When Shannon Gillespy was asked to be a part of the United States coaching staff for the Olympic swim team, she admits now, her family was more caught up in the moment than she was.
“This was back in September, and while I was awestruck by the opportunity, to me it seemed so far away,” said Gillespy, who heads the Flower Mound Marcus swim program and Lakeside Aquatic Club. “I remember telling my husband and he was so excited. He kept saying, ‘You’re going to the Olympics.’ Now that it’s here, I’m the one jumping up and down in my living room. I mean, it’s the Olympics.”
Gillespy is the team manager for the open-water swimmers and also will work with the pool team at the conclusion of the open-water competition. She left late Friday for Quebec for 10 days of cold-water training. The team will arrive in London on Aug. 1 and compete in the women’s 10-kilometer (Aug. 9) and men’s 10-kilometer (Aug. 10) events.
Her duties include taking care of every aspect of the athletes’ and coaches’ time away from the pool, including lodging, equipment, food, media relations and general scheduling. Gillespy expects to be up at 5 a.m. each day and won’t be off her feet until midnight. With the pool team, she figures her days will be even longer.
“I make sure they have everything they need to focus solely on swimming their best race possible,” she said. “You just have to be organized and make it fun — whatever it takes to build a champion.”
That includes fielding unusual requests from swimmers — including requests for specific flavors of Gatorade and cereal that may not be available in some countries — and who rooms with whom. Her bag on race day can include anything from duct tape and tongue depressors to extra goggles, swimsuits, scissors and gum.
While Gillespy has never been to London, she’s no stranger to jetting around the world. She has been to the open-water world championships in Italy and has accompanied the U.S. open-water and pool teams to events in Quebec and China. After being asked to go to London, she took a trip to Portugal in June and watched some Olympic qualifying.
Her 28-year coaching career includes serving on the USA Swimming board of directors and being president of the Texas Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association and the technical planning chairwoman for North Texas Swimming. She spent five years coaching Team Orlando Swimming and served on the Florida Swimming board of directors before returning to Texas to coach at Marcus.
While at Marcus, she has been named district and regional coach of the year numerous times, and has coached Texas Age Group Swimming and high school state champions and Olympic trial qualifiers.
She’s coached with Lakeside Aquatic Club for the past 15 years. The club, which started as a summer recreation team in 1982, is part of USA Swimming and is one of the fastest-growing teams in the country and the largest in North Texas with close to 600 swimmers. It has locations in Keller, Flower Mound, The Colony and Denton.
In 2010, Gillespy won the prestigious Glen S. Hummer Award for her contributions to long-distance swimming in the United States.
“I’ve been blessed to have these opportunities,” she said. “Anyone who knows me knows I love to stay organized and take care of athletes. All my kids have supported me over the years since I’ve been gone so much. I don’t like being away from them, but they understand my goals and in turn it helps them set and realize their own goals. I set this goal to go to the Olympics five years ago, and now it’s here.”