Austin’s Kelly splashes into coaching

Published 8:49 pm Monday, November 26, 2018

Ryan Kelly grew up playing football, baseball and basketball, but over the years his kids have drawn him close to competitive swimming.

After three year’s as an assistant coach for the Austin girls swimming and diving team where his daughter Shannan swam, Ryan is now taking over as head coach of the Austin boys swimming and diving team, where his son Logan swims.

Ryan is originally from Mobridge, S.D. and he certainly didn’t picture himself becoming a swim coach back then.

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“Swimming wasn’t the thing. Our swimming was out in the river,” Ryan said. “I’m always looking for new things. I think it’s kind of good to have somebody out of the program do things a little different. You look at what happened with the gymnastics team with Mark Raymond. Mark wasn’t a gymnast his whole life and he came in and had some success. Hopefully we can do some of that here too.”

While he had coached football and baseball for a stretch, the transition to the pool didn’t happen overnight for Ryan. Besides helping with the girls’ team, he also served as a swimming official at meets for nine years.

Austin head boys swimming and diving coach Ryan Kelly speaks to his team after practice in Bud Higgins Pool Monday. Rocky Hulne/

Ryan said he checked with his son Logan, a junior who was a state medalist last year, before taking the job.

“When I’m (at the pool), I’m coach and when I’m home, I’m dad,” Ryan said. “It’s been a ton of work to this point getting everything organized. I’m looking forward to it and it’s been fun so far. I think it’s going to be a good year. We’ve got a solid group of boys with some room to grow.”

The Packers held their first day of practice on Monday and Austin senior Brockdon Lawhead said that he’s excited to compete under Ryan’s guidance.

“He’s been a familiar face around the swim program,” Lawhead said. “He kind of knows the ins and the outs. Our first day was really successful and I’m looking forward to this season.“

Austin senior Cameron Krueger is also glad to have Ryan on board as coach.

“It’s different, but I like the change,” Krueger said. “I feel like he’s involved in the practice and I like that.”

Ryan is familiar with most of the Packer swim team as a teacher and he’s been to plenty of meets as a parent. But now that he’s getting much closer to the program, he’s trusting his assistant coaches to help him make some decisions on where to put each competitor.

“It’s nice to have my assistants who were with them last year. It’s kind of nice to have that resource to see where kids were last year and they can fill me on on what they’ve seen and who needs to be pushed one way or another,” Ryan said.