Rise ‘n shine
SMAC coach burns both ends of the candle
Story by Chris Graham
“The kids are here, and they work hard, and I love what I do. That makes it easy,” said Wharam, who was hired in August to lead the Y’s Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club – SMAC – competitive-swimming program.
Wharam oversees the training and competition regimens of 85 young SMAC swimmers, from learn-to-swim 8-and-unders to elite teens who compete at the national level.
Wharam came to Waynesboro most recently from Providence, R.I., where he was an age-group coach and volunteer assistant at Brown University. He has roots in Central Virginia, though, having competed on the club swimming team at the University of Virginia, where he also serves as a volunteer assistant coach.
“The opportunity to come back to this area was too much to turn down,” said Wharam of his move back to Virginia.
So he answers his 4:45 a.m. alarm for morning practice, then is back at 4 p.m. for afterschool practice that can keep him at the Y until 9 p.m. some nights.
“The people I admire are the kids. They’re upwards of 20 hours a week between in-the-water time and out-of-the-water, dry-land weight room, general conditioning kind of stuff. That’s on top of 40 or 45 hours a week at school. It’s definitely a lifestyle,” Wharam said.
For Wharam, the reward comes when he sees swimmers improving their times, and also learning lessons for life.
“The rewarding part is instilling the things I think the athletes can learn from swimming – the discipline, the hard work, the time management – some of those kinds of things, and seeing them succeed with those things in the pool and also to have that translate to success down the road,” Wharam said.
“That’s the most important thing that we do here as coaches – be it me here or Coach Spears upstairs in basketball. Just helping them learn those values that you learn through sport can pay off big dividends if you can apply those to everything else that you do,” Wharam said.
“That’s the favorite part of what I do, is tying all that stuff together. For me, swimming just happened to be that vehicle. I taught at a private school my first year out of college, and it just wasn’t the same. The classroom environment wasn’t the same as what we have in here,” Wharam said.