While her record is certainly impressive, Canton Girls Swimming Coach Meg McGovern does not measure her career in wins and losses. Although those numbers surely contributed to her being recognized at the national level this spring, they’re far from the only reason she is deserving of her two newest awards.
McGovern has been named the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Coach of the Year, as well as the National Federation of State High School Associations Northeast Regional Coach of the Year.
The numbers are worth highlighting. In her 35 years at the helm of Canton’s storied swimming program, McGovern has amassed an astounding 358 wins against only 62 losses. Those wins include 21 Section X Championships.
The winning margin has been extended significantly over the past 10 years, where the team has gone undefeated while notching 119 wins.
Even in addressing the statistical success, McGovern directed credit elsewhere.
“What amazes me about this ‘Decade of Success’ is that ten different teams of swimmers carried it through,” McGovern said, referencing the three-word phrase Assistant Coach Conrad Stuntz printed on the team’s shirts this past season. “We laughed this year when some team members realized they were two when the streak started in 2012. And it is awesome to have the support of former swimmers cheering on athletes they don’t even know, but are part of the swimming family.”
Indeed, McGovern has been instrumental in nurturing that swimming family. In his nomination letter to NFHS, Athletic Director Bill Porter remarked on McGovern’s impact on her athletes not only as competitors, but as people.
“Meg’s teams are among the best student-athletes in our building and league and have gone on to many institutions of higher learning and careers,” Porter said in his letter. “Many are now the leaders in our town and the other communities where they currently reside. Having a strong female role model in their lives is something which I have heard countless former swimmers comment on.”
The awards she received have offered McGovern an opportunity to reflect on a lifetime in the pool. Having started swimming at age 5, McGovern continued to pursue her love of the sport through high school and to the highest levels of competition at the NCAA Championships as a member of St. Lawrence University’s program.
McGovern credits her former coach with laying the foundation for her to succeed.
“My high school coach, Sandy Macomber, was a huge influence when I started coaching at Canton,” McGovern recalled. “She mentored me during those years, even though she was perplexed that Canton always beat Malone. We worked together to develop the modified program. She was a great example of looking at the big picture of swimming in the north country and the importance of developing the program in the section so all athletes can participate in swimming.”
The quantitative stats are impressive and help paint a picture of success, but McGovern finds the less apparent victories sweeter. Watching athletes conquer a new stroke, break a record, or find a new way to help the team are the memories that stick with her. And, of course, watching those athletes develop a passion for the sport is something McGovern cherishes.
“I have always wanted team members to love swimming as much as I do,” McGovern said. “I am thrilled when athletes go on to swim at college, coach a team of their own, officiate, and get their own kids involved in the sport.”
Motivated and happy swimmers are a key component to longstanding coaching success, but far from the only factor. McGovern believes the support and dedication of swimmers’ families and the community at large play a major role, including the Section X Swimming community and many involved with Canton athletics.
“Bill Porter and the administration have provided all we have needed for the program,” McGovern remarked. “And the Canton swim team has been so fortunate to have coaches like Conrad Stuntz, Aggie Toth, Gabby Martineau, Alicia Wentworth, Suzanne Creurer, and Patti Riggs contribute their time and expertise to develop the team throughout the years.”
Although retired from her teaching career, McGovern stays on as the Canton swim coach. She knows the program is in good hands looking to the future, thanks to helpers like Stuntz, but the love for the kids is still too great to walk away from.
“A swim coach has the opportunity to watch kids grow into athletes and wonderful human beings over six years,” McGovern said. “It is a privilege to be a part of their lives and help them on their paths. There is no doubt they have helped me on my path too. The Canton swim team is a family for life and I am so proud to be a part of that.”