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Getting to Know Kevin Kadzis

Kevin Kadzis is the head swimming and diving coach at Wesleyan. The Wolves won the boys state title in 2012, Kadzis’ first season with the program. He’s also the water polo coach at the Norcross private school. (Staff Photo: Christine Troyke)

Kevin Kadzis is the head swimming and diving coach at Wesleyan. The Wolves won the boys state title in 2012, Kadzis’ first season with the program. He’s also the water polo coach at the Norcross private school. (Staff Photo: Christine Troyke)

Kevin Kadzis is the swimming and diving coach at Wesleyan and won a boys state championship in 2012, his first season with the program. He also coaches the water polo team and teaches at the Norcross private school.

In this installment of “Getting to Know …,” Kadzis talks with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including coming to Wesleyan from Tucker High School, his interest in non-mainstream music and his path to teaching.

CT: Where did you grow up?

KK: I moved to Atlanta when I was 12 from South Carolina and I moved to Dunwoody. So I went to Dunwoody High School.

CT: Where were you in South Carolina?

KK: Greenville.

CT: Did one of your parents get a job here?

KK: My dad got a job with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce just prior to the Olympics. We’ve been here ever since.

CT: So you’ve really seen the changes in the metro area, particularly in Gwinnett?

KK: Although I’m not a Gwinnett County native, I spend a lot of time in Gwinnett County. And Dunwoody is right next door. I’ve experienced the growth firsthand. The difference between pre- and post-Olympic Atlanta is significant, for sure.

CT: Mostly in relation to traffic?

KK: (smiling) Yes.

CT: What sports did you play?

KK: I swam for Dunwoody and for Dynamo Swim Club. It was pretty much a fulltime extracurricular for me. But if I had to do it over again, I would have liked to play another sport. Or at least tried. A number of different sports come to mind, baseball in particular, but it just kind of worked out that is what happened with me. I decided to focus on swimming. I don’t regret it, but it would have been nice to have done something else.

CT: Did you have specific events?

KK: I was a backstroker and a mid-distance freestyler. The 200 and 500 free, and also the 100 backstroke were my main events. But I would swim the IM from time to time as well.

CT: How did you do?

KK: Not bad.

CT: Would you take you on your team?

KK: (smiling) Absolutely I would take me on my team. I was a member of several teams that won county championships in DeKalb. And a member on our state teams as a junior and senior in ‘99 and 2000.

CT: Where did you head off to for college?

KK: University of Georgia. I did not swim there, but I stayed involved in swimming. I coached various summer league teams around the Dunwoody area. I’m still a summer league swim coach.

CT: Would that be similar to the Gwinnett Swim League where it’s based in neighborhoods?

KK: Neighborhoods or country clubs. The Gwinnett league is run by the county parks and rec. I was coaching in the Atlanta Swim Association, which is groups of neighborhoods. It’s not run by the parks and rec league. But it is practically the same thing.

CT: That gives you a wide range of ages of kids.

KK: It’s 5 to 18. It’s fun. It’s a change of pace in the summertime.

CT: Here it’s taken seriously, but it also seems like a lot of fun. There’s a festive atmosphere.

KK: Everybody likes to win a meet, but are kids having fun? Are they learning the fundamentals of the strokes? Is it something they can build off? Maybe they’ll swim in high school. If nothing else, they have a foundation for swimming later in life, something they can do to stay physically active when they’re older.

CT: What was your first job out of college?

KK: I worked pool maintenance and servicing for Sweetwater Pool Company. I enjoyed it, but I was looking for something a little bit more permanent.

CT: Did you leave Georgia with teaching in mind?

KK: I didn’t. I majored in human and cultural geography, which is a liberal arts degree. My wife is a teacher and I had always been surrounded by educators. It just sort of happened in an organic process. I went back and got my masters at Georgia State.

CT: How much time was there between when you left Georgia and deciding to go back to school?

KK: Three years. I worked for Sweetwater and a corporate transportation company as a dispatcher for a year. I worked at Centennial High School as a teacher’s aide, a para-professional, and then I went back to grad school.

CT: Where did you end up after you had that degree in hand?

KK: I worked at Tucker High School for four years. Then I was fortunate enough to be hired here.

CT: It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of turnover at Wesleyan. It seems like once you get here you want to stay.

