In profile: Kirk Kumbier, Allegheny’s Head Swimming and Diving Coach

Kirk Kumbier has recently made the move from assistant swimming and diving coach to interim swimming and diving coach for Allegheny. Kumbier grew up in  Dexter, Mich., a small town right outside of Ann Arbor. He has been swimming for about 20 years now.

“I started swimming when I was very little, probably two years old or so in swimming lessons at our neighborhood pool,” Kumbier said.

Kumbier started swimming competitively at the age of five in a summer league. From there,he progressed to year-round club swimming when he was 11 or 12. Competitive swimming continued to be a part of his life through high school and his time at Kenyon College where he majored in math and minored in studio art.  Kumbier swam the breaststroke and individual medleys in college. His notable accomplishments included placing in the top eight for breaststroke at the NCAC championships, or “conference” for short.

In the past, Kumbier worked as an assistant summer league coach for three years during college at Ann Arbor Country Club. He also worked for the Total Performance Swim Camps at Kenyon College, the Salo Swim Camps at the University of Southern California, and for the Wolverine Swim Camps at the University of Michigan.

Kumbier said he is enjoying his new role with the Allegheny swimming and diving team and is grateful for the mentoring he has received from the previous head coach, Erin Detwiler.

“I learned a lot from the previous coach, and she was a really good coach,” Kumbier said. “It’s been a journey. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Kumbier aims to make a positive impact on the team atmosphere this year by keeping in mind where his swimmers are at physically, mentally and emotionally throughout the season.

“There’s a lot going on in college, and balancing all that and thinking about the season big-picture-wise is something that’s hard to do when you’re in it as an athlete,” Kumbier said. “But as a coach that’s part of your job to think of the big picture and help the athletes focus on the moment, focus on one thing at a time.”

Kumbier advises his swimmers and divers to “take things one step at a time” concerning the highs and lows that come with a long, demanding season.

“He does a really good job relating to the team, and he understands the transition and where were coming from,” said Kali Schneider, ’16, a member of the women’s swim team. “He’s really supportive even outside of the pool.”

When Kumbier’s athletes have bad performances at meets, he is quick to encourage them to look at the positive aspects in their lives, and not dwell on the negatives.

“Part of your job definitely is to listen, and listen to where the athletes are at. Whether that’s academically or emotionally with things going on in their social life,” Kumbier said.

Kumbier’s educations in math and studio art have not gone to waste. He understands that there are similarities between swimming, math and art. While these similarities may not be direct, he said his background as a liberal arts student has prepared him to apply and connect all aspects of his schooling.

“Swimming itself is kind of an art, and everybody’s a little different in how they swim and so it’s kind of this art in motion,” Kumbier said. “There’s no method that’s perfect for all athletes. There’s no universal method.”

As head coach, Kumbier expects his athletes to give him feedback on what is and what isn’t working for them.

“Since the beginning of this year, every single meet pretty much I’ve gotten faster,” said Kaitlin Walsh, ’16, a member of the women’s swim team. “And that’s because after every meet Kirk like gives us a lot of feedback, and so like that week after we focus on what we didn’t do as well in meets.”

Along with coaching his athletes, Kumbier now has more administrative responsibilities outside of the pool. He plans the season for the entire team and is in charge of acquiring transportation and making travel plans.

“He’s always kind of covering his bases on a lot of aspects so we always have food for meets. We always have buses. We always have all those things,” said Kevin Crooks, ’15, a member of the men’s swim team. “It’s very organized in that fashion.”

At one time, Kumbier considered becoming a teacher or going back to school. But once he got a taste of coaching, he knew he was where he belonged.

“Being a coach is something that I love to do, and it’s definitely the path that I want to stay on,” Kumbier said.