As unique as it might be to Clinton County, Kacie Jenkins being the varsity swim coach for both Clinton-Massie and Wilmington isn’t really that unusual.
“Most of the athletes from Wilmington started swimming with me between the ages of 7 and 9,” said Jenkins, who is in her ninth season as Clinton-Massie swim coach while beginning her first as WHS head coach. ” So I have been their summer club swimming coach already for quite some time.”
Jenkins takes over the WHS program in the wake of Mitch Hopf retiring from the position earlier in the year. She also has coached the Clinton County YMCA Fins as well as the Clinton Swim & Tennis Club Barracudas.
“The idea of coaching both teams has always been in the back of my mind when I knew Mitch was stepping away,” said Jenkins, a former swimmer at Wilmington College. “I did not think it was a possibility however.”
WHS athletic director Troy Diels supported Hopf’s decision to spend more time with this girls as they continued their swimming careers. But that didn’t take away from the fact that Wilmington didn’t have a head coach for the swim program.
“We posted the position both internally and externally and did not have much luck finding a match,” Diels said.
Outside the box thinking led Diels to Jenkins. The swim teams at WHS and CM utilize the Wilmington College natatorium for training. Many swimmers go through workouts with their club teams. Diels talked with Massie athletic director Bennie Carroll then made sure the two superintendents were OK with the situation. With Jenkins already at practice with her Falcons, it wasn’t that big of a stretch to allow the teams to train together.
“Our teams have always practiced together and the coaching staffs have always worked very closely together,” Diels said. “After my discussions with Kacie, I became confident she would be able to handle being the head coach of both programs. We also have an assistant coach at Wilmington, Brianna Gilbert. Brianna will help fill any void that we need on our end.”
The two schools swim at many of the same meets but there are some differences. The additional team duties means more time away from family, so Jenkins discussed things with her husband Doug Jenkins to make certain the family dynamic would be safe.
“The discussions I had at home with my husband, with my peers and my former (Wilmington College) coach, Trip Breen, all have been quite interesting,” said Jenkins. “Everyone I talked to believed that I could do it. I had even talked to some Massie parents about the issue and they were actually excited about it and thought it would be cool. After many conversations on both sides I never heard of any one not being OK with it. Swimming has always been a family type atmosphere around here.”
That family feeling made this a no-brainer for Jenkins, who knows of other coaches who coach swimmers from different schools at the same time.
“I know that I treat all my swimmers the same and truly care about all of them, no matter what team they are on,” she said. “Even when coaching Massie you would often see me cheering for and talking with Wilmington kids what I coach in the summertime. I did not want the (Wilmington) kids to be without a coach and I care too much about them to not try and make this work.”