May 15, 2021

Patterson is perfect choice for character award

When NCMP girls’ swimming and diving coach Sarah Patterson reached out to me needing a photo for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state basketball program, I was more than happy to provide an assist.

The photo went with a few paragraphs describing why Patterson was given the IGHSAU’s Character Counts Coach of the Year award.

I was elated help her out because coach Patterson deserves the recognition.

“I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of the Character Counts award than Coach Patterson,” said Ellen Colville, a four-time state qualifier who swam for Patterson from 2008-2011. “During my time with the NCMP Aquagirls, she fully embodied all of the qualities of the award and taught us to do the same.

“She treated everyone with kindness, respect and fairness and taught us immense responsibility in and out of the pool.”

Hannah Scotton swam for Patterson from 2011-2014. She also qualified for the state meet four times and set school records during her time as an Aquagirl.

Scotton, like Colville, feels strongly about her former coach. When asked about Patterson, Scotton found it difficult to find something not to say.

“I have so many thoughts that flood my mind because she is just that incredible,” Scotton said. “She puts countless hours into the swim team. To some, this may look like hours on the pool deck, but with Coach it’s so much more.”

I told coach Patterson after she received the award during halftime of the Class 5A girls’ state basketball championship game at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night that I would run through a brick wall for her if I was a swimmer or diver on her team.

The way she yells and screams out instructions during every race and the way she makes a point to coach up every athlete after their performances whether they did well or not, it’s always been fascinating to me.

I also never see one of her athletes not smiling. They are all truly having fun. And ultimately, no one cares if they win a state title, set a new school record or even win a race that night.

They are all just happy to be a part of her program.

“There are lessons for every single person who competes,” Patterson said. “I don’t want anyone to ever not come out because they didn’t think they were good enough. We want the best you can give. And we’ll make it even better. Being in the pool is just part of it.”

NCMP assistant coach Jenny Jensen was part of Patterson’s first swim team. Back then Coach P was Coach Schuchmann.

“Coach Schuchmann took over as head coach my junior year,” Jensen said. “From the very beginning, Coach Schuchmann made team one of unity and inclusion.

“She continues to study swimming. She takes what she learns and adapts to our team and each swimmers’ ability.I feel very privileged to have Sarah as a mentor and a close friend.”

Patterson came to the Newton school district fresh out of college 30 years ago. She’s certainly qualified enough to teach and coach elsewhere. And I’m sure she’s had other opportunities.

And according to Patterson, Her brother even wonders sometimes why she hasn’t tried to take over a college program.

But Patterson’s devotion to the “Aquagirls” brand she created is just another reason why she’s the perfect person to receive the Character Counts award.

“A huge part of staying around for this long is when I built the program, I just felt so invested in it,” Patterson said. “This is just home now.”

Colville finished her NCMP career as a four-time state qualifier and she set several school records before she exited the program.

But Patterson’s influence on Colville has stayed with her even nearly 10 years after graduation.

“She did everything she could to make sure every swimmer felt welcome,” Colville said. “Coach P means a great deal to me. Coach taught me to never give up, persevere and work hard — all things I continue to do today, long after my time as a swimmer. I still have my magnet she gave me on my fridge that says ‘Never, never, never, never give up.’”

Scotton graduated from Newton High School six years ago. And she says she wouldn’t be the person she is today without Patterson’s influence.

“She’s goes above and beyond what is expected of a coach. As a former Aquagirl, I still, to this day, am encouraged to continue pushing through when the going gets tough,” Scotton said. “Coach P helps us become strong mentally, physically and in our faith. I wouldn’t be the person I am today with Coach P’s influence in my life.”

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