For the newly-appointed swim Head Coach Matt Leach, swimming isn’t just a hobby or a job — it is a lifestyle. Growing up in Oregon, Leach developed a love for competitive swimming at age 4 from watching his older brother and his dad, who was a coach.
“If you really love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Leach said. “I really believe that.”
Leach didn’t just want to doggy paddle like all the other kids. He wanted to swim competitively. So with his dad as the coach and the love of the sport motivating him to be his best, he swam competitively throughout all of his childhood, high school and college.
“Clubs, teams, collegiate — I swam it all, it didn’t matter,” Leach said.
Not having much opportunity to swim at a higher level in Oregon, Leach went to the Indiana University, where he would earn five All-American honors and qualify for both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Trials.
After he graduated from college, Leach took his knowledge to coaching. He coached at Louisiana State University for four years and took a job at University of Wyoming for six. Coaching at Wyoming took him to Indiana State for three more years, ultimately leading him to WSU.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be here,” Leach said. “This is an amazing school, and I knew when this opportunity came up it would be once in a lifetime.”
He said he has been moving his family and belongings to Washington from Indiana and it has been quite a change.
Leach also took his swimmers on a team-bonding camp trip to familiarize himself with the group.
Leach explained the camping trip as being traditional: s’mores, sitting around the fire telling stories, hiking. But one thing wasn’t so traditional: canoeing with blindfolded people. The drill had two people rowing the canoe be blindfolded and receive directions from the third member, who sat in the middle.
“Team energy, chemistry and culture are very important,” Leach said. “The best way to establish these things is through communication.”
Leach has been enjoying his time here so far, he said, and couldn’t be more excited for this season.
“There is a lot of talent here,” Leach said. “I would love to be here a long time and hopefully forever.”
Even though Pullman isn’t quite the same as his hometown Portland, Oregon, Leach almost feels like he’s right at home, and that was a huge factor in him taking this job.
“It’s always good to be around family,” Leach said, “and moving back to the Pacific Northwest is another way that I can get to be with them.”