The month of August is coming to a close, and school is officially back in full swing. For many families in South Carolina, this initiates packing up summer clothes and unloading their cool weather apparel in preparation for the incoming fall season. For Head Swim Coach Matt Jacobssen and his team, the new school year ushers in a new swim season and the opportunity to practice and compete a couple months more in the pool. In year three as the head coach, Matt is excited about the growth of CCES swimming and how his athletes are balancing the pursuit of excellence and building team connection.
Matt Jacobssen, CCES English teacher and also Head Swim Coach for Greenville Country Club, developed his love for swimming at a young age. Matt moved from Connecticut to Tennessee at the age of 8 and draws upon his experience as a young swimmer when he coaches his athletes. “I experienced things with the sport that I think I needed to experience. When I was 14-15 years old, I was very good in comparison to my peer group. I was Top 5/Top 10 in the country for the events for which I specialized. As I went through high school, some of my friends continued to drastically improve, and I plateaued out a little bit.”
Although he was faced with adversity, Matt’s love for swimming endured through some of the competitive challenges he faced. Matt adds, “swimming was very much a part of my identity, and I still wanted to have an experience where I could compete at a really high level but also be a part of a close-knit team. My high school teammates were my very best friends. I went to Kenyon College, a small, private, liberal arts college, and the fact that it had an elite swimming program and a great humanities department was very appealing to me.”
After he graduated from Kenyon, Matt moved to Atlanta, GA with some friends from school and worked a variety of jobs before meeting Dr. Leonard Kupersmith (headmaster) and Pete Sanders (Former Upper School Director) at a conference in 2008. Mr. Sanders and Dr. Kupersmith invited Matt to interview for an opening at CCES. Matt made the two hour drive to interview for an open English position with CCES and taught a lesson on Romeo & Juliet.
Matt was offered the job, and he moved to Greenville in August of 2008 to begin teaching. Matt describes the relationships he’s built since coming to CCES and says, “I have an enormous amount of respect for the faculty here. They are truly incredible. It is insane.” One colleague in particular, the former Jordan Rapp, was hired the year after Matt joined CCES. After three years of dating, Jordan and Matt were married in 2012 and now have a son, Ethan, and are expecting their second child this November.
Matt spent the first 8 years at CCES as the assistant swim coach under Hall of Fame coach, Park Owings. Park and Matt had a special relationship, and Matt credits Park as one of his mentors in the coaching profession. After Park decided to step away from coaching the swim team, Matt took over as the head coach in the fall of 2015. Matt says, “the Christ Church Swim Culture is growing! We have a wide set range of goals for the swim team. First of all, we don’t have tryouts. We have people who are fundamentally beginners; we have people who are excited to be a part of a team and proud of what they’re doing in the water everyday. Then, we have kids who are Division I recruits and breaking Varsity records.”
At a time when specialization seems to be the norm across athletics in the United States, Matt continuously remains open to students who want to give swimming a try regardless of their experience. That said, Matt also encourages the pursuit of excellence in an effort to hopefully bring back a championship to CCES.
Before the start of their season, the Swim Team Captains, Assistant Coach Mary Margaret Carter, and Matt discussed their goals for the year. Matt says, “we want to be able to emphasize inclusion and friendship while also being really competitive. I don’t want to shy away from that goal. We want a ring. We really try to balance those two things; we can be excellent, and we want everyone to be involved.”
We are looking forward to cheering on the CCES Swim Team and Coach Matt during their season. For more information on CCES Swimming and their schedule, please click here
. Go Cavs!