Thomas Jefferson

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Diving into a New Coaching Staff

Posted 12/19/2017 by Madeleine Abram

L to R: Diving coach Austin Barrand, Assistant coach Mark Barrand, and Head Coach Justine Sullivan. photo by Halle Bristow

Thomas Jefferson High School introduces their newest additions to the Girls’ Swim Team.

At the beginning of the swim season, head coach Justine Sullivan received an important email in regards to the volunteer position for the assistant coach. Mark Barrand reached out to her, and Sullivan thought he seemed like a great fit for the team.

Mark started swimming when he was seven years old. He swam all throughout high school and college. At age sixty-five he participates in a Masters Swim Team, a special class of competitive swimming for athletes over 25 years old. Throughout his swimming career, the 400 IM, a medley race consisting of 100 meters of each stroke (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) has always been his best event. His love for the sport is derived from his paradoxical feeling of flying when he swims. He described the sensation of soaring through the air by comparing to seeing his shadow reflected on the pool’s bottom as he swims, soaring through the water.

Mark wants to pass on his love for swimming to the younger generations, and this is reflected in his coaching philosophy. He has coached over two-hundred swimmers in his early college years, including his local swim team for his church’s youth groups. His intentions are to strengthen the athletes by encouraging them to take up swimming as a way to stay physically fit and healthy. Mark emphasized, “one thing that is really exciting about it is that I’m sixty-five years old and still swimming. It’s a fundamental thing to be able to do it throughout your adult life.”

When Mark heard about TJ’s need for a diving coach, he recommended his son, diving prodigy, Austin Barrand. Austin graduated from Arapahoe High School in 2005. He was a four-year letter winner, placing second in the region his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He even received the bronze medal for state his junior and senior years. Later on, he participated in the Junior Olympics and finished in 12th place, an amazing feat. Austin continued to swim at the Mile High Dive Club but eventually went to college at Brigham Young University, where Austin’s brother and father previously attended. During his time at BYU, Austin finished 13th overall in the 1M diving competition at the Mountain West Conference Championships. In addition to his competition, Austin also coached underclassmen for two years before joining the Marines. In 2009, Austin returned from his service as a Marine stationed at West Toronto in Canada and graduated a year later, with a Major in Computer Science. Ever since 2011, Austin has worked for the United States Marine Corps as a Data Network Specialist. He later got married in 2015 and recently became a father to a baby girl.

Mark, knowing how much his son loves to dive and to teach diving, recommended Austin for the new diving instructor position. Austin testifies to this, saying that his father came to every one of his dive meets and was extremely supportive in his pursuit of diving. It was only natural that Mark would support Austin as well as TJ by introducing a new diving coach. With Austin as a new addition, he brings energy, fun, and excitement to the team. “Diving is all a mental sport, and it can be really scary to do something, but once you do it, you overcome this fear and feel really accomplished,” he explained.  

With five new divers, the TJ swim team has a significant advantage when it comes to competing. Sullivan explained that the points earned from their diving scores are added to TJ’s overall performance, opening a solid opportunity to win. Mark described Sullivan as “energy personified,” which is clearly evident based on her capacity to care for her athletes combined with her high expectations of them. “At the very first meet, the divers took third and fourth, which is really good for their very first meet at the beginning of the season, and I expect a lot from them,” Sullivan stated.

In addition to coaching technique and improving the swimmer’s strokes and times, Mark and Austin feel responsible for teaching their athletes important life lessons.  “Our coaches are very supportive, especially of our academics. They’ll cheer us on no matter what we do,” Senior Leo Busse said. This is a significant part of being a coach because it is not only about improving the athletics of the players but also about building good character qualities.

“It’s about going beyond what you thought you could do because that’s what happens in life. Your own mental perspective puts limitations on us, and we have to bust through that. We can do what we want to do if we work hard enough and try. You don’t have to come in first place or break state records, you have to do your best, which is the true motivation,” Mark explained. Both of the new coaches want their athletes to be independent hard workers who can break through any mental barrier. Austin added, “I want them to have fun and enjoy being with each other,” which is all swimming and diving is truly about.