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July 13, 2010 > A decade of fun for Highlands coach

A decade of fun for Highlands coach

By Alyson Whitaker

Ten years ago, Irvington High School teacher Nels Larsen joined Frank Gygax as coach of the Mission Highlands Sharks of the East Bay Swim League. At the Saturday, July 10, Super Hero-themed home swim meet, Nels' decade of coaching was recognized.

Disguised as "Mr. Invisible" he was anything but invisible as he and coach Frank (Super Shark) led the team in their pre-meet cheer and pep talk.

Swimmers and parents agree that Coach Nels brings an element of fun to the team. He pushes swimmers to improve at each and every practice, makes parents laugh on the pool deck, and emphasizes the importance of having fun along the way.

Amy and Abigail Turnlund have been swimming on the team for four years. Mom Christy says "He's lighthearted... it's a sport, and it's competitive, but Nels makes it fun. He's always got something to say, and he does it with a smile."

Coach Nels holds kids accountable for their actions, and encourages them to be their best-both in and out of the water. He has earned the respect of the swimmers through his consistency year after year.

Nels is as comfortably dressed in a super hero costume as in his everyday coaching attire, and he makes every swimmer feel that they have something to contribute to the team.

Jon and Ann Zucker have been Sharks parents for the last nine years. Ann says, "Deep down, all he does is for the kids. For him, it's as much about having fun as it is about winning. The coaches keep us coming back year after year, and are a big part of why we get up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays for a meet. They make it fun for all of us."

Some of his first season's swimmers are now graduating from high school, and a new generation of youngsters are joining the team. It's clear that Nels is doing what he loves, and will hopefully be there for decades to come.

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