HIGHLAND | Nick Castillo is a firm believer that to be a successful swim coach, you have to love the sport, love coaching, love kids and love to help others -- plain and simple.
The level of passion, energy and attention that the 27-year-old head coach of the Highland Hurricanes Swim Club brings to the pool deck is commendable, and the swimmers he coaches are returning the favor with more refined strokes, faster times, and a level of success unlike anything the team has seen in recent years.
His fellow coaches apparently agree. Last weekend, they gave him the honor of Northwest Indiana Swim Conference (NWISC) Coach of the Year. Coaches from the swim clubs that make up the NWISC, comprised of teams from Highland, Crown Point, Duneland, Union Township, Portage, Merrillville, LaPorte, Michigan City, Hobart and Lansing, voted for their conference’s leader as the 2012-13 season wraps up. The Hurricanes placed fifth overall at the conference meet on Feb. 15-17.
Castillo took the helm of the Highland Hurricanes last spring. He has also served as assistant coach of the Highland High School Swim Team, alongside Ryan Harrington, for the past four years.
A former Hurricane himself and Highland High School alumnus, Castillo has been swimming since the age of four and competed at the state level every year through high school where he consistently finished among the top 16 swimmers in the state before going onto swim for Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI).
“I've known Nick for many years as a swimmer for Highland,” said Jim Voss of the Duneland Swim Club. “It is a pleasure to watch swimmers give back to this great sport . . . as a coach, mentor, and a teacher.”
Castillo’s coaching philosophy centers on hard work. He teaches swimmers that success doesn’t come easy.
“If you don’t push yourself, you won’t get anything out of this sport,” he says.
Now concluding one of the best seasons in recent years, the Hurricanes are sending at least nine swimmers to the state championships next month and have seen 14 records broken this season alone.
A love of swimming runs in deep in the Castillo family.
When Castillo’s parents signed him up to swim with the Hurricanes as a pre-schooler, they likely never imagined he’d one day be the team’s head coach.
Today, he continues to draw from them for inspiration. The eight siblings in the Castillo family faced the tragedy of their parents’ deaths, first in 2007 and again in 2009.
“Coaching has been my therapy to help me deal with their deaths,” Castillo said. “Seeing my swimmers succeed helps ease the pain. My parents were die hard swim fans.”
Castillo is looking to a bright future for his young Hurricanes as well as Highland High School.
“I have a 10 and under group of swimmers that will be making some noise as they get older and get ready for high school,” he says. “Highland Swimming is coming back, so people should take notice.”
About HHSC: Recognized as a Level II USA Swim Club, The Highland Hurricanes is an age-group competitive swim club for ages 5-18 in Highland and surrounding communities.