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Summer swimming takes off under new coach

After trading the beaches of Hawaii for the shores of Flathead Lake earlier this month, new Mission Valley Aquatics swim coach Randy Folker couldn’t be more pleased with his move. A long-time competitive swimmer, water polo player, lifeguard and surfer who grew up riding the waves of Southern California, Folker got his first coaching job at age 17 and has been known as “Coach Randy” — even to his mom — ever since.

With a seven-year stint in the Coast Guard Reserve, a bachelor’s in education/social science and a master’s in American studies under his belt, Coach Randy brings a depth of experience that made him a well-rounded fit for the MVA position. Not only is he head coach of the Lake Monsters, Polson’s youth swim team, but he also helps manage the aquatic center, train lifeguards and coach masters swimmers and triathletes.

“It seemed there was a need in Polson for more than just a swim coach,” he explained. “It just fit. It seems like a place where I can contribute to the community more than just a university swim team.”

Listing several of the sport’s biggest names among his mentors, including Olympic coach Bud McCallister and Mission Viejo Nadadores coaches Bill Rose and Jim Montrella, Coach Randy most recently coached at the University of Hawaii and volunteered at the school’s aquatic research lab that studies the biomechanics of swimming — scientist speak for analyzing elite swimmers’ movements in the water and researching how to best teach strokes. But whether he’s working with college-level athletes or putting young Lake Monsters through their paces, Coach Randy aims to foster a passion for the water that will last longer than just a competitive swimming career.

“(Swimming is) a great lifetime sport,” he said, with benefits ranging from physical fitness to learning delayed gratification and self-discipline. “You can learn so many lessons in the pool.”

Those lessons translate easily to other team activities, and swimming doesn’t have to be a year-round commitment, he emphasized. For kids who play other sports, hitting the pool in the off-season is a great way to stay in shape and cross-train.

“We want swimming to be a part of your athletic stuff you do,” he said.

Despite moving 3,000 miles to a vastly different climate, Coach Randy says he felt right at home and has been welcomed with open arms by his swimmers and the residents of Lake County in general.

“The kids are awesome, so polite and respectful,” he noted.

The Lake Monsters practice from 9-10:30 a.m. weekdays in the summer; during the school year practice is held in the late afternoon. 

Coach Randy will be heading back to Hawaii for July and August to honor previous commitments at the aquatic research lab and to referee a large water polo tournament, but he’ll be back in Polson for good in September.

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