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Coach of Swim Tampa Aquatics following father’s footsteps

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Published:   |   Updated: April 30, 2013 at 03:33 PM
CITRUS PARK -

Tampa native Scott Parlett began swimming at age 4, a childhood pastime that would lead to district championships at Chamberlain High School, a college scholarship, two national titles and a career.

Parlett is founder, owner-operator and head coach of Swim Tampa Aquatics. His nonprofit organization, which uses the Tampa Jewish Community Center pool, just marked its 15th anniversary.

“Fifteen years ago, the heaters weren’t working,” he said. For the first two years, winter weather necessitated a seasonal shutdown of the program. “We got our heaters fixed, we became a year-round program and now we have 90 to 100 kids a year,” Parlett said.

His organization initially was dubbed Tampa Bay Aqua Bears, Parlett’s tribute to his swim team at Missouri State University.

“After graduation from college, I kinda needed something to do,” he said. “I lost my identity, as far as I was a swimmer. So the next level I took was an interest in coaching. The year I graduated from college I started this program — 1998.”

Parlett, 38, is a second-generation swim coach.

“My father was my coach, my hero and my mentor,” he said of Ron Parlett, former coach of Leto High School’s swim team. Additionally, Parlett is a physical education teacher for Hillsborough County schools, as was his dad.

The swim program is a family affair.

“Throughout the years, my sister and my mom have helped me out,” Parlett said of “Team Mom” Sandy Parlett and Coach Kristy Utawgawhi. The staff also includes coaches Sharon Ward and Eric Hertenstein.

“I think one of the things that makes our program very successful,” Parlett said, “is we don’t get bigger than our means, so to speak.” Other programs may boast 10-lane pools accommodating 40 swimmers, but that results in a poor coach-to-swimmer ratio, he said. “We like to stress the one-on-one instead.”

Consistency also has aided success, he said. Parlett has been head coach since founding the organization.

The program teaches children as young as 3 to swim, but the main focus is competitive swimming — training to reach the next level, to become more competitive by swimming year-round, Parlett said.

“As long as they know how to swim on top of the water, we’ll teach them the rest,” said Parlett, whose physical education job is at Kenly Elementary School.

Young standouts include Jacob Hall, 12, of Egypt Lake, a Walker Middle Magnet School sixth-grader who has been with the swim program for about five years. In 2012 he placed sixth in the state in the 200-yard freestyle.

Others, such as Martinez Middle School eighth-grader Kimberly Ward, especially enjoy the camaraderie. The daughter of assistant coach Ward, she began four years ago at age 9.

“It’s really fun and there are a lot of people who can be your friends,” she said. She got her first taste of the swim program when she tagged along with her older sister, Marinna, who joined the program after the family moved to Tampa. “After seeing a couple nights of her swimming here I was like, ‘Hey, I need to do this,’” Kimberly said.

Marinna, 20, is away at college, but still coaches at Swim Tampa Aquatics when home on summer break, Parlett said.

There’s another person Parlett wants to recruit. His 66-year-old father, a professor of education leadership at Southeastern Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, is about to retire.

“Come December, I hope to hire him on as my next coach,” Parlett said. “I don’t think he knows yet, but that’s the goal I’m working on. We can’t let him sit around and get old.”


gwilkens@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7124

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