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New swim and dive coaches look to build on team history and success

Matt+Hedman+holding+a+megaphone+at+a+Grinnell+swim+and+dive+practice.+He+joined+the+program+as+head+coach+this+summer.+
Zack Walsh
Matt Hedman holding a megaphone at a Grinnell swim and dive practice. He joined the program as head coach this summer.

Matt Hedman joined Grinnell’s swim and dive teams as head coach this past summer, and he works alongside associate swimming and diving coach Deidre Freeman Huff, previously a co-diving coach for the team. Their leadership was ushered in following Erin Hurley’s retirement as head coach last spring

Both Hedman, also a professor of physical education, and Huff said they have no intentions of drastically changing Hurley’s style of coaching, curated from 28 seasons of work. 

“I didn’t want to come in and institute a huge change in terms of culture dynamic,” Hedman said. “I feel like I need to understand that before I can really kind of change that.”

One change the coaches did implement is the addition of an optional morning practice each week. Athletes can come to either a Monday or Tuesday practice from 6:15 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. alongside an afternoon practice later that day. 

I didn’t want to come in and institute a huge change in terms of culture dynamic. I feel like I need to understand that before I can really kind of change that.

— Matt Hedman, head swim and dive coach

Hedman said that in the morning practices, he has been focusing on resistance training where swimmers use cords and parachutes to improve their strength in the water. 

Due to a rule change from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) which says swimming and diving teams must be limited to 114 days of practice instead of the original 19 weeks, official practices started earlier this year on Sept. 12.

Hedman comes from a three-year-long assistant coaching position at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, also a Division III school. Before coaching at the collegiate level, he spent a year coaching at Anoka High School in Minnesota on a swim club level directly after graduating as an undergraduate from Denison University. Since coming to Grinnell and taking on an unfamiliar position as head coach, Hedman said he is focusing on familiarizing himself with his responsibilities and building a relationship with the team. 

“We do have a very large team,” Hedman said. “In total this year, we’re 66 athletes. So finding ways to be able to connect, build trust, build those relationships with everybody — it’s going to take probably a whole season to do that for everybody on the team. That’s kind of the main focus, just understanding Grinnell. It’s a very unique place.” 

Regan Stambaugh `26 compared Hurley’s “mother hen” image with her first impression of a “stoic” Hedman. But she said the more practices the team has, the more they are all becoming comfortable with one another.

“You get to know him, and there’s a more joking side to him,” she said of Hedman. “And I think the more that we have practice and have those daily interactions, we’re kind of unlocking that and getting to know each other as a team more.”

Hedman, prior to his current role as swim and dive head coach, spent three years as assistant coach at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, also a Division III school. (Zack Walsh)

Nina Takashima `23.5 said Hedman’s background from a small liberal arts college and as a varsity swimmer allowed her to more easily connect with him. 

“Because his experience is so recent, and the way he’s been brought up in this student-athlete culture is very similar to us, I think he understands what it means to be a swimmer in this small school and in this time period,” Takashima said. 

For Freeman Huff, the overall dynamic is different. She previously worked alongside Hurley as a co-diving coach and as the primary diving coach from 2011 until 2014. Freeman Huff is also familiar with Grinnell’s culture — both within the school and the community. Her parents, Will and Evelyn Freeman, are former cross-country coaches for the College. She said she knew all the coaches at Grinnell, including Hurley, from “just being a kid running around.”

“I would say that my entire coaching philosophy is inspired by Erin,” Freeman Huff said. “​​She always did such a great job of really listening to her student-athletes and getting to know them, no matter what level they were at in swimming or diving.” 

Freeman Huff also said another reason to keep the swim and dive teams’ coaching relatively the same is to avoid returning athletes from reacting negatively.

You get to know him, and there’s a more joking side to him. And I think the more that we have practice and have those daily interactions, we’re kind of unlocking that and getting to know each other as a team more.

— Regan Stambaugh `26

“If you just change things up too much, the team isn’t going to respond well to that,” she said. “Especially because they do take a lot of pride in the team that they had last year and the team that they brought back this year.”

Both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have performed well in the past, dominating in conference plays under Hurley. Looking forward, Hedman said he wants to continue with the teams’ strokes of winning and consistently have athletes qualifying for NCAA championships in different events.

“I think we have the talent on the roster to do it,” Hedman said. “It’s just figuring out a way to be able to put it all together.”

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Taylor Nunley, Community Editor
Taylor is a second-year Classics and English double major from Huntington, West Virginia. Her life-long goal is to ride as many forms of transportation as possible.
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