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 month, they selected him Northwest Indiana Swim Conference Coach of the Year. Coaches from NWISC swim clubs, Highland, Crown Point, Duneland, Union Township, Portage, Merrillville, LaPorte, Michigan City, Hobart and Lansing, voted for their leader as the 2012-13 season wrapped up.
The Hurricanes, an age-group competitive swim club for ages 5 to 18 in Highland and surrounding communities, placed fifth overall at the conference meet Feb. 15-17.
Castillo took the helm of the Highland Hurricanes, a Level II USA Swim Club, last spring. He has also served as assistant coach of the Highland High School swim yeam, alongside Ryan Harrington, for four years.
A former Hurricane himself and a Highland High alumnus, Castillo has been swimming since 4 and competed at the state level every year through high school, consistently finishing among the top 16 in the state before going on to swim for Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis.
“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 said.
Concluding one of the best seasons in recent years, the Hurricanes are sending at least nine swimmers to the state championships this month and have seen 14 records broken this season.
A love of swimming runs in deep in the Castillo family.
He draws from his late parents for inspiration. The eight siblings in the Castillo family faced the tragedy of their parents’ deaths in 2007 and 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 and HHS.
“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.”