recognition in our search for 2011’s Assistant Coach-of-the-Year.

Nomination from Trevor Miele, Head Coach:
In June 2006, I accepted the position as the Head Swimming Coach at Stevens and took over a program that was small and had limited success.   My goal was to recruit talented swimmers and then implement a training program that would place swimmers in specific groups - Sprint, Mid-Distance & Distance.   I knew I had to have someone on my coaching staff to help make this program successful.

At the 2008 NCAA Championships, I had a discussion with Brad, who was a senior at NYU, about his career plans.  I was looking to hire a full-time assistant coach and I thought Brad would be perfect for the position.  He told me that he was interested in coaching, but had already accepted a job in Sports Marketing.  

In September 2008, the size and talent level of the team had increased and I was moving towards implementing my plan of dividing our team in groups.   Brad quit his Sports Marketing job and accepted the assistant coaching position at Stevens. I asked him to develop a plan that would enable Stevens to have the top sprinting program in the nation.   My only direction to Brad was to have the sprinters sprint.   

Brad understood my philosophy and he quickly developed a plan for the Sprint Group.   The practices would be high intensity/ low yardage, combined with a rigorous dry land and lifting program.   They would have their own training/practice times and Brad was in complete control of the group.

Almost immediately, the group saw benefits from the training and our sprinting program became the backbone of Stevens Swimming.   Nearly every swimmer has dropped considerable amounts of time each year.   The ultimate highlight came in March, when Laura Barito became the 1st National Champion in the school’s history when she won the 50 Freestyle at NCAA Championships.    The success of the program can be greatly attributed to Brad’s work with his group. 

Even with all of his success with our sprinters, Brad has been instrumental in organizing the participation of the team in the Ducking Program.   A program where the student-athlete enters Hoboken public schools to teach children about college and its benefits as well as to impart basic knowledge about engineering, business and science.  Brad has also created the Hoboken Masters Team and is in charge of the volunteers for the NYC Triathlon. 

Brad is a tireless worker.  He’s never satisfied and is always trying to find ways to improve our swim program.   He has the ability to connect and relate with the student-athletes.  He is a hard worker, very intelligent, self-motivated and trustworthy. When I ask Brad to do something, I know it will get done and it will be done quickly and effectively. 

My goal for all my assistants is to ultimately leave my program and become a Head Swim Coach.  I truly feel Brad is ready to take the next step and I feel this award would help him to move forward in his career.

Nomination from Laura Barito, Student-Athlete:
It is a running joke with Stevens sprinters that Brad Thornton is “magic.”  Whenever we get a new class of freshmen, we tell them this, because it doesn’t matter who you are, if you have Brad Thornton for a year, you WILL get faster.   

Brad came to the Stevens Swimming program three years ago when I was a sophomore.  By that point, I had already gone through a year of tough training but had not gotten much faster.  Brad was hired the summer of ’08 and completely changed the face of the sprint program at Stevens - which in this case meant creating one.  I had never trained like a sprinter before, so the first few months of the season I was skeptical if this new method would work.  I remember asking our head coach if I could come to extra mid-distance practices to compensate for the lower yardage we were doing in practice.  Needless to say, he said no, and I needed to have faith.   

He was right.  That winter, we had our mid-season taper meet and I got an “I-told-you-so” from Brad.  I could not believe how much faster I had become with just a few short months of training under his sprint program, and that’s when the “magic” began.

The last three years under Brad have been incredible.  I personally have always had the work ethic to do anything I set my mind to, but I know I need the guidance of an amazing, dedicated coach to get there.  He gave me just that.  Brad put his heart and soul into creating a national level sprint program, and it definitely shows.  Every time I came by the pool to pick up a lifeguarding check, or ask a question about swimming, he was always researching something, whether it was new swimming videos or new workouts for dry-land.  Practices were never a bore with Brad because he was constantly creating workouts for himself and trying new exercises before bringing them to us.  His motto was always “I would never give you guys a workout I wouldn’t want to do myself,” and this definitely kept our wheels turning during practices, which is almost necessary when coaching a group of 20+ engineers and scientists.  These exercises he tried always became harder as he found new ways to challenge our bodies to make us better swimmers, and ultimately, better athletes.  

Three years ago people said “Stevens?  Where is Stevens?”  Our team has gone from a bunch of nobodies to two nationally ranked teams.  I personally have gone from a high school swimmer to a national champion, and I know for a fact that I owe most of this to him.  Brad gave me the tools and the knowledge to become one of the best Division III swimmers in the country, and I never would have gotten there without him.  All in all, I'm excited to see the future of Stevens Swimming after I leave, because I know it will be incredible.