CHESHIRE — Back in 2018, Dave Modzelewski was excited to be given the opportunity to lead the Cheshire girls swimming program. So, when another coaching position under the Rams’ umbrella opened up this month, he again answered the call.
Modzelewski has been named interim coach for the Cheshire boys swim team. He takes over for Kevin Reeder, who felt that he couldn’t coach this season after changing jobs.
Modzelewski said Cheshire Athletic Director Steve Trifone mentioned the opening to him about a week and a half ago.
“I offered the interim idea because I thought it would be easier for him,” said Modzelewski. “Kevin is pretty sure it will only be a one-year thing. I’m happy to help out.”
Reeder was looking forward to coaching this year, but when he was laid off from ESPN in the beginning of November, he had to re-evaluate.
His father had been trying to get him to work in the family business for a long time, so Reeder took him up on his offer to become an industrial sales representative.
“I jumped on it quickly after I got laid off,” said Reeder, who had spent 20 years at ESPN. “I’ve observed my dad and I’m going to hop on with him on January 11. Hopefully, I’ll take over the business down the road.”
Since the job entails traveling around New England, Reeder felt he wouldn’t have time to coach this season. Yet he didn’t want to give up the job permanently. After speaking with assistant coach Kim Christensen, they decided to ask Trifone if someone could coach the team for a year.
“I don’t know what the next 11 months will entail and I’ll revisit my coaching future as the year progresses,” said Reeder. “I didn’t want to make any rash decisions. Kim has been my sounding board. I wanted to do what is best for Cheshire swimming and set the program up for continued success in the future.”
This is the second time Reeder has stepped away from the Cheshire boys program. In his first coaching stint, from 2014 to 2018, the Rams compiled a 36-4-1 dual-meet record and earned three straight runner-up finishes in the Southern Connecticut Conference finals. In 2016, the Rams secured their first unbeaten regular season in 14 years.
Citing a job change at ESPN and wanting to spend more time with his family, Reeder stopped coaching in 2018. Megan McGorry Severino coached the Rams to a 9-2 record that year, but when McGorry chose to leave to take a new job, Reeder was rehired in 2019.
Last season, the Rams went 10-3 and placed second in the SCC finals before the state meets were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a wonderful part of my day to watch these boys succeed, but I need to do what is important for my family and that is to focus on this new job,” Reeder said. “It has been an honor to be coach for five of the last six years.
“Dave (Modzelewski) is key to this upcoming season for the team,” Reeder added. “For him to step in, it is an easy swap on an interim basis.”
“Kevin does a great job; the kids respect him,” stated Trifone. “He has been a good coach for our boys program and I do hope that we get the opportunity to bring him back.”
While Reeder won’t lead the program this season, Cheshire will still have Christensen and Patty Conte on the staff. Reeder feels that Conte does great work with the divers and adds that Christensen is an integral part of the team.
“I couldn’t do what I’ve done in the last couple years without Kim,” said Reeder. “She is the eyes and ears of the team in the school. Kim is as important as anyone to the success of this program.”
Since Conte also coaches diving for the Cheshire girls team, Modzelewski feels they already have a good working relationship. He also looks forward to working with Christensen.
From working as the 12-and-under age group coach for the Cheshire Y/Sea Dog Swim Club, Modzelewski already knows some of the Cheshire boys swimmers.
“I thought it would be better for the boys to have someone they know coach this year,” said Modzelewski. “They went from being coached by Kevin to Megan to Kevin again, and now to me.”
With the pandemic still ongoing, the Rams are cautiously optimistic about having a winter season. Right now, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference is planning for sports teams to start practice on January 19.
Modzelewski expects his new team to have a Zoom call once more information comes out. The Rams graduated seven boys last season, but seniors Noah Duncan, Justin Finkel and Harrison Hua will still captain an experienced unit.
“I don’t usually pay as much attention to the boys season since it coincides with Sea Dogs, so I’m starting to research now,” stated Modzelewski, who assisted with the Ridgefield boys program in the past. “Like with the girls, my goals will mirror their goals. We want to get the season started and get to know each other.”
With a lot of schools planning for virtual swim meets this winter, Modzelewski feels he has the advantage of having already run them with the girls in the fall. In virtual competitions, squads swim at their respective pools, then compile times and scores.
“Knowing how to run a meet efficiently definitely helps,” stated Modzelewski. “With the girls, we got better as the year continued.”
Since the postseason could run into his Sea Dog schedule, Modzelewski may have to ask Christensen to help him out.
“If the season ends with an SCC final, I should be OK, but if there are state meets, I may need to make sacrifices,” explained Modzelewski.
On the girls side, Modzelewski has helped extend the program’s traditional success. The Rams have won 75 straight dual meets and nine consecutive SCC titles (26 in 27 years). Before the state meets were canceled this year, CHS had captured three class titles in a row and won the 2019 State Open.
“Dave does a great job,” said Trifone. “He already went through a virtual season and ran it well. He has great knowledge of swimming and understands how Cheshire sports works. I think it will be a smooth transition to him working with the boys.”