Coach Brendan McElroy Gives His Barricudas the Lessons of a Lifetime
JCC Barricudas’ Swim Team Head Coach Brendan McElroy began his coaching career in 1997. Coach Brendan, as he’s affectionately known, worked in the corporate world for several years and was looking to change course. He had an economics degree from the University of Virginia and a highly lucrative position generating sales for a large chemical manufacturing company in St. Louis, Missouri.
Adopted as the youngest in a large white lower middle class family in Baltimore City, Coach Brendan made a conscious decision to give up the so-called “high life,” return to Baltimore, and pursue his passion.
“I was in my mid-twenties as an African American male, yet I felt like I was a part of this corporate monster. I decided to go from a six figure job to an $8/hour job at the Baltimore City Swim Club.”
In Baltimore, Brendan McElroy became Coach Brendan. He accepted positions coaching the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) swim team, and also worked at the Baltimore City Swim Club, working with at-risk African American children and athletes.
“I was going through a conscious awakening,” Coach Brendan recounts. “I came from the Baltimore City Public School system and I found that money was not the key to my happiness.”
“I wanted to advocate for my community. I did not have a plan to save the world, but I wanted to help children.”
Like many children, Coach Brendan, as a kid, was afraid of the water. But, he didn’t give up. Brendan persisted in the pool, attended Poly, and there was technically trained to swim competitively, thus becoming a bit of a Barricuda in his own right.
Brendan mastered his strokes and swam for four years on Poly’s varsity swim team, serving as captain of the team his sophomore, junior, and senior years. In his senior year he went on to become the Baltimore City Champion in the 50m Freestyle and 100m Breaststroke.
In addition to Coach Brendan’s coaching responsibilities at the J, McElroy also serves a lead Seal team coach at the Naval Academy swim camp; teaches at Silver Oaks, where he instructs young men incarcerated in the juvenile justice system; and serves as the coach for the Archbishop Curley High School Swim Team.
According to Brendan, “The pool is a sanctuary, a place where there is peace. Teaching young athletes the strokes, the sport, how to race – helping each athlete to reach their potential – that is my true calling.”
Coach Brendan’s specialty is teaching swimmers to succeed in the “middle distance/individual medley.” “Our JCC program is not a sprint program or a mile program. We teach all the strokes, and I believe in lots of kicking our athletes kick one mile/day.”
For his eight and under swimmers, Coach Brendan and his four assistant coaches see to it that swimmers practice two to three times/week for one hour with a focus on skill building and technique.
Nine to twelve year olds practice three to four times/week for one hour and 15 minutes; and the Senior Group, ages 11 to 18, train six days/week with eight practices. Eighty-five percent attendance is the standard.
“Each level you go up, that’s another day of practice,” he says.
Coach Brendan has also trained Jstar swimmer Nolan Plant, who after competing at the Maryland State Championship meet at St. Mary’s College August 4-7, will head to Indiana University, one of the best swimming programs in the country.
According to Coach Brendan, Nolan trains six days a week (eight practices) from 6:00-8:00am with everyone, but typically stays on longer than the other swimmers. “He’s taking responsibility for his swimming,” Coach says.
Coach Brendan has coached at the J for six seasons. He loves the J’s program because, “This is a competitive program where athletes are allowed to have fun.”
From water polo breaks to exciting games of sharks and minnows, “These breaks give the kids physical exercise and a chance to have fun in a very social way.”
“This is my dream job,” says Coach Brendan.
“I am all about promoting youth development through competitive swimming and excellence, and I love to see my athletes see the fruits of their hard labor.”