By Lonnie Huhman,
After winning the Division 2 state title for a fourth consecutive year, it’s apparent the Dexter Boys Swim and Dive team has built a culture of success through hard work, commitment and dedication.
All of the success begs one question.
How did the program get in the position it is now?
“I’d like to think that we are successful because of the culture we have built,” Coach Michael McHugh said. “That culture includes clear expectations, inclusion for all comers who are willing to put in the work and ownership of their own swimming career. Dexter has a long history of producing good swimmers and hard working kids.”
He said a lot of the kids on the team have grown up together, swimming at the now closed Ann Arbor Country Club.
“Those friendships that were developed when they were kids continues knowing that they are all experiencing the same things when they start high school swimming,” McHugh said. “They’ve created a brotherhood. Dexter is a swimming community, it’s really embraced the sport and continues to produce top swimmers year in and year out.”
Former team member, Alex Shehab, DHS class of 2018 and now a Boston College Swimmer, said the success is built on hard work.
“No one works harder than us and that is a focus throughout the season,” he said. “This hard work also builds the sense of brotherhood that extends beyond the pool, and continues past the point of graduation.”
Current team member Casey Dolen, who will graduate this year and plans to swim in college, said he also feels, “that dedication and positive attitude while working hard leads us to success.”
McHugh said he also believes the talent that comes out of the program is built with the help of many coaches and programs.
“Without dedicated coaches at Dexter Community Aquatic Club, Club Wolverine and AACC when they were younger, much of what is seen as high school success is because of years training,” he said. “It’s my job to build on that talent and give them the tools to be successful high school swimmers and beyond. The guys that are going on and swimming in college at all levels are their because of their dedication and hard work. I’ve just been one of the coaches to help them along the way.”
Coaching does play a big part, so how do the coaches keep the team motivated year after year?
McHugh said each team is different.
“Back in 2012, that team needed to be riled up before races in order to swim fast. Some guys need to be relaxed. I’ve had guys who when they get behind the block have to look over at me and give thumbs up, do a little dance or sing “Frozen” songs to get ready to go,” he said. “Each day is a different day, but they know what is expected of them. They know coming to practice each day they will be asked to give it 100 percent and that they will be challenged.”
He said, “It’s the consistency of the work and the expectations that allows me to motivate them when they are having a bad day. I also have to give credit to the guys, they motivate each other. We race every day in practice and when they see a teammate not pushing themselves, they’ll call them out.”
Niklas Eberly, a senior and who will be attending Auburn University on a swim scholarship, said he’s so proud to be a part of Dexter’s swim and dive program.
“It means a lot to me, to represent Dexter and our successful past,” he said. “Looking back at my four years of high school, I know Dexter is one of the greatest swim programs in the state. I’m just so grateful I could be a part of it.”
Eberly said the swim and dive program is successful for many reasons.
“We get kids who are brought up swimming with competitive clubs in Ann Arbor and Dexter, the older kids teach the younger ones how to train to win, swim in big meets, and how to reach their goals,” he said. “But one of the biggest factors is the coaching staff, Coach McHugh has created a winning culture that inspires the young and pushes the older kids.”
McHugh said this year’s team is a great group of guys who are working together to accomplish a goal. He said the seniors wanted to finish off a perfect career winning Division 2 State championship all four years, but they are also trying to do more than just swim fast.
“We are trying to set an example of honesty, dedication, respect, loyalty and hard work, traits that will help them become good leaders and men,” McHugh said. “When I look at this group of guys, I think we’ve done a good job of that.”