The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Head coach Jeana Kempe revels in full-circle moment with Illinois swim & dive

Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics
Swim and dive head coach Jeana Kempe.

Jeana Kempe, head coach for the Illini swim and dive team, has been able to experience both sides of the story — both now as a coach and as a collegiate athlete herself who swam at UCLA.

I actually got pretty emotional talking to the team about it, but it was great, and I think it was the right time for them to go back with UCLA coming into the conference next year, Kempe said. They didn’t get to swim in the same pool I swam in from a competition swim point, but it was awesome. It was really cool to share that with them.

Kempe spoke about the team’s meet earlier this season at UCLA, how it brought back many memories for her, and how she was happy to share those memories with her daughter and her team.

For me, I have all these great memories of being there and my college experience. My college coach was there. I traveled my daughter out there. It was the first time she got to see where I went to school.

Kempe also spoke on the expansion of the Big Ten for the upcoming season.

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As a UCLA alum, I am excited for them to join the conference. The realignment is a good thing in that regard, Kempe said. On the flip side, it does make our climb up in the Big Ten more challenging. UCLA and USC are really great programs, so we just have to keep elevating ourselves moving forward.

Kempe shared a positive note on how the Big Ten expansion will allow the conference to rise against its competitors and how it will also elevate the team within the conference.

We’re still in the preliminary talks as a coaching unit in the Big Ten about how we’re going to move forward in the Big Ten and what we’re going to do,” Kempe said. “A way for the Big Ten to really step up against the ACC and the SEC will be really good for us.

While being a newer coach to the Illini swim and dive program, Kempe has been making quite the impact on the team and showcasing improving progress. Kempe spoke about the program’s recent improvement since she started as head coach.

It’s not just me,” she said. “It’s Kyle, it’s Tricia, it’s Jerod and just the excitement that they bring to the pool deck. For us, it’s always holding them accountable and always having fun and laughing and having that relationship with them away from the pool and knowing that they’re more than just swimmers and divers. I think because they know that we care about them on the other side, it’s allowed for them to blossom a little bit more, and I think that all stems back to why they’ve become better in the last couple of years.

Speaking more on her coaching style and approach, Kempe said, I do enjoy and want them to love their sport whether they’re swimming or diving. We’re not always at an A+, and we’re not always on the low end — we just need to learn how to ride the roller coaster of emotions day to day, and I think that’s something I do really well with the team.

Kempe adds that she believes there is much more to come from this team than what people see and how this inspires her as a coach — seeing them break records and watching their progress.

“(I) also recognize that they are students and they are college students — the ability to still have both sides of life is still really important for their overall experience,” she said. “I really do want them to have that balance.

This comes as a full-circle moment for Coach Kempe this year — from her team competing against her Alma Mater and then for her Alma Mater to join her current conference.


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