The Granbury SEALS swim team is celebrating its 30th year of competition, and it’s all thanks to the vision and dedication of one woman – Janet Steenberge.
“I could say so much about Janet, but most of all, she is a genuine person,” Vicki Hamrick said. “You could not ask for a better spokesperson for the sport of swimming.”
Hamrick started as a swimmer under Steenberge and currently serves as an assistant coach. Three generations of her family have been SEALS, and on Saturday, July 10, they were out in force coaching, timing and swimming to the medal stand.
Hamrick and Steenberge have vastly different coaching styles that are both geared to making better swimmers.
Hamrick is animated, wears her heart on her sleeve, and her facial expressions let her swimmers know exactly what she is thinking. She’s been Steenberge’s right-hand gal for the past 23 years.
Steenberge is soft-spoken, and swimmers reverently approach her as if just one word might be the key to a gold-medal finish. People five feet away from her when she is holding a conversation with a swimmer will not hear what she is saying.
All those quiet conversations have led to a plethora of successes, including dozens of NCAA D1 swimmers and one five-time Olympic gold medalist in Dana Vollmer.
The uniqueness of Steenberge’s coaching is that she makes all the swimmers’ successes feel like a gold-medal achievement.
Bo Brawner has four children (Kaylee, Kinsey, Kori, and Kyle) who have all competed in the SEALS program, and he’s even been drawn into the water himself in the open divisions.
A GIVING PERSON
“Janet is a wonderful and wholesome person,” Brawner said. “She’s not just a coach, but she is also a great role model for the kids. There are so many things she does that many people don’t know about.”
Those unknowns include Steenberge-funded swimming scholarships, free swimsuits, swim caps, and lots of other things “Janet just happened to pick up.”
“I have really enjoyed working with Janet the past three years,” Melissa Ward said. “She is always there to help those in need. There are so many things she does that nobody ever hears about. She is very humble.”
Steenberge may be humble, but she’s driven.
She first picked up the coach reins in Granbury because there was no team for her child to join, and she saw a need. What started in the Granbury City Pool has grown into four days a week at the Hood County YMCA, where the SEALS rent lanes and conduct their workouts.
At every practice, a few paid assistant coaches help Steenberge with swimming and dry-land workouts designed to improve a swimmer’s strength, speed and coordination.
In 30 years, Steenberge has never taken a penny for herself while working to make sure the SEALS can pay her assistants, who are generally former SEALS themselves.
On Saturday, rows and rows of placards contained pictures throughout the years. Somehow each memento seemed to have its unique place, and eyes were equally drawn back and forth to events like Olympic medals to someone winning their first race as a five-year-old.
Everyone has an extraordinary tale to tell, and if you are Christa Ragland (Hamrick’s daughter), you enjoy recalling that you swam on a relay with a future Olympian just as much as you enjoy watching your daughter, Braylee, slicing through the water.
MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME
Both Ragland and her daughter agree that it takes dedication to be a SEAL and Ragland becoming a coach is what she calls one of the best decisions she ever made. She gets to spend time with her mother and children creating memories.
Those memories run deep and vivid for 14-year-old Braylee, who still recalls her first freestyle race at the tender age of 5.
“I was the smallest one there, and I won,” Braylee said. “My mom and grandma just went crazy. It was awesome.”
It’s hard to pin down Steenberge when it comes to her work, and rather than commenting on her accomplishments, she prefers to keep plugging away at making one little extraordinary moment at a time.
Meet results may be found online @ teamunify.com/team/reczzsst/page/home
Russell@hcnews.com | 817-573-7066 Ext. 231