When it was announced that Jim Richardson would be leaving Michigan after more than a quarter-century it was shock to many. Richardson is an institution in the Big Ten and the college swimming community and for more than half of his time in Ann Arbor Stefanie Kerska has been at his side. While some head coach-assistant coach relationships are akin to the Yin and Yang, Kerska and Richardson both bring balance to the Canham pool deck. In her fourteen years at MIchigan, Coach Kerska has racked up an impressive set of accomplishments and today she becomes the first woman to be selected at CollegeSwimming.com's Assistant Coach-of-the-Year.
Nomination from Head Coach:
Stefanie has been the assistant coach at Michigan for 14 years. During that time she has distinguished herself both within and outside of the Michigan program. In 2009 she served as the manager for the USA team at the World Championships in Rome. In 2010 she was the manager for the USA team at the Pan Pacific Championships. Along with Susan Teeter, she has helped build the Women’s Summit into a significant learning event for female coaches.
A great student herself, Stefanie works closely with our academic advisor to identify swimmers who are struggling academically. She spends one on one time with those needing time management skills.
This past year she instituted “Antioxidant Tuesday and Thursdays”. She would bring in fruit and yogurt for a post practice snack before dryland. Some days she would bring her blender and make smoothies on the deck.
We conduct swim clinics throughout the year. We limit the clinics to 25 age groupers in order to better ensure a quality learning environment. Stefanie volunteered to do the video review with every camper. She wanted to be sure that they got the best information and critique on their stroke.
This past season I became ill on the day of departure to the Big Ten Championships. I was unable to make it to the meet and Stefanie had to “run the whole show.” She did such an outstanding job that I got emails from several parents commenting on the way she handled everything. On top of that, we swam very well as evidenced by the Avida metrics for meets that week. To me that is one of the marks of a great assistant coach – seamlessly filling in for the head coach.
In my mind she is the prototype for an assistant coach. She is bright – MBA in marketing. She is always trying to learn new things that can help our swimmers – she took Anders Ericsson to lunch at the CSCAA clinic to learn more. She hires and oversees all the staff at our summer camps. And she is a great coach and mentor to our young women.
On top of all of this, she is a wife and mother to two great kids. Her husband, Dave Kerska (former UM swimmer) spends a lot of time travelling to China. Stefanie somehow finds the time to care for her family and handle the endless duties of a swimming coach.
On a personal note….our program went through some very traumatic internal issues in the mid 90’s. In looking for a new assistant coach I needed to have someone who was competent, knowledgeable, and most of all, loyal. I could not have found a better person to share the responsibility of developing young women. In the past 14 years I have never had a moment of regret or a second thought. After 29 years of collegiate coaching, I believe that she is the very best assistant coach in the country.
Nomination from Student-Athlete:
Stefanie Kerska is an exceptional leader and the best assistant coach there is. She does so much for our team. She pushes us to be our best and has proven herself to be crucial to the success of our team. Whether it’s coming up with technique circuits, having meetings with us about nutrition and recovery, doing yoga with us, or just being there whenever you need to talk, she is always trying to better the team. Thanks to Stef’s efforts, the importance of things like getting enough sleep, eating right, and preparation have been brought to our attention and as a team we are making improvements.
Stef is always looking to expand her knowledge of the sport. She just came back from a coaching conference and was sure to have a whole team meeting to share with us the things she learned and is now working to implement those things into our practices. This past season, she played a big role in our mental preparation for meets and getting us ready for what to expect. That proved to be a big help going into dual meets throughout the year. She has been a manager for many USA Swimming national teams, as well. This is a great responsibility and shows that even people on the outside realize how organized and effective she is at her job. If she needs to get something done, it will get done and it will be done well.
Last February, our head coach, Jim Richardson, was sick for our Big Ten Championships and we didn’t know until the day we were leaving that he wouldn’t be coming with us. Stef stepped up to the head coach role with ease. She led us through a successful championship meet, getting us excited and pumped up for every session. She was a strong leader, never wavering. Stef definitely knows how to keep the team in line. She’ll be tough with you and put you in your place without hesitation, which is the perfect balance to our head coach’s kindhearted nature. But at Big Tens when it was only Stef, we got to see a bit of the softer side of her in her pep talks before each session. She was always prepared with quotes and inspirational words. This just goes to show that she can quickly adapt to any situation and be the kind of coach she needs to be to make the team successful. I think that is the main reason that she should be NCAA assistant coach of the year. Overall she is a well-rounded coach that truly cares for her team. – Alexa Mehesan