KK: (smiling) I want to stay.

CT: How did it work for you to come here?

KK: I knew several people on staff here and they had communicated to me that there might be a position. Just based in that knowledge, I got everything ready. There was a position and I was invited to interview.

CT: Were you hired during the summer?

KK: I started in August of 2011 and I was hired in the spring. So several months ahead of time. That was the year of the “Snowmageddon” that shut everything down for a week. That was right when the whole process was starting.

CT: What do you teach here?

KK: I teach AP United State history. I’m also the critical thinking coordinator. Which means I am responsible for infusing higher-order thinking into our K through 12 curriculum. Just making sure that our teachers, faculty and staff are being intentional with developing students that can think critically and prepare them for life beyond graduation.

CT: Swimming and diving season is coming up quickly.

KK: Oct. 21 is when we start varsity.

CT: The boys were state champs in 2011 and 2012, your first year. Of course a slew of individual champions, both boys and girls in recent years. Is it fair to expect Wesleyan to be in the mix at the end of the season again this year?

KK: It’s fair to expect us to field a competitive team that is fundamentally sound. But we’re still rebuilding. We’ve got a lot of great young talent for the boys and the girls. We’re hoping for a top-10 finish for both at the state meet.

CT: But right now you’ve got the water polo team to coach. Had you coached it before?

KK: I never had coached it. I had played water polo as a member of the Dynamo Swim club when we were between long course and short course season. So I do have some playing experience. But it’s been a while. Water polo is a great game. I enjoyed learning about it from a coaching perspective for the past couple years and it’s really starting to take off. For Gwinnett County anyway, Norcross and Collins Hill have just amazing programs.

CT: How is Wesleyan doing?

KK: Out water polo team is improving. We’re actually the best that we’ve been since I’ve been here. We have a lot of kids on the team, which is wonderful. We’ve won a game this season. The last two years, we hadn’t. And we’ve been competitive in every game except one really.

We’re still working on our offense. Well, we’re working on everything. We’re moving in the right direction.

CT: Is the roster mostly your swimmers?

KK: Unlike a lot of other schools, a lot of our roster is actually not swimmers. A lot of our swimmers right now are running cross country. Which I think is great. We do have some swimmers on the team, but a lot of our roster is lacrosse players and soccer players. I think it translates well because we can run some similar plays, especially lacrosse.

CT: Any vacation spots you particularly like?

KK: My family and I enjoy going to St. George Island on the Florida gulf coast and the South Carolina low country. We actually last summer spent a week in each place. In Edisto Island in South Carolina and St. George Island. Two non-consecutive beach weeks. It was awesome.

CT: You have a just turned 4-year-old daughter?

KK: Yes, Anna Claire and a nearly 2-year-old son, Bradley. And a wonderful wife, Erin. We’ve been married over eight years and we met in high school.

CT: If you have any free time, are there things you like to do?

KK: (chuckling) My free time is severely limited these days. But at this time of year, I love to watch college football. I’m a huge Georgia fan. If I can grab free time I love to watch college football or the NFL.

I love music. I try to keep up with what’s going on with new music, particularly indie rock and alternative country. I don’t think that’s something a lot of people know about me. I enjoy a little bit more off-the-beaten-path music.

CT: Do you have anyone you’re really listening to now?

KK: My favorite is Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. The Civil Wars — their new album is great. I’m a big fan of Neko Case. I love Patty Griffin. My wife actually introduced me to her. Wilco, which is a bit more mainstream now.

Even going back to bands like Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. Bands that really laid a foundation for other bands.

CT: Are you a get to a concert if you can kind of guy?

KK: Yes. The last concert my wife and I went to was last summer. We saw Neko Case play at the Botanical Gardens. It was great. But as of right now, and it’s just our stage of life, we don’t get to a lot of concerts. We did also see band of Horses play at the Fox. That’s another one of my favorites and it was a great show.

And a lot of these shows start at like 10 p.m. That’s a lot later than it used to be.

CT: Any TV shows you try not to miss?

KK: We really enjoyed watching “House of Cards” on Netflix. We also just finished out “The Office.” Also we love “Downton Abbey.” I’m a closet Anglophile so I like those things. TV watching is a bit of a luxury, but there are a few things we try to make time for.