Although a first-year swim coach at GPS, Roger Dahlke has coached the sport for more than 30 years.
“Coaching swimming feels like something I have always done,” says Coach Dahlke, who began coaching at age 15 and has never stopped. The Chattanooga native began coaching during the summer for the younger teams of a local swim club. After high school he studied business administration at Tennessee Tech University and coached club swim teams and gave lessons in the Cookeville area. Dahlke later returned to Chattanooga and joined McCallie’s swim team coaching staff, working alongside Head Coach Stan Corcoran as middle school swim coach. He also connected with then-director of the Scenic City Aquatic Club—and former GPS head swim coach—John Woods.
In 1995 Woods added Dahlke to the Scenic City Aquatics (now McCallie/GPS Aquatics) coaching lineup. Through the years, Dahlke coached a variety of the club’s teams and age groups. In 2012 Dahlke took over the swim club from Woods and has remained as the club’s director since then. “Coach Woods and I have coached together for many years, and I think so highly of him,” says Dahlke.
The McCallie/GPS Aquatics director continued to follow in the footsteps of Woods as he also took over as the Bruisers’ head swim coach after Wood’s retirement from GPS summer 2018.
As a young boy, the Chattanooga native imagined pursuing a career in youth or kids’ ministry due to the positive influence of his own youth leaders. But he soon realized his poolside position could also leave a meaningful impact on those in the water. “Coaching for me can actually feel very similar to ministry, just from a different platform,” Dahlke says.
Having coaching experience with both boys and girls, Dahlke observes a major difference in how the two genders learn, one that is related to their perspective on process. “Girls often put an expectation on themselves to swim their best time each time they are in the water,” he says. “While it is good for them aim for an exceptional standard, it’s not always possible to improve your time every new race.”
He says that although girls know progress is a process, they can be more reluctant to accept this reality. So, part of coaching girls is teaching them to be patient with themselves in the process, because off-days will happen.
This lesson is relevant right now even for his swimmers at GPS. “We are shaping mentality to view swimming as a long-term investment, to accept that hard work doesn’t always pay off today,” Dahlke says.
While Dahlke doesn’t swim much himself anymore, he finds other athletic endeavors to serve as an outlet and keep him challenged. In years prior he completed two half-IRONMANS and competed in a number of cycling races. In most recent years, Dahlke says he has reduced his commitment to cycling in order to make more time for his wife, Carrie Johnson Dahlke ’90, and kids, Christian Mahanes ’22 (McCallie) and Lily Claire Mahanes ’23. “However, I have recently taken up golfing,” Dahlke adds.
The GPS Swimming & Diving Team finished their 2018-19 season this past weekend at the TISCA State Swimming and Diving Meet. Read more about their state meet results here.