This story originally appeared in the Saturday, Oct. 20 issue of the Ball State Daily News.
After 22 years of head coaching in the same sport, Bob Thomas and Laura Seibold-Caudill might be mistaken for brother and sister. And with good reason. With similar success and backgrounds besides, obviously, laboring for equal amounts at Ball State, one might wonder if they share coaching strategies.
Thomas, the men's swimming and diving coach, practically grew up around water and came from a very talented swimming family. However, it wasn't until college that he decided to become a swimming coach.
"I was a typical college student who didn't know what I was going to do the rest of my life until my junior year," says Thomas, a graduate of Eastern Illinois. "I was coaching in the summer. I had confidence in myself and felt that I could do it for a while. I was teaching at about the same time, too, and the two go hand in hand. I've always believed that if you're coaching, you're teaching too."
Seibold-Caudill, the women's swimming and diving coach, has been around water her entire life, too.+â-è The 1990 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year grew up with a love of sports and continued in it.
"I enjoyed being around (athletics)," Seibold-Caudill, a Michigan State graduate said. "I can honestly say I never ever burned out. If you enjoy doing it and being around it, then stick with it and keep doing it."
Both Seibold-Caudill and Thomas -- a three time MAC Coach of the Year himself -- have had outstanding swimming careers and have translated that success in their coaching tenures.+â-è They not only demand success in the pool, but in the classroom as well, evidenced by the countless academic awards their teams have garnered including numerous individual honors from the College Swimming Coaches of America.
The two coaches respect one another as colleagues. Coming into their positions in identical circumstances, their paths have crossed continuously with no regrets or ill will. They feel pretty highly about one another.
"We started together and have seen changes throughout the university and the athletic program," explains Thomas. "We work together in swimming camps.+â-è We've gotten along very well these years. At times, I feel as much a part of their program, although I have no responsibility to them."
"He's a great guy," says Seibold-Caudill of Thomas. "I've really enjoyed working alongside him.+â-è I have a lot of respect for his ethics and his coaching.+â-è I'm proud to work on the same deck with him."+â-è
It's easy to take their word for it, but the fact that their teams share the same facility and travel together without argument or disagreement is evidence of a contagious partnership, which shows in the bonding of the men's and women's teams.
"We have a great working relationship over 22 years," explains Seibold-Caudill.+â-èThe two teams work together as a result.+â-è Lots of best-friend relationships have come from this, and obviously, boyfriend and girlfriend relationships too."
Similarities also hold true for the coaching tandem in goals neither has yet to accomplish.
"I want to win conference.+â-è It has eluded me for 22 years," laughs Thomas.+â-è "We came close in 1993.+â-è We came close with second place.+â-è That is a carrot dangling for me.+â-è Another goal is to have a swimmer qualify for NCAA.+â-è I've had a diver and now I want a swimmer."
Although Seibold-Caudill, described by some of the freshman members of the swimming as a "jokester" and "a very supportive coach," agrees with these accomplishments, she also explains that goals are not always recognized with plaques and certificates.
"Success is not always measured in wins and losses, but also in athletes when they leave," she said. "The program here is dedicated to making them successful in the classroom, in their careers, in their families and in life general."
Because of that success, she says she can see herself retiring.
Thomas, on the other hand, wishes to keep coaching.
"This is what I do, who I am," she said. "I'm a coach. I would like to remain here as long as Ball State is willing to keep me as coach. The program is successful and I'm not done. There are a lot of things to do.+â-è Things could fall into place and who knows what we're capable of."
While both feel differently about their futures, it can be said that they both have the same drive behind keeping them coaching: the team members.
Said Seibold-Caudill, "It makes the job more satisfying when they have the same drive and desire as I have. I get satisfaction in seeing the improvement in some athletes go from mediocre to wonderful athletes. It makes coaching all worth it."