Community Profile: Longtime Barracuda Vanderhoof, Youth Swimming Champion at Glenwood Springs
For a city whose culture revolves largely around water – from its world-famous hot springs to the confluence of two popular recreational rivers – it’s no surprise that Glenwood Springs is home to one of the best swimming programs in the world. Colorado.
Going back to the very beginnings of the Team Sopris Barracudas Swimming Club, there has been a pillar that has contributed to its sustainability for 50 years.
Steve Vanderhoof, a native of Glenwood Springs, swam in the very first Barracuda swim team in 1970 at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.
Now 63, Vanderhoof is the head coach of the Sopris team’s youth program as well as the GSHS girls and boys swim teams.
He fondly remembers those humble beginnings.
âAt the time, they had the Learn to Swim at Hot Springs program and they had sessions for 9, 10 and 11 year olds where we split into different groups in the shallow end,â he said. declared.
In 1970, as he entered college, the Glenwood Barracudas formed a club swim club for youth only in the summer. Vanderhoof was among the founding members.
A few years later, “we tried to get the high school to form a team, but they wouldn’t let us do it,” he said.
So during the school year, when the high school swim season rolled around, Vanderhoof and a handful of other coaches without a coach would take the bus to Golden on their own to participate in a major swimming competition.
The success of the local club program over the years, especially after the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool was built in the early 2000s, eventually spawned the high school girls and boys swim teams. Glenwood Springs. The Demons have since had quite a bit of success individually and as a team, producing several collegiate swimmers in the process.
Among them was one of Steve and his wife Wendy Vanderhoof’s daughters, Kendall, who was an All-American swimmer for Kenyon College in Ohio from 2017-20, a stretch that included a third place finish in the mile swim. at the 2018 NCAA Championships and fourth in that event the following year.
Vanderhoof was born and raised in Glenwood Springs, attended GSHS from 1973 to 1976, then studied at Mesa State (now Colorado Mesa University) in Grand Junction and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
âI played basketball in high school. It was my passion with swimming, âhe said, adding that his older brother, David, had also swam with the Barracudas.
It was at UNC that he took a swimming coaching course and read the work of famous swimming trainer James “Doc” Counsilman, considered the father of competitive swimming in the United States.
âI took that course and then I coached the Barracudas for three summers,â Vanderhoof said of his early days as a coach.
He swam competitively for a semester at UNC, but said without the benefit of a year-round program he quickly realized he wasn’t as fast or in the same provided that athletes who had spent more time in sport.
He continued to swim to stay in shape, adding running and cycling to his diet and eventually got into triathlons.
He met his wife, Wendy, while growing up in Glenwood Springs. After college, Steve entered banking with his father, the late Don Vanderhoof, whose family founded Glenwood Industrial Bank. Don, who died in 2017, went on to serve on Glenwood Springs City Council, including two years as mayor.
After about 40 years in banking, including stints with what eventually became the Glenwood Independent Bank and its successors, and then retiring from the US Bank a few years ago, Steve focused his attention on swimming training. .
Vanderhoof recalls the transformation of the Barracudas from a summer program to a year-round program, which coincided with the construction of the aquatic facility at the Glenwood Community Center.
Prior to that, the program had bounced between the Hot Springs Pool, the John Fleet Municipal Pool in Carbondale, and even the indoor pool at the former Sunlight Racquet Club.
âThe Barracudas are the ones who really pushed for this thing to be open, raising dollars through the ‘turn campaign’,â he said.
This campaign ultimately raised over a million dollars and the swim club was well on its way to having a legitimate year-round training facility.
He vividly remembers introducing his own daughters, Kendall and younger sister, Kaitlyn, to competitive swimming, perhaps a little too soon after they got used to swimming in the hot springs.
âThey loved to swim, but we brought them here (to the community center pool) with coach Howard Jay, and he got everyone in the pool at the same time and swim to the other side,â he said. said Vanderhoof. “They went about halfway and came out crying, the water was so cold.”
