It wasn't like she didn't know. In fact, Vicki Hays knew quite well the story of last year's women's swim team when she took the reins of the team this fall as the new coach.
Everyone else did too; the team's friction with now departed coach Stephanie Walsh, the rumored friction with Joe Bernal's men's swim team and the numbers of dissatisfied swimmers, were common knowledge.
But judging by the talk of the new aquawomen coach, those days are gone. Under Vicki Hays, the business of the Crimson women's swimming team is swimming.
The philosophy behind Hays' confidence is a simple one, reflective of her experience in the sport, "If you talk about the little, petty things in advance, they just don't grow into the big things." With that, she dismisses talk of last year's troubled team.
That resolution is remarkable, given the fact that Hays has never coached a college team before. A competitive swimmer for thirteen years, she captained the Stanford women's team during her junior and senior seasons--she graduated in 1978--and helped that team in its rise from relative obscurity to a number two national ranking in her senior year.
Hays' said her experience as the Stanford team captain gave her necessary experience in "senior administrative duties which a coach has to have". A post-graduate stint coaching the AAU Ladera Oaks Calif. Aquatic Club rounded out Hays' tour of coaching duty before arriving at Harvard.
"Obviously, I'm really pleased," Hays said about landing the Harvard position--which she heard about from former Stanford roommate and current Crimson assistant coach Patti Cashman--adding that the Blodgett Pool facilities and the support from the athletic department contribute to making the job a desirable one.
"I was looking for a job in the Ivies because I wanted to be able to sell a school and a program. I didn't want to have to go out recruiting solely on the basis of scholarship money," said Hays about her motives for coming to Harvard.
She arrived at Blodgett on Sept. 1, and the team practices began just a month later. Hays mentions only the climatic change and what she considers Boston's superior mass transit system when asked about the transition she had to undergo when she arrived in Cambridge. But instead of dwelling on herself, her conversation unfailingly turns to the subject of the aquawomen and her ambitions for them.
"We're going to be near the top. Just how close to the top, I'm not sure. But there are going to be some very interesting dual meets this season," she says of the team's prospects.
She concedes that none of the Ivy teams have much chance of toppling the powerhouse Princeton team, which wound up thirteenth in the nation last year, but beyond them, the Crimson could come up with some impressive wins.
As for the members of the team itself, Hays has glowing words, "They are a super bunch of people. They're long on enthusiasm and really want to work hard. We may not have the raw talent right now in some of the strokes, but with these swimmers we can go hard on the other strokes where we do have real depth."
Team members readily attest to the rapport that Hays has already established with the squad. Standout sophomore butterflyer Kathleen McCloskey characterized the new coach as "very outgoing. She can accomodate herself to the individual swimmer, which a lot of other coaches won't."
McCloskey added, "She's really concerned with the team. Since we're not going on a Christmas training trip, she's taking us all cross country skiing in New Hampshire in January."
"She's super. Everyone likes her and she's enthusiastic and cares a lot about what people are doing" added teammate Kathy Davis. Davis continued to say that Hays is a rigorous coach, but also a consistently understanding one.