A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Kevin Kinel

kevinkinelAll too often, the world hears horror stories of crazy high school sports coaches in our society. For this week's Life in the Spotlight, though, we are lucky enough to hear the story of a coach who defies this cliché and shines a glorious light on what coaching should be. Chesterton High School's men's and women's swim coach Kevin Kinel has coached at Chesterton for over 30 years, producing countless phenomenal swimmers along the way, but more importantly serving as a teacher and motivator to all who have been a part of his program.

A Chesterton grad himself, Kinel has always been one with the sport of swimming. He swam all four years of high school, then chose to attend Indiana University to study business. After spending some time there, though, he quickly realized that business wasn't the route he was supposed to be taking. He came home looking for a temporary job, but soon found the position that would change his whole future career.

At the time, the Duneland Swim Club assistant coaching position was available and Kinel, thinking it would just be fun for a while, chose to take the job while also serving as a teacher's aide in the pool. Kinel's enthusiasm for the job began growing rapidly, and he started attending coaching clinics and made the decision to return to IU to study Physical Education and Aquatics. While there, he helped coach the Bloomington swim club and had the privilege of meeting and working with legendary swim coach Doc Counsilman, which he credits as being the smartest and most effective decision in his career. After graduating from IU, fate stepped in, and the head coaching position was up for grabs in Chesterton. Kinel then took charge of the boys and girls team, while still working with the Duneland Swim Club as well.

It's now been 35 years, something that Kinel himself finds hard to believe.

"I never really intended to teach or coach that long, but it’s just one of those things that has always been good! The community and the administration have been so supportive, so it's been a pretty fun gig to say the least."

While Kinel has been able to continue doing what he loves year after year, more important to him has been the ever enduring love and support he receives from his family, most especially his wife Barb. While his two sons Ryan and Steven never got into the sport of swimming quite like their dad, Kinel says there were still numerous life lessons he was able to provide them with all stemming from the sport.

"Discipline is just so important; having that ability to budget school, work, and life in general, and trying to prioritize all that's happening...that's what's most important, and that's what made the biggest impact on me. When I went back to school, I learned that if you have a goal and a mission, everything changes. I can only hope that I've been able to get both my sons and swimmers to understand that."

Since taking up the coaching position in 1980, Kinel and his fellow coaches have produced 50 state champions, have taken swimmers to the Olympic Trials on four separate occasions (with more to come in 2016), have won four state titles, and even won the national title for men's high school swimming in 2014.

Kinel was named National High School Coach of the Year in 2013, clearly a very thrilling highlight and honor for him. With all of these amazing accomplishments, Kinel is passionate in his belief that it only takes one person to start a real chain reaction that produces your greatest feats.

"It's amazing what one breakthrough can do, it's like once one person does it, anyone can do it. One of the biggest things I've learned is never to underestimate what you or anyone else can do, because when you can take inspiration from someone else reaching your goals, it makes it that much more possible for you."

While Kinel's success with the program is clearly easy to acknowledge and appreciate, more important is the true dedication and care he puts towards each and every one of the athletes and students he encounters. His positive outlook, kind attitude, and genuine respect for his athletes goes much further than any state or national title. Northwest Indiana is lucky to have such an impactful role model, thank you for all you do, Kevin!