When one considers the fact that two high school swimming teams coached by women named Laura Halter and Chauntelle Johnson are heading toward state titles in Washington, nothing outwardly different stands out. Yet, there is something unique about Halter and Johnson's impending run at squad titles: They're leading boys swimming teams.
As reported by the Seattle Times, Halter -- who coaches the Issaquah (Wash.) High boys swimming team -- and Johnson -- who leads the Mercer Island boys squad -- represent a shifting sense of normalcy, where women coaching boys swimmers is no longer an aberration at all. In fact, exactly half of the head boys swimming coaches in the two largest conferences in Washington are female.
Part of the increased acceptance of women coaching boys in the pool comes from swimming's unique similarity between sexes. Strokes are no different regardless of who is performing them, and male coaches have long led female swim teams at the high school level and above, just as they have in other sports.
Could it be that swimming is just a more progressive sport? At least one Washington coach thought that might be the case.
"I've never noticed, never even thought about it," said Kamiak coach Chris Erickson, one of WesCo's male swim coaches. "They're just coaches, you know. Maybe we're just a little more advanced in swimming."
For her part, Halter said that she's received nothing but support since she joined the program. In fact, she even said there are parts of coaching boys that she actually enjoys more than working with girls teams.
"I can say that all the men have been very welcoming when women come on," Halter told the Times. "They treat us very equally. These coaches are some of the most professional people I've ever worked with in my life.
"Girls take things personally. With the boys, you tell it like it is. That's the way they want to hear it."
Naturally, the success of female coaches around a male pool doesn't mean that hordes of female coaches will begin to pop up in other sports overnight. Still, it proves that there's nothing inherent in the difference between the sexes that keeps women from succeeding when leading groups of men in sports when they have the needed experience.
In fact, Halter even intimated that after the success she's had with coaching boys swimming, she feels she could have coached boys in another sport if she had competed in it herself in the past. Perhaps one day, she and more like her will get more of those chances.