Fraenkel to coach Marlins

September 28, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

His mission is forthright, his credentials impressive. Tom Fraenkel has brought his continuing effort to develop successful swimmers to Danville.

Fraenkel, who coached for most of three decades in his native South Africa before moving to the United States five years ago, has been named coach of the McDowell Marlins, the U.S. Swimming program based at McDowell Wellness Center.

He brings a new approach and a new attitude to the program.

"The kids I've seen so far, I'm more excited about what I've seen in small Danville than what I've seen in America so far," he said. "There is huge talent to work with."

But he said he can only develop that talent if the swimmers and their parents believe in his methods.

"People have to change their whole approach here. The parents have to understand we have to start focusing on teaching kids skills," he said. "People are going to have to embrace what we're doing and believe in what we can do."


A remarkable resume

Fraenkel comes to Danville with a remarkable resume. He coached several club teams in South Africa - he established three of them - and had hoped to coach his nation's team in the 1992 Olympics.

"I had achieved everything I could as a coach in South Africa except for coaching the national team, and that wasn't going to happen because of politics," he said.

He relocated to Kingsport, Tenn., in 1999 and also coached in Couer d'Alene, Idaho, before coming to Paducah in 2002. He coached the Paducah Marlins for the past two years, and he said he preferred to stay in Kentucky when seeking another job.

He said his passion for coaching was sparked soon after he began coaching in 1970, and he said the fire burns as strong as ever.

"You can liken me to any artist," he said. "In my profession, I'm an artist in what I do. It becomes your life."

Fraenkel works in concert with his wife, Anthea. His most successful pupils include Annette Cowley, who was named South Africa's swimmer of the year in 1983 and was the fastest female swimmer in Africa and fifth-fastest in the world, and Claude Cloete, who was 13th in the modern pentathlon at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Frankie Frog Learn-to-Swim program

Both are products of Fraenkel's Frankie Frog Learn-to-Swim program, which he established in the 1970s. The program teaches children to swim based on a step-by-step method that builds confidence while promoting precise stroke development and making sure the students enjoy themselves while they learn.

Fraenkel introduced the Frankie Frog system in America in 1993 when he became the first and only South African coach invited to lecture at the American Swim Coaches Association World Clinic, and he also plans to bring the program to Danville.

Fraenkel also plans to start a masters program for swimmers of college age and older.

Meanwhile, practices for the fall/winter season are already under way for the Marlins.

"The kids love him," said Karen Rankin, one of the program's parents. "His workouts are much harder than what they had been doing, but they're all thrilled to have somebody with his expertise."

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