A Bittersweet Change


Taylor Matta

The swimmers and coaches at the MVC Sophomore Conference(October 20) pose for one last photo with Ivan before he leaves to coach at SIU. Photo by Allison Gardner.

Imagine: your father, who raised, cared for, and stuck with you through everything life has thrown at you, calls the whole family together for a meeting. Once everyone arrives, he announces that he will be leaving in a few weeks and might never come back. Ever. The week after he plans on leaving is the weekend a family tradition that’s been around for generations takes place. How would you feel? What would you do without him?

The athletes and assistant coaches of Kennedy’s Women’s Swimming and Diving team found themselves wondering this very thing when Ivan Sanchez, head coach since the 2017 season, announced that he’d received and accepted a job assistant coaching for Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His last day would be October 20, 2018, one week before Regionals, the meet that determines who’s swimming at State.

Naturally, everyone was shocked. After the initial shock wore off, other emotions began settling in. While most of the swimmers are happy for him, almost all of them are sad, or even angry, at the same time.

“I am very sad that Ivan is leaving because he is such a great coach,” Victoria (Tori) Thorne, sr., said.  She has been coached by Ivan for 4 years. “On the other hand, I am very happy for him that he gets to fulfill his dream of coaching at his alma mater.”

“I’m really proud of Coach Ivan for being able to accomplish something that he’s dreamed of like this [coaching at SIU], but I know it sucks anyway(s),”Alexandra (Lexie) Seeley, fr., said

The assistant coaches are having a slightly different reaction. Igor Sanchez, Ivan’s brother, is sad, but he says he’ll be okay. Jody Petersen, another assistant coach, felt shocked and overwhelmed by the responsibilities at first, but she’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team stay positive and finish the season well.

“We have to accept the fact that Ivan’s following his dream, and that’s a happy thing, and it can be a positive change here too,” Petersen said.

As for the future, no one knows what is to come, but some swimmers and coaches have an idea of how this may affect the team and what they can do to prevent backlash. Tori says she thinks Ivan leaving is “upsetting to a lot of girls.” She also thinks it “will take some of the pressure off the girls because they won’t have to worry about what he says or thinks about their race, and they can just go out and swim super fast for themselves.”

Freshman Ashlynn Williams expresses the worry that many swimmers seem to have about having a new, different coach next season. “I’m just more worried about next season and if we will get a coach like him [Ivan] again,” she said when asked how she felt about Ivan leaving. Out of 22 freshman, sophomores, and juniors asked, only one swimmer said no because Ivan wouldn’t be there. Four said it depended on the new coach, one said they wouldn’t have returned anyway, and 16 said they plan to continue swimming, no matter what.

Jody thinks “we have to accept the fact that Ivan’s following his dream, and that’s a happy thing, and it can be a positive change here too.” She believes that, as long as the assistant coaches can stay confident, the team will be alright. Igor plans to “try to cover him [Ivan’s place as ‘father’] so this [Ivan leaving] won’t hurt that much.” He says he’s been trying to talk to people who seem to be having a bad day and be more open and someone swimmers can talk to.