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Coach Franco Pacheco (center) is also the pool director at St. Norbert's Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center.

It’s Back in the Water for the Knights

Coach Franco Pacheco hopes to break out something old with the new men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams during the program’s inaugural 2018-19 season. “I have a lucky watch that I pull out for every championship meet,” says Pacheco, who served as an assistant the last two seasons at Colorado College. “It has a big crack in it, so it’s not the most practical thing, but I had success my first year with it, so I’m not going to give it up until I’m proven wrong.”

Pacheco’s recruiting trips for the newest Green Knights team have taken him across the country to build teams of 12 men and 12 women for the first season. The plan is to grow that number to 24 athletes on each squad in future years.

Pacheco will not temper expectations for the first year: “I always set the bar high and if I miss, it’s looking at how I can get myself there,” he says. “Our goal is to be top five in the conference next year. Until I know otherwise, I’m going to shoot for that.”

The right attitude and work ethic go a long way in swimming, he explains: “We are the one sport where hard work, determination and just the ability to outlast other people will make you successful. If you have the determination to work on fundamentals every day, you are going to get there.”

Success for Pacheco (who also serves as aquatics director for the pool in the Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center) will also be measured outside the pool. “In the first year my team will do 1,000 hours of community service,” says Pacheco, who himself volunteers with Hospice Compassus and the YMCA. “Being active in the community and making a difference will go a long way in establishing our program. Anytime you go somewhere, if you are not making an effort to make it better than when you got there, you are probably not doing it right.”

Pacheco, a native of Seaside, Calif., began swimming as a child. He hoped to compete collegiately in water polo, which he says was his better sport. Instead, he received a scholarship to swim at the College of St. Rose, where he was a two-year captain. Following grad school, he served in the United States Army. 

“When I got out of the Army, I was not ready to go into government work,” says Pacheco. “I thought about the difference my college coach [Keith Murray] made in my life. I was a kid from California who had never really been anywhere else. He took me under his wing and probably spent more time with me than he should have. His patience was infinite. If I could pay it back like the difference he made in my life, I probably should.”

Pacheco began his own coaching journey at Villanova University. As one among the small number of Latino swim coaches in the U.S., he embraces the opportunity to serve as a role model. “Swimming in the African American and Latino communities definitely needs to grow,” he says. “We still account for over three-fourths of all deaths from drowning. So the more coaches like me that exist, the more swimmers that buy into it. It’s the one sport that, if you learn the most basic skill, it can literally save your life.”

New Knights
The 2018-19 Green Knights debut in the water Nov. 11 when St. Norbert hosts Lawrence in its season opener. The meet will be the only home event of the season as St. Norbert becomes the ninth swimming and diving team in the Midwest Conference. “We are working into the rotations for other teams,” says Pacheco. “Once we are established, we get [home meets] back. We will do a little traveling the first year.

“It takes a special kind of athlete to want to build something. That always comes with challenges. You are kind of the gateway. Being a trailblazer, being first, is not always the easiest thing, but it’s definitely one of the coolest.”

March 20, 2018