Former Lehigh swimmers and Olympic trialists Justin White and Jacob Moyar have spent most of their lives in the water. Now as graduate assistants to the team, they are taking the time to step out of the pool.
The 2017 graduates gained a set of accolades throughout their Lehigh swimming careers, including eight combined school records, four All-Patriot League titles and the opportunity to swim at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
For the former swimmers, the transition from athletes to coaches has been one of the largest adjustments of their post-Lehigh athletic careers.
“I call this transition time, where I can step away from the sport in a very constructive way where I’m still around it, but I’m starting to find ways to move on and find other outlets for my competitiveness,” White said.
White’s role on the team now involves coaching the group of sprinters while Moyar coaches the long-distance group. Moyar said the pair does everything a coach would do, including ensuring workouts flow smoothly, instructing the swimmers, and strengthening and correcting their weaknesses.
Coach Rob Herb said while White and Moyar are able to identify with the swimmers on the team, they’re in more of a coaching mindset.
“They are still seen as resources for our student athletes, but with more professionalism,” Herb said. “They understand what the views of the coaches are and also of the kids.”
Herb says having former swimmers as graduate assistants is something the team has done several times over the years, but White’s and Moyar’s impact is especially prominent this year. He said both will always remain a part of the Lehigh family.
White and Moyar used to be teammates with many of the current team members and said the sense of camaraderie is still there.
“I know this team,” White said. “I know their inner workings. I like to keep that competitive effect I had on them when I was in pool, but now I’m trying to do it outside of the pool.”
For Moyar, the change from being a teammate to a coach has been an adjustment in the works. He said it’s easier for the upperclassmen to understand the role he had within the team, and he believes his competitive reputation has started trickling down to the freshmen.
White and Moyar said one of the most influential moments of their swimming careers was attending the U.S. Olympic Time Trials in 2016. They said they want more Lehigh swimmers to have the same opportunity.
“Helping people understand what it takes to be at that level, it’s an insight that not many people are fortunate enough to have,” White said.
White said it’s both his and Moyar’s duty to live up to their legacies and communicate what it takes to get to that level of competition. Moyar said preparation for the Olympic Trials was the most beneficial learning experience of his swimming career.
“I trained for three months straight after the season,” Moyar said. “It was the most intense time of my life, hardest I’ve ever worked for anything.”
White and Moyar said they both know how important having an active and effective coach can be in the development of young swimmers. The pair said most of the success they found as Lehigh swimmers can be credited back to their coaches.
Moyar said his most constructive coach before college was the last one he had before coming to Lehigh.
“I was never really college material until this guy showed up,” Moyar said. “He saw in me that I could be faster. I took my academics very seriously, but he knew if I put more time in, I would do incredible things.”
White said his swim coach growing up, Kathy Rigali, was like a “second mom” to him and coached him for 15 years. He said she’s one of his biggest role models.
While White and Moyar just finished their collegiate swimming careers, their new careers have only just started.
White graduated with a degree in accounting and has signed to work for Deloitte. Moyar graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and is currently enrolled in an industrial systems engineering graduate program and moving toward a career in technical consulting.
Both White and Moyar said their careers as coaches are only temporary.
“I probably won’t make a career out of coaching, although this is much more fun than what I likely will end up doing,” Moyar said. “Not quite as lively as being around these awesome people all day. I’ll enjoy it while I can.”