Gielczyk: Zacek Takes Over at Manistee
He hadn’t expected to become a head coach quite so soon.
After moving to Manistee from the Grand Haven to take a teaching position at Manistee back in January to teach middle school English language arts, Nick Zacek became an assistant to Manistee swimming and diving coach Corey Van Fleet for the last half of the season.
Van Fleet coached both the boys and girls teams at Manistee, but decided to step down from the boys’ position at the end of last season and recommended that Zacek be his replacement. Van Fleet is working with the middle school swimmers.
The first time he came to Manistee was in 2010, when he was a sophomore in high school. Spring Lake and Manistee were members of the same swimming conference at the time. It was the first time he met retired Chippewas coach Cory Van Fleet.
But, he didn’t really have much communication with Van Fleet, or anyone else in the area, for the next three years after he enrolled at Grand Valley State University. It just so happened he also swam for the Grand Valley swim team all four years.
It was the fall of his junior year in 2015 when Van Fleet contacted him, peppering him with all kinds of questions about what his major was, and what he wanted to do when he graduated.
“I told him secondary teaching for middle to high school, and coaching swimming,” Zacek related. “And he said right away that there were going to be openings in this district in the next year or so, which timed out well because I graduated the following year.
“So, in a lot of ways swimming helped me get started on my life’s career. It’s really kind of amazing that something so small as a high school swim meet brings me up to this area. I loved being a swimmer, and I always will.”
Being a coach is a much needed break from the intensity of practice and competition, Zacek says.
“It gets exhausting,” said Zacek. “The boys here, they know full well how tough the sport can be. I was really a full, year-round swimmer for most of my entire life. So, to be able to give back to the sport a lot of what I was given from a lot of my favorite coaches in the past really is special.”
This being his first head coaching job, Zacek admits to being more than a little nervous as he gets the team ready for its first Coastal Conference competition of the season in January.
“Admittedly, I’m a little intimidated by it,” Zacek said. “I would lying if I said I wasn’t. At the same time, that sense of intimidation makes me grow that much more confident when I know there’s a challenge ahead of me like that.
“I do think it’s going to be an intense, challenging season with the boys. There’s a lot of practice design that I’ve been really working the best that I can to make that works well for them, and improves them.
“There’s always like a focus of the practice, or a main goal. And, it’s also making sure I stay on top of things. I also teach seventh grade here in the school, and my own personal goal that I know I can control is my own time management, making sure I don’t allocate too much time to one part of my job and less than the other.”
Zacek has 16 swimmers on the Chippewas’ roster, including returning diver and Division 3 state qualifier Campbell Kolk, but he’s excited to watch the development of the seven freshmen on the team.
He’s been impressed with their work ethic so far, and is waiting to see how that translates into competition in the pool.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.