They waited another year, and by that point Kendall and Kaitlyn were all in it, he said. Kaitlyn attends Colorado State University, but didn’t take her to swim until the intercollegiate level.
Vanderhoof was not a coach in the club’s program during his early days at the community center, but faced high school teams at different times.
He has now coached the GSHS girls for eight years and the boys for seven years, and six years ago he took the helm as the age group head coach of the Barracudas Sopris squad.
After growing to around 30 swimmers before it took over, the club’s program has grown in recent years to reach around 90 young swimmers, ages 7-18, and a smaller contingent of adult swimmers. masters â.
This growth occurred even during the pandemic, when swimming was one of the few activities for young people deemed safe with certain safety protocols in place.
âThanks to COVID, we were able to stay open after a pool break (spring 2020) and came back in June-July. We’ve been here ever since and able to stay safe and stay connected at the same time, âVanderhoof said.
Even during the break, club members would have on-land training via Zoom, including yoga and conditioning sessions, and even fun games to keep the kids engaged, he said.
âI think more than anything else, they just loved going out there and seeing all their friends, so it was kind of fun,â he said.
Meanwhile, the high school teams have excelled, with the Lady Demons winning back-to-back conference titles in 2020 and 2021, and placing several individual swimmers and divers in the state while placing third in the team. Vanderhoof was named conference coach of the year.
The Demons men’s team also won the Southwestern Conference Championship last spring and sent several swimmers to declare after canceling the 2020 season due to the pandemic.
Swim team parent Tiffany Lindenberg acknowledged Vanderhoof for keeping the programs together, even with the challenges presented by the pandemic.
âSteve’s commitment to putting the kids back in the pool when everything has been closed is a testament to his dedication to this team,â she said. “The time it took for all of this to happen was absurd, but his ultimate goal was to find a way to bring the kids back to swimming.”
As a result, the Barracudas were able to hold a swimming competition in September 2020, but with a long list of safety measures.
âIn the end, it was a huge success,â Lindenberg said. “What strikes me most about Steve is the positive relationships he is able to build almost immediately with the children.”
Lindenberg’s son Hazen is in sixth grade and is a club swimmer, and their daughter Ella is a senior on the GSHS team.
âSteve is kind and supportive to all families and all swimmers, and his interactions are intentional,â said Ella Lindenberg. He is attentive to each swimmer and helps them find the best version of themselves both in and out of the pool.
Beyond teaching conditioning and swimming technique, Vanderhoof says much of his approach to training revolves around the role model.
This seems to resonate in particular with the high school girls’ program, he said.
âI taught some of these girls how to swim in grade one, who then qualify by the state as a senior,â he said. âWe give them a lifelong skill and some self-confidence, so it’s pretty special. And, a lot of it is just about making children into good adults. “
This is also evident in the recent success of the programs in keeping Glenwood swimmers continuing and even excelling at the college level.
âIt’s always fun to see these really good swimmers, and we have a few of them right now, where they have really good support and they go to great lengths, and they can probably pick almost any college they want. ‘they want,’ he said.
It’s something he talks about with younger swimmers during their routine goal sessions. Some are taking it to heart, eyeing the junior national championships or even the Olympic trials, Vanderhoof said.
Last year, the GSHS girls broke eight individual school records at the 3A State Meet.
A contingent of divers, coached by Lara Claassen, have rounded out the Lady Demons swim squad in recent years, helping them go undefeated last season and turn heads at the state meet.
As a senior last year, Libby Claassen was named Class 3A Diver of the Year, and Abby Scruton signed on to dive and play football for the Division I program at St. Francis College in New York.
Several swimmers also crossed paths for success in other sports including cross country and track and field. That, in turn, produced some prospects of triathletes heading to college, he said.
As for continuing to train even after his own daughters have graduated, âIt gives me something to do and it’s fun. I like to see children succeed and become good adults.
Senior Journalist / Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]