the end of a golden era

I grew up swimming on the best swim team in the state of Iowa. A large part of who I am was shaped at those practices and swim meets and for that I will be forever indebted. I believe that I speak for a large portion of Central Iowa Aquatics swimmers when I say that I would not be able to say any of this had Dave Joensen not been our head coach. Dave was the founder and the life of CIA for 20 years and even when his health became a serious issue, he came back because he knew his swimmers not only wanted him to return but needed him to. The team was his life and he made each of us his priority. We were his kids.

Once I accidentally called him “dad” and when I corrected the mistake, I realized that it really wasn’t a mistake at all. He was like a dad to us, practicing sometimes four or more hours a day under his coaching. During high school season, even after the doubles I’d already attened, my mom and I would make the drive downtown at 9pm to work on technique with him. And although I would mess up and complain about how awkward the strokes felt, he continued to be patient with me for hours and make sure I was going to swim perfectly. 

When my swim career ended, I missed the basement of Central Academy more than I had ever missed a bomb shelter pool in my entire life. I may have been enjoying my newfound swammer lifestyle but I couldn’t help but feel disconnected and alone, thrown out into a world where I was no longer known as Carmen, the swimmer. I was Carmen, lost. 

I came to Mizzou, got involved with the swim team and have been surrounded by, in my opinion, one of the best coaching staffs in the country. And what did I think? I thought that Dave Joensen would fit in great. I see characteristics in Mizzou’s head coach, Greg Rhodenbaugh, that I saw everyday in Dave. 

So when my mom forwarded an e-mail to me claiming that Dave had turned in his resignation as CIA’s head coach just weeks before Iowa’s state swim meet I was shocked. My heart sank. And no one knew what had happened. Rumors sparked, spread and still, we knew nothing. I reached out to my beloved coach, thanking him for every success I had in the pool and told him that no matter what happened to CIA, it would always be his team. He replied with grace and eloquence saying how thankful he was to have had a job that he loved and was so passionate about for 20 years. He also told me that he wished he could tell each of his swimmers how great each of them was and to “above all, be kind to others.” Tears filled my eyes and I began to cry as I read these words aloud to my boyfriend. My heart broke for this man who had obviously been pushed out of a position he was put on earth to fill. 

Since reasons behind his resignation are still full of speculation, and while no one seems to be demanding an explaination, I will not try and say what I think is to be true but I will wrap this up in saying this:

No matter where CIA’s future is headed, it will never be the same. Dynamics on the team may have changed in the past few years but Dave, no matter what the board and new parents may have seen, was the reason swimmers showed up. CIA is Dave’s legacy. It always will be. 

Here’s to you Dave. I’m cracking open a Sunkist, cheers.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Carmen my 3 kids swim for CIA and I timed with your mom at the last Beat the Heat Meet. This article is well written, passionate, brave. I appreciate your work and look forward to what comes next!


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