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Getting to Know ... Susan Moody

Susan Moody, 41, is a longtime middle school physical education and health teacher in Gwinnett, but also serves as the Gwinnett Swim and Dive Booster Club coordinator. A Maryland native and East Carolina grad, she currently teaches at Trickum Middle (after stints at Shiloh and Sweetwater) and has two daughters, Jordan (12) and Jessica (10), with her husband Jarrod.

In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...," the Lilburn resident talks with sports editor Will Hammock about her job, her busy life and Gwinnett's swimming explosion.

WH: How much has swimming in Gwinnett grown since you got involved (in 1992 as the coach of Shiloh, Norcross and Meadowcreek)?

SM: Tremendously. We had three coaches then for the whole county and now we have 15. Actually now we have 30 because each school has two, including an assistant. We've got six diving coaches now and we used to have one.

We have over 900 swimmers this year, and we probably had about 200 when I first started.

WH: With the experiences I've had with swimmers and divers over the years, it seems like they're some of the nicest high school kids around. Why do you think that is?

SM: They are. They're also strong academically because they're the ones that have commitment. It takes a lot of dedication. We don't have (swimming) facilities at the high schools, so you have to be dedicated to go to swim meets and practices off campus. You have that whole obstacle of getting there. The ones that stick with it are committed and dedicated. They have good character.

WH: What exactly does the county's swim and dive coordinator do? Pretty much everything, right?

SM: I schedule meets, officials, practice assignments. I organize the three big meets, the Clody Invitational, the diving invitational and the county championship. And just dealing with day to day stuff. Last night I was unpacking crates of touch pads. Just making sure schools are equipped and that meets go smoothly. Also now I coordinate the year-end banquet like we had for the first time last year to honor the swimmers and divers.

WH: How much does the booster club do for the local swimmers and divers? Do people realize how much?

SM: They probably don't because we have to pay the rec department. The facility rentals, all that is paid for by the booster club. We pay the assistant coaches' salaries. The diving coaches aren't paid by the (Gwinnett County) Board of Education. Swimming coaches can't coach diving, so we hired dive coaches. And we maintain equipment. Some of that is supplemented by Board of Education money, but it's not enough to take care of everything.

WH: Gwinnett has dominated the state high school meet for years, winning the last nine boys championships. What's the key to that success?

SM: I think our coaches. The fact that we're fortunate enough to have some year-round programs and our summer league program is so strong. We have kids start out in elementary school and we keep their interest. We have a strong booster club. If your county didn't have a strong booster club supporting the programs, where would you practice? In Gwinnett County, having access to neighborhood pools in the summer and top year-round programs are big. And the main thing in high school is our coaches are just wonderful people who are dedicated to their swimmers and their success. Our coaches as a whole are wonderful people.

WH: Over the years, the swimming community has expressed a desire to have a true competition pool for meets. Is that still an issue?

SM: It is. We do need a larger pool. We still have to go to Georgia Tech for the summer league county meet. We're trying (the high school county meet) at West Gwinnett, but we had to split it into four days instead of two. It keeps growing on me every year. We used to do it all in one day, with no prelims. Then it was prelims and finals in two days.

WH: I've been at the paper since 1997 and the high school county meet has never been in Gwinnett until this year. I still can't believe that Gwinnett had to host the county high school meet in South Atlanta for years because there was no adequate facility up here.

SM: That pool (Adamsville Natatorium), you've seen it, if we could have that in Gwinnett County, the summer league would be able to stay in Gwinnett. We could run large meets there.

WH: Do you think that will ever happen, getting a place like that?

SM: I do. I don't know how, but I do. I can't give up hope.

WH: What kind of athlete were you growing up? A big-time swimmer?

SM: No, I did three sports. I didn't specialize. I did field hockey and softball, but swimming was my first love. I grew up around the water. But I was not a star. I was the average Joe.

WH: What led you to being a physical education teacher since you were a sports medicine major?

SM: I knew I wanted to be active. I knew teaching was in my blood. My grandfather was a principal and my parents were teachers. The job was just a great combination of what I loved and my love of sports.

WH: It seems like you hear about PE games we played when we were little that are being phased out because they're dangerous. Are there ones you remember that aren't around anymore?

SM: I don't know. I mean, accidents happen. We were using, over at Shiloh, monkey bars with a mat underneath and we get a broken bone. You can't not do something. I had a kid bust their front teeth out tripping over their own feet. We taught archery at Shiloh until the county said we couldn't. But we had fewer accidents in archery than kids playing kickball. I got clipped playing flag football with eighth-graders one year and I broke my leg in two places.

WH: Was it embarrassing to break your leg playing against middle-schoolers?

SM: No. I think he felt bad. I didn't move fast enough. He kind of ran into me and took me out. I taught the rest of the day though.

WH: What sports do your daughters play? You must spend a lot of time at sporting events.

SM: They're in cheerleading, basketball, softball, golf, swimming. I'm at Suwanee Sports Academy for two (basketball) games every Saturday and Sunday and at softball tournaments in the spring and summer. I helped coach cheerleading at Mountain Park Park. So I was up there three days a week. Basically I live at Mountain Park Park in the fall and spring. In the winter we're on the basketball court. Those are my homes away from home. Of course we've got piano and Girl Scouts in there, too. I'm probably crazy but I enjoy it.

WH: How do you manage all that with your county and school duties?

SM: I have a supportive husband and supportive co-workers. And I have a calendar.

WH: It seems like you really enjoy your work, too.

SM: I do. I enjoy the people. I guess I'm a people person. I guess I know people at 15 schools in the county that I can call on and they'll be supportive of swimming. Mr. (Mike) Emery (GCPS director of athletics, student activities and community schools) with the county is great. LuAnn Morris his secretary is great. Everyone is so supportive. I couldn't do it if I didn't have help.