As soon as Helen Cavana was done passing out awards to her Baton Rouge Country Club swimmers on Saturday, the beloved head coach and teacher accepted hug after hug from parents and swimmers alike.
After 11 summers as head coach and pool manager, Cavana will be leaving her post, if not her club. She is taking a job coaching swimmers at Crawfish Aquatics.
“No, I’ll still be around. I’m not moving away,” Cavana assured her well-wishers as they stopped to say goodbye, all of whom insist the pool won’t be the same without her.
“She’s great, we’re really going to miss her,” said Casey Maranto, whose sons Sam, 6, and Mac, 4, both swam for the team and took advantage of Cavana’s considerable experience in the pool.
“She’s an amazing teacher,” Maranto said.
That is in part because Cavana has an impressive résumé. She swam in her native England, as did her mother — also a swimming teacher — spending a year studying at LSU as part of her advanced degree in American studies.
“I started swimming for LSU, even though I was the oldest one on the team,” she laughed.
She met and married her husband, also a swimming coach, and they had three boys, Jake, Sion and Ian, all talented swimmers, themselves.
In addition, Cavana was part of the coaching staff at Crawfish Aquatics, a job that she loved, but that took a lot of energy and time.
When she was pregnant with her fourth son, Max, “I just had to slow down,” she said. She kept her appetite for the water sated by helping build up the Country Club’s swim team, a little more than a decade ago. It’s grown from just a few children to a total of 144, she said.
“But not all 144 make it to every meet, of course,” she said.
Still, where there are a dozen children or more, she said, there is the need for more eyes. That’s where the rest of the family has stepped in. Her eldest two sons help her coach, while her mother, whose primary residence still is in England, flies over to help run swim meets in the summer, and to help out with her grandchildren.
“She’ll still be doing that, I hope,” Cavana said. “I still have plenty for her to do without the team.”
Her time at the Country Club pool gave her a valuable opportunity to spend more time with her family, though, she said, she did a lot of paperwork and scheduling as part of her role of pool manager.
She taught swimmers of all abilities at the pool.
“At least eight lessons a day, at least,” she said. At Crawfish, she will be helping more advanced swimmers hone their abilities.
“I loved every moment of it, but (in going back to Crawfish) I’m really going back to my passion. It’s just time to go,” she said.
Editor’s Note: This story was changed on Aug. 14 to correct the name of the swim team from Country Club of Louisiana to Baton Rouge Country Club.