Legendary Greenwich High swim/dive coach set to call it a career

Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving head coach Dick Hawks enjoys a moment with his team during a recent practice at the GHS pool — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving head coach Dick Hawks enjoys a moment with his team during a recent practice at the GHS pool — John Ferris Robben photo

After one-quarter of a century with the Greenwich High School girls swimming and diving team, legendary coach and Redding resident Dick Hawks will be taking his final lap around the pool this November.

The longtime GHS coach actually retired from Central Middle School on last year’s final day of the school year, but still had every intention of continuing to coach the Lady Cardinals team. The only difference would be that the Hawks just planned on working on his golf game a little more at The Redding Country Club.

However, only a few weeks into his retirement from teaching, Hawks got news that would shake up his world.

In less than two months, Hawks and his two daughters will be leaving Redding and will meet up with his wife, Kim Hawks, who has already moved to Singapore due to her job at Louis Dreyfus Commodities.

To say that it’s a whirlwind for the Hawks family is an understatement. With his wife currently in Australia, Dick Hawks meets up with his daughters at their home in Redding after practice or after games.

“I get home and we do dinner, bath, bed and repeat,” Hawks said. “Hopefully their homework is done before I get there. There’s so much to get done, never mind getting the house ready to move half of it with us and the other half in storage. Then we want to find someone to rent the house while we are gone. There is so much going on, that it’s hard to think about it was my last time facing Norwalk or Ridgefield.”

In his 25 years with the Greenwich girls swimming and diving program, Hawks said that he tried to do the best that he could and every year and put more pressure on himself to achieve greater heights.

“Even when things were going well, I would still try to find a way to tweak things a little more to get things better,” Hawks said.

It certainly is hard to argue with the success Big Red has seen during Dick Hawks’ tenure at the high school.

Entering his 25th year as head coach this fall, Hawks has won 18 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships, 12 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL crowns and his Cardinals have been state open champions a remarkable 10 times.

While Hawks and Greenwich swimming seem awkward if they weren’t mentioned in the same sentence, early in his high school coaching career that wasn’t the case.

In his first year as head coach of the Lady Cards, Hawks admitted that the season was anything but successful and wasn’t sure if he was cut out to be the coach at GHS.

“When I was at Millbrook, I never thought about what it was like at this club or that club,” Hawks said. “Same goes for when I took over Greenwich High. I just focused on having a great season and making it that much better the next year. But that first year was a rough one and that was the only crossroads that I remember. I really wasn’t having fun, so I said ‘I am going to either leave it, or never do it like I did this year again.’ The next 24 years were nothing like that first year. It’s been a lot of fun.”

One of the biggest changes that Hawks noticed since he first held practice 25 years ago was the way his team practiced.

“The first few years feel like it was another lifetime,” Hawks said. “They don’t even feel connected to the times that I am in now. The kids were so different, the attitudes were so different and the ability to do the work and swim the way they do now, compared to 25 years ago, is not even close to being the same. I look at workouts that I have from the first year that I was here and it’s laughable.”

Hawks took a program that was happy to qualify for state open events to perennial powers. It went from winning an event at the Open championships to dreaming about capturing the Open championship for the team. Once that was accomplished, it went from a dream to an expectation.

Since then, the pressure has been on the Lady Cardinals, not only to have those relay teams win a state championship, but for the entire team to win gold.

“It’s funny because now if we don’t win all three relays at Opens, we are bummed,” Hawks said. “A couple of coaches have come up to me over the years and said that their team is really good and that they can’t believe how much pressure they felt as a coach. When they asked me how I did it, I tell them that I don’t know anything else. I don’t remember the years where we weren’t as good as we are now. It’s really all I know and because of that, I just deal with the pressure. It’s the pressure you have when you have this job.”

What Hawks and the GHS girls swimming program has done at the state level is remarkable. Entering this fall season, a plethora of records come from 10 Hillside Road in Greenwich.

At the Open level, the 2011 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay team teams still hold the state record, as does Lauren Church in the 100-yard backstroke event back in 2011.

When it comes to class LL records that are still standing, Greenwich High School is well represented. In 2004, Keira Heath won the 200-yard freestyle, while Charlotte Ford won the 2007 diving event. Two years later, Greenwich added two more records, as Emily Weir won the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard freestyle relay won gold.

Morgan Karetnick broke the record in the 100-yard butterfly a year later, while Church set the mark in the 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events in 2011. Greenwich also broke the class LL record in the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2011.

“When I first started here, those were goals that were way off in the distance,” Hawks said. “I remember thinking in my third or fourth year about how great it would be if Greenwich could actually win a relay event at the Open meet.”

Winning those championships and netting top individual records is nothing new to the program. Hawks said that the reason Big Red gets to the podium and takes home trophies is due to all the dedication from the athletes.

“It doesn’t take a superstar to work hard,” Hawks said. “It takes a hard worker to work hard. The superstars come from the kids that work hard. I think part of what I did early on is convince the kids early on that this is what it takes to compete with Cheshire and we are not doing it. If we were going to compete with the best team in the state, we need to do what they are doing, and a little more. Until they started doing that, we didn’t even think about winning Opens. We needed to do the work necessary to win Opens.”

While winning all the championships was a thrill for Hawks, the head coach said that nothing comes even close to seeing one of his swimmers or divers with the determination to go after a goal that didn’t seem achievable and get there.

“Watching the kids do something at the end of the season something that you thought they might be able to do, and they go beyond that, is just so much fun,” Hawks said. “It’s so satisfying and rewarding and means the world to me. It’s a huge deal to me when that happens and I can’t even put into words how happy and proud I am when I see that. It is just watching the kids come so far, gaining confidence, gaining strength and developing that self-confidence that they are going to need when they get to college and the rest of their lives.”

Seeing his swimmers in the pool is quite the highlight for Greenwich’s Hawks. However, his fondest memories are actually found outside of the pool and usually years after his swimmers or divers graduate.

“When I hear how many of them call me in three years after they graduated and say that they are captains of their college team now, that means the world to me,” Hawks said. “You think the leadership was there in high school and they kept going in the right direction enough to make their college team coach feel like they are good people that could lead teams. I feel fortunate enough to have some of the athletes that have come through here and see what they have accomplished.”

From day one, the records and championships have always looked impressive on the wall that surrounds the GHS swimming pool. Red tile upon red tile is filled with names and teams of GHS swimmers and divers who have racked up countless awards.

While Hawks looks at those awards with pride, it’s the way his program has run that makes the head coach crack a smile.

“The things that stick out so much more than actually winning the event or not is how the kids did it,” Hawks said. “We want to win and work really hard at it, but we also keep an emphasis on developing into a really determined, responsible, mature young adult that swims and dives really well, instead of not caring about the kid’s behavior and just win. I’ve always said it was so much more important to do all of it the right way and lose than to cut corners, take shortcuts and win. That’s not satisfying. In 25 years, I am completely satisfied with the way we did things and knowing that integrity was a huge part of that process.”

While Hawks will be leaving the program that he helped build into the powerhouse that it is, it doesn’t mean he has been thinking too much about it.

There is still the remainder of this year’s fall season to be played out and Hawks has hopes of leaving the program on a high note by fighting once again for the FCIAC, class LL and open championships.

“When I think about it, it is usually when I am not at the high school or with the swim team,” Hawks said. “There’s so much to do that there really isn’t a lot of time to think about that. I’m sure it’s going to hit me in a completely different way once the season ends. As the season goes, it will be a different feeling. Right now it feels like the start of another season and all the things that we normally do. However, when States comes around, I’m sure it will sink in quickly.”

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress