By Brian Yauger
Youngstown State University has had a rocky history with its men’s swimming and diving program. It has started and been shut down twice before.
October marks the beginning of the third incarnation of the program, and new men’s and women’s coach Brad Smith is eager to usher in the new era.
“I’m really excited,” Smith said. “This is a great opportunity to reinstate a men’s program. We have a phenomenal group of young ladies and men that are joining the team this year. Enthusiasm is high and the positivity is great. They’re training hard and we look great.”
Smith has had success with his teams in the past, producing six conference champions in his five years at Binghamton University, his most recent job. He said he wants to bring the same mentality that gave his program success to Youngstown.
“We’ve got to be a team first before we can move forward with anything else,” Smith said. “Promoting a positive atmosphere and culture and making sure the team knows that myself and my staff are there for them. Knowing that they can be comfortable in their own skin and being who they are is the first step to that.”
When that happens, Smith said he thinks the sky’s the limit.
“Once we have that, we can start building a positive, hardworking team culture,” Smith said. “We already have the ground pieces for that. Then we can go from there.”
An important factor in building a program is recruiting. It’s starting from nothing, so bringing in potentially interested freshmen is a major key for success.
“We have a number of recruits coming up over the next couple of weeks,” Smith said. “I started in May trying to put a men’s team on the pool deck for the fall. My summer was nonstop. Didn’t get a lot of sleep trying to get guys for the start of this fall, but it was good. We got 10 guys committed for this fall on the pool deck training with us now, and now we’re trying to catch up with our 2020 recruiting class and both the men’s and women’s side.”
The problem with the recruiting process is that it never ends.
“We’re almost caught up at this point,” Smith said. “We have four official visit dates; two weeks in September, one in October and one that splits October and November. We have a number of very talented recruits coming up to take a look at YSU and see if this could be the place for them.”
Karan Raju, who is joining the team from India, has made an impression on the coaching staff during practices.
The Penguins have also added two Ohio natives in Wilson Cannon of Mansfield and Ryan Scherer from Wauseon.
Smith has one thing in mind heading into the season. He wants to gain attention and let the rest of the conference know that YSU is here.
“One of our guys asked me the other day what a reasonable expectation for us should be this year,” he said. “I told him a reasonable expectation for us this year should be to turn heads and to show the conference and the teams that we compete against this year that we’re here to stay, we’re here to build, that we’re serious about this, that we’re looking to contend for a conference championship down the road.”
Though he’s not expecting it, the thought of a conference title is something that stays on his mind.
“A conference championship is always a goal for me, and knowing the programs that I’ve coached, it shows that that’s what we’re shooting for long term,” Smith said. “We’re going to take, you know, every reasonable step this season to get there.”
The first meet for both the men’s and women’s teams is Oct. 5 at Marshall University. Smith said he is counting down the days.