The Gonzales Dolphins swim team, the home team of the city’s Jambalaya Park pool, has a long tradition of training homegrown swimmers and grooming homegrown leaders.
The team’s new head coaches are no exception. Aaron Faulkner, 19, and Kelley Frugé, 18, have both competed with the team — Faulkner for 7 years and Frugé for 3 years — and have helped teach the younger children on the team as assistant coaches.
The Dolphins traveled to Magnolia Woods on June 12 to compete against the Marlins, with a final score of 3,149 to Magnolia Woods’ 4,312 .
“We’re proud of our team, they did very well,” Faulkner said. “What matters is that every swimmer finished their race, and therefore contributed points to the team’s total.”
Their swimmers have made steady progress over the season, he said.
Managing a large number of swimmers of different ages and abilities is a big job even for the most experienced coaches, and Faulkner and Frugé readily admit that they had a huge learning curve starting out.
“So much goes on behind the scenes that we had to learn, fast,” Faulkner said. “But we had a lot of people around who could help us figure it out.”
“A lot goes into planning meets, especially choosing events for each swimmer, getting them registered, getting them to their races at the meet, getting them on the starting block,” Frugé said.
“It’s controlled chaos. There are kids running around all everywhere.
“Oh, making sure they jump off the block. Some of the smaller kids may forget to jump in when the race starts. I learned pretty quickly not to turn my back until I see them go in the water. Until they know what to do, you have to help them along.”
They’re a pretty tight-knit group, in part because they spend a lot of time together.
Swimming is a commitment, Faulkner said, explaining that swimmers practice twice a day, two hours each practice, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Meets are about six hours each Thursday, with an additional two-hour practice every Saturday.
“Just when you’re done for the week, it starts all over again,” Frugé said.
And the two head coaches, both heading into their sophomore years in LSU’s mechanical engineering program, have plenty on their plates besides the job.
Frugé spends the majority of his days at the pool, in the morning and afternoons for swim practice and the rest of the time as a swimming instructor and head lifeguard at the pool.
“It’s a good way to get a good amount of savings in the bank for college,” he said.
Faulkner, in addition to his responsibilities as a head coach, is taking summer classes part time and doing a research internship at LSU.
“And the one big difference in being an assistant coach for the team and head coach for the team is the job never really ends. There’s always something that needs to be done. We’re both constantly checking out phones for emails, answering questions,” Faulkner said.
But there is one more reason the Dolphins see each other as family.
They often are family. As Frugé and Faulkner wrapped up June 14 practice, two boys jump into the pool to help tow the buoy line dividing the deep end from the shallow end. One is Faulkner’s younger brother 9-year-old Andrew, and the other is Frugé’s brother 15-year-old Elliot.
Faulkner’s three other brothers, Patrick, 15; Quentin, 12; and Joseph, 13, make their way over to Aaron, waiting for a ride home.
“It’s not unusual,” Frugé said. “There are a lot of families with multiple siblings on the team. We get to coach everyone at some point,” he said.
As the Dolphins prepare for their first home meet Thursday, there’s a mix of nervousness and excitement. The swimmers are mostly glad of the “home field advantage,” Elliot Frugé said, while the coaches are busy taking care of the details that go into planning and scheduling their own meet, getting volunteer timekeepers assigned and ready to go, and a million other details.
The two coaches have learned to work well together, communicating what needs to be done and who will be available to do it, Faulkner said.
For information about the team or swimming lessons, visit the pool’s website, https://jambalayapark.swimtopia.com.