Susan Lizzotte, the newly appointed swimming coach for the University of Maine Black Bears, compares her experience at Maine to climbing rungs on ladder.

“When I came to school at Maine, I knew I wanted to do something in education, but I was not exactly sure what. My experience with [coach] Jeff [Wren] as a swimmer, as a part-time assistant and then as a full-time assistant developed my interest in coaching,” Lizzotte said. “Serving last year as the interim and now being selected head coach, I feel like I have climbed rungs of a ladder.”

“I find that coaching has given me another level of appreciation for the sport which I entered at the age of 8,” she continued.

Her swimming experience at Maine and her coaching experiences with Wren convinced Lizzotte of the importance of team unity and enthusiasm in college swimming.

“To be successful, you have to be a team. In addition to our training, we will focus on building a sense of team beginning with our preseason training in September,” she said.

Building “team,” Lizzotte expects will be one of the positive challenges for the Black Bear women.

“With the number of new recruits coming in, our challenge will be to integrate them into the Maine tradition,” she said.

During Lizzotte’s interim year, 90 percent of the swimmers (male and female) raced best times, either personal or college, as she intensified the training, prioritized paced racing and nurtured excitement when racing and competing as a team.

But it is not only the women’s team where Lizzotte will target integrating the new recruits.

“I am excited about our men’s team. This is one of the best incoming classes for men since I was swimming here. We have a great group of returning leaders on the team. They will model what it means to be a swimmer at Maine,” she said.

Duffy Ackerly, president of the UMaine swimming and diving endowment, said Lizzotte was “a great selection. She did a great job taking over the teams last season. As a swim official, I saw the teams and I was impressed with the teams’ attitude and enthusiasm.”

Initiated in 1991, the Black Bear swimming and diving endowment, managed by the University Foundation, yearly contributes a percentage of the endowment depending on the movements of the investment markets.

“I think she will be making connections with alumni and friends of Maine swimming and diving. The energy we saw in the program last year, I expect will continue,” Ackerly added.

The enthusiasm of which the president of the endowment spoke, apparently, has been sparked again following Lizzotte’s appointment.

“The kids are very excited. The fact that they have a coach makes their summer training more focused,” Lizzotte said.

Messages from team members reveal the level of enthusiasm. “I am pumped,” and “It will be awesome next year,” are typical of the reactions from Black Bear swimmers.

“The base for both teams next year will be more solid. We will be stronger. We have high expectations,” Maine’s new coach said.

Lizzotte is prepped to continue the climb, and it appears as though the Black Bears are eager to follow.