Ellen Johnston has been named the Head Coach of the Westport Weston Family Y Water Rat Swim Team. Previously the head coach for the senior swimmers (ages 13 and older), Ellen will now serve as the manager of the entire youth swim team, pre-competitive through seniors. Ellen will be supporting her staff of coaches, as well as working closely with the Parents Club and participating as a member of the senior staff of the Westport Weston Family Y.
In June 2011, Ellen was honored by the Water Rat Parents’ Club for 25 years of coaching excellence. “To be a swimming coach as successful as Ellen is, you have to make it the focus of your life, which she has done,” said Bob Knoebel, in a Westport News article published last summer. Knoebel was the Westport Y aquatics director for 29 years before retiring to Idaho in 2005. “She’s a big influence on the kids in and out of the pool. To be a great swimming coach anywhere takes a lot of grit and determination and Ellen has it.”
“My philosophy is to treat kids like individuals because each kid is different,” Johnston told local sports writer Eliot Schlicker last summer. “I have a philosophy of how things should be done and it’s for the youngsters themselves to know that the sky is the limit. A sign of success is when the youngster consistently works to better themselves day-in and day-out, not out of obligation but because of a desire to get better.”
The Water Rat Swim Team was established in 1949. From the beginning, the team was a perennial state champion. The team originally practiced in the Brophy pool, built in 1929 and renovated in 1978, at the current Post Road location of the Y. The team became a year round program in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the co-sponsorship of the Westport Parks and Recreation Department. The team used the Longshore Pool during the summers. Legend has it that the name “Water Rats” was established at that time when water rats were actually found in the Longshore Pool, which is located outdoors on Long Island Sound. As a result of the construction of the Y’s Stauffer Pool in 1978, the team grew in size and stature and added its first full-time coach.
“Ellen’s dedication to the quality of this program, and to the Family Y as a whole, is exemplary,” said David Cohen, the Family Y’s Vice President of Operations. “In addition, her skills in leading the staff and our young athletes make us successful in every way. Finally, and perhaps most important, she does these things with the four core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility at the forefront of her decisions.”
The Water Rat Swim Team competes in Y competition at the local level through dual meets and at the state and national level. The team is also a registered USA Swimming Team sanctioned by Connecticut Swimming, Inc. and competes in USA competitive swimming at the local, regional, state, zone and national level. For more information about the team, visit the Water Rat website.