BY ROBBY MACDONALD
SPECIAL TO THE BDN
Former University of Maine standout swimmer Susan Lizzotte has been appointed varsity swim coach for the school’s men’s and women’s swim teams, athletic director Blake James announced Monday.
Lizzotte had served as an interim coach during the 2009-10 season.
“I am really excited and very pleased. I am looking forward to September and to the season getting started,” Lizzotte said.
The position was posted in April. James explained at the time of the posting that the search would be a national search, adding that access to technology opened the search internationally. The search was chaired by associate athletic director Joe Roberts, who, according to Laura Reed of athletic media relations, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
James said Lizzotte’s appointment was well deserved.
“I am pleased for the university, for our swim program, and for Suzie. … I look forward to continuing growth of our program,” he said.
Even though Roberts was the chief administrator of the search process, James noted that he had observed Lizzotte during the season and had followed her work as an assistant coach in previous years.
“She stepped into a challenging situation this year and displayed the necessary skills to be a head coach. I expect she will continue to develop as a head coach,” James said.
Details of the contract were not available, although James indicated that consistent with the university’s faculty classification of positions, the contract is a one-year renewable agreement. She earned $37,684 as interim coach.
Lizzotte becomes only the third head coach of the women’s team in the 38 years of the program. Walter Nitardy resigned abruptly days into last season, his third, prompting James to name Lizzotte as interim coach. Lizzotte is the fourth men’s coach in the program’s history. Previous coaches were Alan Switzer, Jeff Wren and Nitardy. She is the only female head coach of a men’s team at the university.
Lizzotte was recruited by Wren, founder of the UMaine women’s program, from the North Shore Swim Club/Beverly Y in Massachusetts where she excelled in all strokes. During her career for the Black Bears, Lizzotte was named MVP each of her four years, the only swimmer in the program’s history to do so.
She won four individual gold medals at the America East Championships, set six school records, and received two scholar-athlete awards. After her successful career as a racer for the Black Bears, she joined Wren’s staff as a part-time coach in 1999-2000 and in 2002-03 became a full-time assistant.
“She certainly has paid her dues. I absolutely was thrilled with the performance of the teams this season. They worked hard, were enthusiastic and swam fast. She was the architect of the process,” Wren said following James’ announcement.
Lizzotte, following her appointment by James as interim coach, adjusted the training routine and schedule for both the male and female swimmers.
“I think she recognizes different people need different training routines,” Wren noted.
Among the adjustments Lizzotte introduced into the training were an increased emphasis on endurance swimming and a greater attention to specificity of training. As a result, the Black Bears established six school records at the America East Championships and 90 percent of the swimmers recorded best times.
Additionally, several of the Black Bear swimmers received various academic awards and internship honors as a result of their scholarship in the classroom.
Lizzotte acknowledged the sense of pride she has recalling the achievements in the pool and outside the pool of the team during her interim year.
“It is interesting to see how the kids come together and accomplish so much in the pool and in the classroom,” she said.
Anticipating her first season as head coach, Lizzotte stressed the importance of building on the Maine tradition of hard work, of team, and enthusiasm and of smart racing.
“I believe to be successful, you have to be a team first,” she said. “We will work hard in our training and we will emphasize the importance of team.”
Lizzotte also pointed to the numbers of the incoming class of recruits.
“We are approaching 20 recruits. This is one of the largest groups in recent years. I am really excited to have them join the program and to welcome them to our team,” she said.