Coach Coates (center-left) has coached Northeastern’s swim and dive team for 28 years. (Photo Courtesy Northeastern Athletics)
Coach Coates (center-left) has coached Northeastern’s swim and dive team for 28 years.

Photo Courtesy Northeastern Athletics

Surprises and Swimming: The Roy Coates Experience

December 16, 2020

With Roy Coates as head coach, walking into practice is always a surprise for Northeastern’s swimming and diving team. 

One time, he brought his team on a Boston duck boat tour during practice. When the team trained last season in Puerto Rico, he took them kayaking on a luminescent lake. 

For the past 28 years, Coates has led the swim and dive team and has built relationships with everyone involved in the program.

“I just saw how good he was at interacting with the athletes,” said assistant coach Ryan Rich, who has worked alongside Coates for the past two years. “He’s able to work with all kinds of different athletes and really connect with all of them.”

The swimmers on the team also feel as though Coates has made great connections with them — not just in the pool, but also in life.

“Not only is he a good coach for swimming, he’s going beyond just coaching for swimming,” said senior captain Klara Juliusson. “I almost want to say he’s a coach for life because he’s really considering all aspects of our lives.”

Cloe Bedard-Khalid, who is also a senior captain, agreed with Juliusson. 

“Roy has been the most supportive coach I’ve ever had in my life,” Bedard-Khalid said.

Coates is from the Boston area and has coached in New England for most of his life.After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Boston, Coates began coaching high school teams in Medford and Winchester. From there, he moved to Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H before finding his home here at Northeastern.

“Well I ended up in [coaching] by accident,” Coates said. “I get to teach people who are good at what they do and are really anxious to get much better … that’s fun to do.”

He has enjoyed his life as a coach and has been incredibly successful at Northeastern. Some of his favorite moments include his America East conference championships, of which he won seven in a ten-year span. 

Coates said that besides the success in the pool, his other favorite times include, “the moments that had nothing to do with winning or losing … just hanging out and doing things other than competing.”

That attitude and love of team-building has transformed his relationship with the members of the team. Rich said that only five members had ever left the team prematurely during Coates’ tenure. 

“There’s a really strong bond among the athletes and I think in large part that’s because of his leadership and I really appreciate that about him,” said Rich.

The two captains also appreciate Coates’ leadership and how he works with each member of the team. After their virtual meet with Richmond, Coates pulled each swimmer aside and personally discussed their goals for the season and how they could achieve them.

“I know that if I have any issues, I can always come to Roy,” Juliusson said. “Whatever it is, I can always step into his office and I know he will be able to talk to me and help me in some kind of way.”

When the team is in the pool, Bedard-Khalid said that Coates is also able to apply that personal touch and knows how to push his swimmers hard enough without overstepping boundaries.

“He knows how to encourage everyone in their own way because people need different types of encouragement,” she said. 

Overall, Coates’ time at Northeastern has been focused on not only winning and filling trophy cabinets, but also giving his athletes valuable advice and experiences to help further their education and lives.

“I feel very lucky to have found a college coach like him,” Bedard-Khalid said. “It has made my experience here so extraordinary.”

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