Testing the Waters
Brownsburg Swim Club Offers Something For All Ages & Abilities
Coach Keith Gast competed in his first swim meet at the tender age of five, and he started coaching at age 16. Today he brings twenty-five years of coaching knowledge to Hendricks County as the head coach of Brownsburg Swim Club.
Brownsburg Swim Club is sanctioned by USA Swimming and United States Masters Swimming, and offers year-round training and competitive opportunities for swimmers of all abilities. Gast joined the club in September of 2015. He is also head coach of the Brownsburg High School (BHS) swimming and diving program, and teaches U.S. history.
Gast got his start in swimming right here in Hendricks County. He grew up in Avon in the 1970s and started swimming as a child at the Prestwick Country Club. Avon built its first pool at the local middle school, after which Gast began swimming competitively for Avon. He eventually swam with the Indy Swim Club at Ben Davis High School. When the BHS pool was built, club leaders relocated the club to the high school and changed its name to Brownsburg Swim Club in 2005.
Gast took a small break to attend law school, but the hiatus only encouraged him to return to his roots.
“It just made me realize that being a teacher and a coach was what I was meant to do,” Gast says.
Gast swam competitively for Butler University, where he achieved All-Conference honors in the 200-meter breaststroke and 800-meter freestyle relay. After graduating from Butler, Gast went on to become an assistant coach for several clubs including the Washington Township Swim Club, as well as head coach at Cascade, Tri-West and Roncalli high schools.
One of the primary reasons Gast loves to coach is the relationships he gets to build with his kids.
“The best thing about it is when kids come back,” Gast says. “Some of the kids I coached are now coaching, some have kids, and I’m starting to coach the kids of the kids I coached. That just sticks out to me.”
Gast’s son is currently studying at Franklin College to be a teacher and swim coach, and his daughter coaches high school swimming at New Albany High School. Nothing makes Gast happier than when his family gets together. Gast and his wife of three years, Melissa, enjoy a blended family of eight children.
One reason Gast enjoys passing on his love of swimming to his kids is the amount of personal growth and strength one can gain from the sport.
“It teaches them discipline,” Gast says. “It teaches them time management and intrinsic motivation. It allows them to experience the thrill of competition. Winning is more fun than not winning, but you also learn lessons when you don’t win.”
The club includes members ranging from four years old to seniors in high school. In the summers, college athletes will return to swim, practice and compete. About 75 percent of the Brownsburg High School swim team competes in the club in the off-season, including 100 percent of the varsity swimmers.
Seniors have six to nine practices per week, often pulling two practices per day before and after school, while the youngest group practices five days per week for an hour. Morning practices start as early as 6 a.m. and after-school practices run as late as 7:30 p.m., depending on the group.
An average practice varies depending on the group. Younger swimmers spend a great deal of time on stroke technique, while senior swimmers put in a lot of yards and endurance swimming.
“We do encourage all kids to do weightlifting and stretching on dry land,” Gast says. “In general, we have such a limited time with the kids that time is best spent swimming.”
Gast is proud of the club’s recent accomplishments. For example, a club swimmer qualified for the USA Futures Championship in North Carolina last August. Last winter, boys in Gast’s 11- to 12-year-old category scored second place at the state meet.
The club has grown immensely in the past few years. When Gast joined there were 146 registered swimmers, and this year there are 219. Gast largely credits the increase to his coaches and the parents who make up his board of directors.
Jen Schrier is in her fourth year as a club board member. Her two kids are in their fourth and fifth years of swimming in the club, and she’s passionate about how the experience has benefited them.
“Swimming teaches them so much,” says Schrier, who has been a swimmer her entire life. “It teaches time management, self-discipline, even math skills. They have huge friendships in the club and have learned so much perseverance.”
The board meets monthly to make sure the club is financially sound, the coaches are well equipped, and the kids are being coached well. Schrier said swimming is different than other sports because coaches need certain certifications and licenses to keep everyone safe in the water. The board also plans a Christmas party in the winter and a picnic in the summer, as well as two to three large swim meets per year to raise funds.
“It’s amazing that our kids get to swim in this amazing facility in our backyard,” Schrier says. “They see Olympians swim in that pool and then they can swim in it themselves.”
Gast anticipates increased interest in swimming as the 2020 Summer Olympics draw near. Swimmers are welcome to try the club before committing.
“We have some awesome coaches and a great group of parents on our board of directors,” Gast says. “I was always surprised when parents would reach out to me and ask if I knew of anything for the little kids to do. Everybody knows where to go for youth football, baseball and softball. We just want them to know where we are at.”
For more info on Brownsburg Swim Club including registration details, go to teamunify.com/team/inbsc/page/home.