SOUTHINGTON - Southington swim coach Evan Tuttle heard rumblings that his name was on a short list of candidates to be named 2019 boys swimming coach of the year by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, yet he couldn’t help but think about the other coaches on that list who were deserving of the recognition.
“There are a lot of very talented coaches in our profession … that I know for a fact do phenomenal work with their athletes and do it the right way,” Tuttle said. “To be included in that group is an honor for me.”
Tuttle wasn’t just included in that group. He was considered at the top of it, as he found out that he has been selected as coach of the year, bringing an honor to Southington swimming that will be recognized on May 9 at the Aqua Turf Club.
“It was very humbling,” Tuttle said. “I’m honored, but in the same sense, I know that there are so many others that are equally if not more deserving of that recognition. There’s a long list of people that work to contribute to the success of our program. The athletes, coaches, parents, Jan Zagorski with our diving group, it’s far from a one-man group that puts the success of this team together. They should be sharing in this recognition as well.”
While Tuttle wants his Blue Knights to share the honor with him, his swimmers and divers share a common reaction to their coach’s award: It couldn’t have happened to a better leader.
“He’s been there for me and my teammates for four years, through my whole high school career,” said senior Chase Galayda, who finished 18th overall at the State Open diving event this season. “He totally deserves it.”
Galayda worked with Zagorski, the team’s diving coach, for much of the season, but still saw Tuttle’s resounding impact on the team as a whole. On the swim side, Tuttle’s group felt the same way, and were anything but surprised when they learned of their coach’s latest award.
“I’m proud of him,” said Tyler Heidgerd, who finished 22nd in the State Open in the 100 freestyle. “He works hard with us and he really cares about his swimmers. He really deserves this.”
The response from the Blue Knights likely means more to Tuttle than the award itself. The recognition isn’t lost on him, but the recognition Tuttle cares about the most is that which his team receives in the pool.
“From a personal accolade, this is right at the top of the list,” Tuttle said. “But I really enjoy when I see my athletes being successful. Whether it be winning a State Open title or a kid recording a best time after trying the sport for the first time. When a kid succeeds through their hard work and diligence, it’s certainly the most rewarding and what I remember the most from each of my seasons.”
Galayda has seen this firsthand from Tuttle, as recently as the CCC West conference championships in late February. The Blue Knights finished in third place in the event, but Galayda remembers Tuttle’s reaction during a particular race, one that he believes highlights who Tuttle is as a coach.
“I remember the first time I saw him really excited was at that conference meet,” Galayda said. “Our swimmers were in a race and we won, and he was jumping up and down and throwing his clipboard in the air. It was really exciting.”
The Blue Knights finished with a record of 6-5 this season, and Tuttle’s excitement during their six wins likely eclipsed the excitement he’ll have in May when he accepts his award.
In the eyes of his team, that makes him even more deserving.