Meet Coach Ben Wachtel of Southeastern Swim Club
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
He’s tall. He’s talented. He’s a lean, mean swimming machine. Meet Coach Ben Wachtel of Southeastern Swim Club (SSC).
Wachtel, former Boiler swim team captain for two years, was hired as the team’s Associate Head Coach for the Seniors practice group under Head Coach Andy Pedersen and Head Coach of the Blue Runners practice group. As if that’s not enough for this Indiana high school swimming and diving Hall of Famer and 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier, he’s also serving as the club’s Social Media Director, a role that supports the Club’s mission of ongoing growth.
For Coach Ben, the move up was business as usual. But right off the block, he’s given the kids of Southeastern Swim Club an experience far from just another day at the pool.
No matter who you ask in Coach Ben’s practice groups, they all tell the same story – a story of a coach who leads with positive motivation and encouragement, mentors with creative skill development and gives back to the kids the same that he got from the club.
Wachtel began a career of which most could only dream when he joined Southeastern Swim in 2007 at the end of his junior year at Westfield High where he was a four-time state champion. Wachtel says, “What I found at SSC was so much more than a team. I was welcomed and accepted, even though many of my teammates had been swimming together since they were 6 or 7 years old. It was a home and a family, and I know it’s home now.
“I formed lifelong friendships, was mentored by outstanding coaches and was pushed to a new level, not just as a swimmer but as a human being. Throughout the process, I was supported by great teammates and coaches who believed in me and who I knew would never, ever give up on me. They wanted me to do my absolute best and to get better every day.”
Wachtel went on to earn a degree in professional writing and creative writing at Purdue. Then after graduating, Wachtel scored his dream job with the digital marketing superstars of Element Three. Helping companies maximize their internet marketing presence, Element Three recognized Wachtel’s leadership qualities and snatched him to join their team as a Copywriter and then later as their Social Media Specialist.
With a demanding job, it seemed Wachtel’s plate could overflow. But Wachtel never stopped feeling the strong current of the pool, and he returned in 2014, this time as a coach. For two years, he balanced his full-time job at Element Three with coaching part-time for SSC. Then in 2016, the time came to dive in headfirst. When he decided to take the job as full-time Coach of two practice groups, he had to face leaving his full-time job at Element Three.
What seemed under water like a huge sacrifice quickly surfaced as a move that gave Wachtel the perfect blend of the swimming world and business world. Wachtel explains, “Like in swimming, the environment at Element Three was competitive and filled with high achievers. The people who work there aren’t just outstanding at what they do; they support each other. Culturally, there’s a tremendous amount of support for pursuing individual growth. I learned a ton about advertising and digital marketing, but above all else, it reinforced the skills I learned in my swimming career which are important in the professional world too – teamwork, compassion for others, competitiveness, responsibility and leadership.”
Wachtel shares his winning spirit with his swimmers but teaches them that winning isn’t the only thing. He says, “At the end of your career, the times don’t matter. But the process, the personal growth you experience by pushing yourself, learning to get better each day and learning to embrace the challenge of growing new skills is what’s most important.”
Although relatively new to the coaching world, Wachtel has already developed an effective coaching style and philosophy that incorporates the lessons from his coaches and his personal life experiences. On top of his list is building a relationship with the swimmers.
Wachtel says, “Coaching is about connecting and developing trusting relationships with the kids. If you care about the kids you coach, it’s readily apparent, and that gives you the tremendous responsibility to guide them with care. I want to build a strong enough relationship with my swimmers and find ways to challenge them and keep them focused on their goals. Having the opportunity to contribute to a young person’s life is the most meaningful thing I could ever imagine doing. That’s why I’m here.”
Wachtel doesn’t expect each day to be filled with smooth water and fast swims. He says, “Kids who come to practice every day eager to get better usually will, but some expect results to come without hard work. It takes a long time for kids to find satisfaction in putting in the effort required to be good at something like swimming. That’s part of what I enjoy about coaching.”
As Wachtel rides the wave of his first year as full-time coach, he won’t promise to stay in his lane. But he offers some other promises. He says, “I promise to always put the kids first, be a positive influence in their lives, support and encourage them tirelessly and provide structure and learning experiences that help them grow. There are really special things happening here. I see it every day.
“At SSC, we equip young people with lifelong skills. We’re not just training great swimmers; we’re developing tomorrow’s community leaders and champions, not just in the pool but in life, to respect all and fear none.”