Kaitlyn Dobler will continue her swimming success at USC. Photo courtesy of Jim Newton Photography
Kaitlyn Dobler will continue her swimming success at USC. Photo courtesy of Jim Newton Photography

Kaitlyn and me

By Lisa Leslie, head coach, Aloha swimming

As a swim coach there are many great moments. Those moments are even greater when relationships are built with your athletes.  My year was filled with heartfelt moments but there was one day, one swim in particular, that will remain in my heart forever. It was a once in a lifetime moment with a once in a lifetime swimmer and person, 2020 Aloha HS graduate Kaitlyn Dobler.

February 21 was a magical day full of fun, excitement and a bit of sadness as it marked the final day in Kaitlyn’s high school swimming career. 

Before the 100 breaststroke prelims, Kaitlyn and I met for a light lunch. We had already talked about how the swim should look. She knew all of the mechanics and what she would need to do and how to make the swim happen. This lunch, unlike our regular lunches together, was about reminiscing and talking about the fun and who she was as a person and swimmer. I called her club coach, Nacim Bouferrache, and the three of us on speaker phone talked about her legacy; she had already left an indelible mark on our sport in Oregon. This swim was about grabbing the moment she wanted and celebrating all of her hard work.

As the 100 breaststroke swim got closer, my heart began to hit my stomach. I did my best not to show it. Kaitlyn came for her pre-swim talk -- no mechanics, no corrections. I looked her in the eye and said, “You have already done so much. No matter what, promise me to have fun and just do what you love. We all love you and are so proud no matter the outcome. Swim with your heart and you can accomplish anything.” As she walked away I had a tear in my eye. This was it.

I went to the coaches’ area and sat at the edge of the pool. The race started and I found a newer, louder level of cheering. I knew the mark she wanted at the 50. Her goal was a low to mid 26. She hit that wall. I looked at the board and it was a 27 flat. My heart was racing, my standard cheer went to a whole new level trying to push her on. This was going to be so close. I wanted this so badly for her. At the last turn, she picked up speed driving for the finish. I looked up at the scoreboard: 58.35 and a new national record!

I jumped up with tears of joy and got hugs and pats on my back, but I needed to get to Kaitlyn! I “run walked” to her lane, lay down on the deck and hugged her. Her 58.35 second swim plus the moment with just the two of us together at poolside will stay in my heart forever. 

Seconds and moments matter. We need to remember to take them in and cherish them.  Kaitlyn is a constant reminder that great things can happen but it starts with the relationship. Yes, Kaitlyn Dobler shines a bright light on Aloha, but it is more than the accomplishments in the pool. At her college signing, prior to the season, she eloquently stated, “Twenty years from now I won’t remember the times but I will always remember the relationships- thank you everyone for being my community.” Those words alone remind us as coaches that relationships matter. Through the relationships we honor our athletes and they honor each other.