GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Fleming Island High graduate Kyle Casias has been through quite the gauntlet of emotions the past couple of years since returning home from a stellar high school career, a …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Fleming Island High graduate Kyle Casias has been through quite the gauntlet of emotions the past couple of years since returning home from a stellar high school career, a stint as a college level swimmer for the U.S. Air Force Academy to having his mentor abruptly pass away to amping up a swim program near his home that brought the circle of swim life right to his doorstep.
Casias, second in the Class 3A 100 yard butterfly for the Golden Eagles in 2010, erupted on to the state swim scene after just four years of bonafide swim interest.
“I was so new to the game back then and it was having a lot of people come together for me at the right time that made it all work,” said Casias. “My path is evidence that good parents, good coaches and good teammates are essential to athletic success. That’s what I want to do at Magnolia Point.”
Casias, now head coach for the Loggerhead Aquatics-Magnolia Point Swim Team, an affiliate of the very strong Loggerhead squad based out of Julington Creek, commented that one of his primary motivations for bringing the Loggerhead brand under head coach Mark Corley, a professional coach since 1984, and the Stroke Doctor methods of former swim guru Shawn Delifus, was simply to eliminate the 45 minute drive from Clay County to Julington Creek.
“Because I live here and had to commute daily over there, I knew that one hour grind,” said Casias. “Some of the swimmers here also did the same drive and, about a year ago, I thought, ‘Why not bring it here?”
With Delifus abruptly passing away for unknown reasons about a year and a half ago, the swim community which had embraced his energy on numerous pool decks; Barco Newton YMCA, Central Florida YMCA, Pennsylvania and, finally, Julington Creek, it was Casias who joined Delifus when he returned to Julington Creek that connected two significant dots of swim preparation.
“He was a one of a kind motivator and could point out little things with his swimmers,” said Casias. “He had that gift. I had the gift of understanding technology. Together, we branded a hybrid coaching style that got swimmers to a more competitive level by connecting physical abilities with mental training and advanced technology such as underwater cameras, mirrors, and virtual reality visuals. Shawn was able somehow to make kids do things they didn’t think they could and then do it with a smile. From my end, the kids love the Go-Pro cameras we use underwater.”
After Delifus passed away, Casias, with his direct connection to Delifus’ Stroke Doctor brand of coaching, was thrown into the mix with a decision about his next career move. The Delifus family created the Shawn D. Delifus Foundation in 2016, a non-profit swim education program that aims to introduce swimming to low and moderate income families in north Jacksonville. Casias negotiated hard for nearly a year to bring the Loggerhead Aquatics brand to Clay County.
“Look at the swimmers that have come out of Clay County recently; namely Caeleb Dressel and Ashley Neidigh, both competitors in the recent U.S. Nationals,” said Casias. “Dressel (two Olympic gold medals at RIO 2016) is a prime example of the use of mental preparation for excellent results. He’s not breaking all those records by chance. Clay County has always had strong swimmers.”
Casias, who works with former Fleming Island High teammate Stuart Jamieson, a state level breaststroker and Florida Tech University collegian, and Fleming Island High coach Laura Campbell, who has combined her aquatics exercise expertise with high school level coaching with great results on both fronts, to build a quite formidable amount of coaching firepower for Magnolia Point to build from. Also on Casias’ team is noted sports psychologist Joni Neidigh of Orange Park, who runs her Peak Performance Hypnosis program out of her Kingsley Drive office, with Casias to help competitive athletes overcome the mental anxieties of high-level competition.
“The people of Magnolia Point, including owner Trevor Rothfel, have been great to get this started here,” said Casias. “We hope to keep building on the entire program.”
Casias also commented that the Loggerhead program is not primarily for elite swimmers, but also encourages first time swimmers to inquire. A masters’ swim program is also on the docket as a future program. “With the latest news of children drownings in Jacksonville, we do offer beginning swim lessons for parents here as well,” said Casias. “Coach Campbell is an expert swim stroke instructor at every level and loves the kids.”
Interested swimmers and parents can get more information about the program by googling Loggerhead Aquatics.