Knowing the Book
Kenyon first-year men's coach knows all about tradition
For Kenyon head coach Jess Book, coaching the Kenyon swimming program means more than striving for championships and the day-to-day instruction associated with being the head man at a premier Division III institution.
For Book, the 2012-13 season is his third season as head coach of the Kenyon women and first for the men. He takes the full helm of a program previously directed by the legendary head coach Jim Steen, the architect of the greatest Division III swimming dynasty in the history of the sport.
A graduate and proud alumnus of Kenyon, Book collected All-American honors as a swimmer for the college. He helped the Lords to four national title runs as a student-athlete before joining his former coach as an assistant in 2002.
Upon return to his alma mater, Book said he rediscovered how attached he remained to his school and the sport he grew to love.
“I swam my whole life and came to Kenyon because I love swimming so much and wanted a place with a similar outlook on the sport and I found it,” Book said. “I never dreamed I would be a coach until I graduated from Kenyon. In that year teaching I realize how much I missed Kenyon College and the beauty of the sport.”
Entering the 2013 championships, Book brings a squad primed as one of the frontrunners in both the men’s and women’s respective meets. The Lords, already entering Thursday at the top of the boards, started with a bang after claiming the 200-yard freestyle relay title.
Senior Ian Stewart-Bates, a member of the national title winning relay, said Book’s coaching philosophy centers around trust in his swimmers.
“He just keeps us relaxed, he doesn’t put any pressure on us,” said Stewart-Bates. “He knows what we need to do and knows that we know what we need to do. It was nice to execute it tonight.”
Senior Curtis Ramsey, another member of the relay, shared similar sentiments.
“He lets us take things into our own hands when we need to,” Ramsey said. “There’s a general training plan but when we need to do what we need to do, he lets us do what we want.”
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Now in a position to continue the dynasty begun by Steen, Book still remembers the teachings of his former coach. A coach that would go on to win a Division III-record 29 national titles at Kenyon, Steen and his legacy are firmly entrenched in the sport.
For Book, Steen would be one of the most influential figures in his life –- so much so he would have only begun his coaching career through knowing him.
“It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, it’s captivating, thrilling and emotional,” Book said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my time with Coach Steen. Every day and in every interaction, there’s a little piece of me that remembers what I learned from him over the course of time.”