JACKSON TWP. Being a varsity coach in any sport times a lot of time.
Depending on where a coach is at in life, there is more time to invest in athletics, but for many, the time comes when the schedule demands and how they impact a coach’s family lead a person to make a change.
For Matt Ziders, those realities collided with his career goals and led him to step down as the Jackson varsity boys and girls swimming coach at the end of the just-concluded school year. Ziders, who has taught in the district for nine years, has spent the past two in graduate school at the University of Mount Union to gain an administrative license with the goal of some day becoming a principal.
An assistant principal job at Jackson High School came open just as he was finishing his degree, making for perfect timing.
“When the opening came up at Jackson High School, it was just an opportunity that I could not pass up. I love to teach and coach, but I am very excited to take on this new role next year,” Ziders said.
Making the change wasn’t an easy decision, but Ziders knew it was the right one for his family. With four children under the age of seven, he and his wife have plenty going on at home and when it comes to keeping the whole family going. Working as a math teacher during the day and then having swimming practices and meets in the evening and weekends for the past seven seasons made for a hectic life, even though the success of the program was rewarding.
The boys team captured its fourth straight league title last season, the girls team has won several under Ziders and numerous Jackson swimmers have reached the podium at the Division I state meet. During his tenure, the boys and girls teams have combined to win seven Federal League and sectional titles over the last five years.
With a strong youth program in place, there is a steady flow of promising young swimmers making their way up through the ranks, suggesting that continuing the success of the past seven years is possible.
Still, when he weighed the time demands of continuing to coach versus the rest of his life, Ziders knew which way he needed to go.
“Any decision that I make is always within the best interests of my family. My wife Jaclyn has been very supportive through the last two years while I have taught, coached, and went back to school,” he said. “Our four children (Olivia, 7, Katie, 5, Elaina, 3 and Jonathan, 5 months) are excited that they may see me a little bit more around Christmas time, which is typically a very busy time of the year for a swim coach.”
Although not being on the pool deck this coming season will be a big change and he’ll miss the swimmers he’s worked with for several years, Ziders is happy to know that in his new role, he’ll still see many of them in the halls at the high school.
“I am really excited that I will still get to see those kids walking the halls at school everyday. They mean so much to me, and I am glad that I will still be able to help them if need be throughout the school year,” Ziders said.
He called coaching the team for the past seven years “one of the greatest honors of my life” and credited both athletes and parents for being extremely supportive during that time. Still, one of his favorite parts of coaching has been seeing the contributions his current and former swimmers have made to their families and communities outside of swimming.
As he puts down his whistle and trades it in for a spot behind an assistant principal’s desk, Ziders plans to remain a strong supporter of the program and hopes to have chances to cheer the Polar Bears on as a fan in the years ahead. Handing the keys to the program over to someone else is an odd feeling, but the veteran coach is sure that whoever steps in to lead Jackson swimming and diving will encounter a group of athletes ready to keep the program going strong.
“Our next coach will find themselves working with a group of dedicated, determined, and gritty swimmers that are looking to continue the tradition of what it means to be a Jackson swimmer, which is that we work hard, we swim fast, and we do things the right way,” Ziders said. “It is a team that cares deeply for one another, and I know that these traits will help them grow together over the next year.”
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB