Coach’s Box: Conrad helping students find intrinsic motivation through experience


Nandini Muresh

Coppell assistant swim coach David Conrad teaches Coppell sophomore swimmer Hudeep Mallipeddi and senior swimmer Sofia Simula correct foot position during practice before school on Tuesday at the Coppell YMCA. Conrad coaches the varsity II team, and it is his fourth year as a swimming coach. Photo by Nandini Muresh

Sapna Amin, Staff Writer

David Conrad is an assistant coach for the Coppell swim team and teaches conceptual physics. With the mere mention of Conrad’s swimmers, his eyes glisten and a smile lights up his face After more than 30 years of being an environmental scientist at many big tech companies such as Texas Utilities Electric, Microsoft, Nokia and Nortel, Conrad decided he wanted a change of pace. 

With his wife being a teacher, she suggested he make the switch to teach and coach at Coppell. This marks his fourth year as a Cowboy.

What started your love of swimming?

The first memory I have of being in the water is when I was 4 years old and my dad taught me how to swim. I swam competitively from age 6 up until college at Stephen F. Austin. It was surprisingly tough to let go, because I loved how it felt and there are so many emotions that go along with parents when you are little that all comes back when you jump in the water. 

What is your favorite coaching memory?

The most recent memory is when a student requested a college recommendation letter and shared a memory about how after every race I would say, “way to go, big boy,” which made him feel on top of the world. This was the most important thing to him and it turned out to matter just as much to me; it touched my heart. The best part about coaching is the little things that make someone’s day, because I had a coach do the same thing for me. I certainly love when they win, but it’s the thing between the wins that stick.

How do you describe swimming?

Swimming is about relationships. My favorite saying when it comes to coaching is “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The need for intrinsic motivation is really important and the only way I can get that to happen is by cracking the code in their psyche that builds a trusting, caring relationship. It’s seldom about fixing something for them, it’s about driving them to do things for themselves. I would rather teach a man or woman to fish than to do it for them.

Coppell assistant swim coach David Conrad talks to Coppell junior swimmer Kensei Kojima, junior swimmer Ethan Tong, senior swimmer Sofia Simula and sophomore swimmer Hudeep Mallipeddi during practice before school on Tuesday at the Coppell YMCA. Conrad coaches the varsity II team, and it is his fourth year as a swimming coach. Photo by Nandini Muresh (Nandini Muresh)

What do you do outside of school?

A little bit of everything: teach scuba diving, take underwater photographs and train dogs. I try to be the world’s best dad and husband. I love working with my hands, and the joke in [my] neighborhood is ‘if you can break it, I can fix it,’ so my neighbors have me on speed dial from repairing washing machines to water heaters. I tell my wife I’m about a mile wide and an inch deep, so I don’t know everything about everything, but I know a bit about a lot of things. I’m not afraid to try stuff so I find ways to keep myself busy.

How does it feel to instill the same passion you have for swimming into your athletes?

It feels great and exciting to see that light come on. I’ve been working with younger swimmers to develop the skills rather than condition them. With that room for improvement, I can see those big leaps of change. There aren’t a whole lot of feelings that are better than being able to reach out and make someone feel on top of the world, even if it’s for a little bit. It’s satisfying to help and reach into someone’s world to make something a little better. The 

If there was one thing, what would you want your students and swimmers to learn from you?

Try not to listen to the little voice in your head when it’s telling you that you aren’t good enough, because it’s not worth it. Everyone has that voice that can be extremely critical, and for some, it takes them down, but it’s a lie. Everyone makes mistakes but the biggest mistake you can make is listening to that voice. There is something inside you that is worth more than that voice. Try to make your own reality and search for something that makes you feel better, in my case it’s helping someone feel better because it gives me personal value.

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