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These Father/Son Rivals Get Along Just Fine. A story by John Torsiello on the Dyer family from Shepaug and Litchfield swimming.

POSTED March 19, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


Coaching your kid in a sport is always difficult. But coaching against him or her? Well, that’s another story all together.

Shepaug swim team head coach Todd Dyer is an interested observer every time his team goes against Litchfield. That’s because his 16-year-old son, Aidan, is a member of the Cowboys. The elder Dyer was standing poolside when Aidan won the backstroke the two times the teams met during the regular season, and as his son captured the event at the Berkshire League Swimming and Diving Championships at the Hotchkiss School pool two weeks ago.

Ironically, Aidan’s sternest competition in the backstroke comes from a Shepaug swimmer, Freddie Pitcher. The two had a great race at the BL’s, with Dyer, a junior, touching out the Cowboy freshman by a second. Dyer placed fifth at this week’s Class S state meet, posting a strong time of 1:00.53 slightly slower than his winning BL clocking.

“I remember talking to Dick Ayer (former Shepaug swim coach) when I first got into coaching about what it’s like coaching with or against your son,” says Todd Dyer, as he sat in the Common Ground coffee house in Litchfield, the town where he and his wife live with their family that also includes three other children. “He told me you root for your kids in every meet that your kid isn’t in and you root for your kid in the event he is in. I’ve always tried to do that.”

Unlike a sport like basketball, where a father must sometimes devise a strategy to stop his child if he or she is the top player or scorer on the opposing team, Todd Dyer deals with no such angst. He roots for Freddie Pitcher and his other swimmers entered in the backstroke to do well, hopes Aiden also swims fast, and lets the chips fall where they may.

“I sometimes wonder what it would be like coaching Aidan,” says dad, “but it has worked out just fine. If I coached him we would be bringing everything home with us all the time.”

Aidan believes the arrangement works well.

“Dad is intense and I’m more laid back and take things as they come. I think if he coached me in high school we might butt heads. But I do ask him for tips about my swimming and I listen to what he has to say.”

This year was a particularly stressful one for the Dyers in the pool. Litchfield was Shepaug’s main competition on the way to a 10th straight BL title and Aidan Dyer was a prominent swimmer for the Cowboys in their quest to dethrone Shepaug. He won the backstroke to help his team when it faced Shepaug, but the Spartans had too much depth and young talented swimmers and wound up winning yet another title.

Litchfield did nip Shepaug in the team scoring at the Class S meet, which Aidan enjoyed.

“We did get a chance to celebrate a little and I got one on dad finally,” he says with a smile.

Aidan has been around a swimming pool for as long as he can remember.

“Dad was coaching Holy Cross when I was a little kid and I was always at the pool.”

Says Todd Dyer, “I always wanted him to swim as I want all my kids to swim.” Todd was standout at Northwestern Regional 7 and then swam competitively for the University of Connecticut and was good enough to sniff the Olympics. “But I don’t think I ever pushed Aidan hard into swimming.”

Indeed, the younger Dyer tried several sports growing up and played soccer seriously.

“Then I got to Litchfield in the sixth grade and found out I was going against kids that were playing at a high level year round,” says Aidan. He tried track and tennis, but swimming has become his main pastime. In addition to high school, he swims with youth programs in the off-season.

“Right now, I’ll run and bike this off-season to keep in shape,” he says.

Aidan is hoping to continue dropping his times in the backstroke (even though it isn’t his favorite event as he fancies himself more of a freestyle swimmer).

“I definitely want to get under a minute.” His father chimes in, “I think he can go :55 but he says no.”

Aidan says, “One of the things I need to work on is arm speed so that I can pull faster through the water. I’m not going to get crazy about it because I don’t want to get burned out. I enjoy balancing my schoolwork (A’s and B’s) and swimming. That’s important to me,” as dad looks on with a smile on his face

Aidan’s hoping to continue swimming after high school, perhaps at the Division III level or for a club team at a larger school.

Todd dyer offers, “Where I would like to see Aidan is someplace like UConn, which has a very good club team but not to where he’s training 25 hours a week like Division I programs are allowed to do.”

Says Aidan, befitting his laid back style, “I’d like to go somewhere warm preferably, maybe Georgia. We’ve looked at some schools down there but it’s tough to make the teams because all the kids coming in are top swimmers in their states.”

Despise his easy going manner, Aidan Dyer is a competitor when the horn blows. He doesn’t like being beat in any race.

“I think I’m mentally tough in the pool when I set my mind to it. The one thing that bothered me this year was that I didn’t feel challenged. I like close races and the ones with Freddie this year were great. It pushes you to be better and test yourself.”

Is there any stress being the son of a fabled Berkshire League swimmer? Aidan says there’s some.

“It’s hard not to know that your dad had all these records. You look up at the board at Northwestern and there is his name. It’s a bit stressful at times but I know he doesn’t want it to be like that for me.”

So far this unique father/son team has worked out just fine. There is obvious respect and admiration between the two and that will likely only grow in the near future as Aidan keeps dropping his times, winning races and growing into a young man.

There will also continue to be lots to talk about around the dinner table at the Dyer household.


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