• Patti Sponsler

Another Sort of Gold!

Updated: Oct 15


Coach B.J. Graham was awarded the Kerry O'Brien Coaching Award on Sept 17 by the United States Masters Swimming.

Huge congratulations to Swim Melbourne Masters head swim coach, B.J. Graham, on being awarded the U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) Kerry O'Brien Coaches Award on Sept. 17.


While the 45-year-old competitive swimmer and triathlete has won multiple awards for his physical prowess, this award gives him the 'gold' for the effort, passion, knowledge and consistency he has shown during the past three years to build a vibrant, thriving United States Masters Swimming (USMS) team.


Per the U.S. Masters Swimming site this award "recognizes and celebrates the extraordinary efforts of our members beyond the water's edge. USMS's success is the result of the amazing contributions of our talented and dedicated volunteers."


When you read the nominating letter below, you will have to agree that this award is well-deserved:


"This nomination for the Kerry O’Brien Coaching Award is submitted on behalf of B.J. Graham for his efforts and dedication to building a foundation of U.S. Masters Swimming in the Melbourne, Florida Area.


In May of 2019, B.J. Graham founded Swim Melbourne Masters (The Mahis) along with lifelong friends Mike Mirda and Trinity Graham. The hope was to establish a structured training group with multiple coached practices weekly. This did not currently exist in the community. Twenty-two swimmers signed up to participate for the first summer. The season ended with six swimmers participating in the Rowdy Gaines Classic meet.


Challenged with unheated pools and limited pool space during high school swim season, just as momentum and word of mouth was growing the club was forced to take a hiatus for the winter months.


When the water warmed up and lanes became available, COVID 19 presented unique

challenges in 2020. Fortunately the local municipality opened pools to groups with infection

control processes in place and Swim Melbourne Masters practices resumed. This gave many

swimmers the only in-person interaction outside of their homes for many weeks to months.


The club roster did not grow significantly during this time but swimmers were noticing the benefits of swimming with a club and Coach B.J. They were getting faster, many were swimming without frequent injury due to improved technique and real time stroke correction, and they were part of a supportive community forming meaningful connections both personal and professional.


The club was able to withstand the challenges of 2019-2021 and the team roster finally began to grow. Word of mouth about the club and Coach B.J. reached both experienced swimmers and beginners.


A student of the sport of swimming, B.J.'s curiosity and time spent researching how

to apply current and cutting edge techniques and technologies has helped many swimmers

achieve their goals and in some cases surpass them. He has cultivated a positive, supportive, and challenging environment designed to elevate performance of swimmers of all levels while enjoying the process (both swimmer and coach).


Of the original twenty-two swimmers, many are still active club members. As of the writing of

this nomination, Swim Melbourne Masters has 85 registered members. Current membership is diverse and Coach B.J. has coached swimmers to impressive accomplishments in the pool, open water, and multi sport events. Accolades include three 2022 USMS Spring National Championship age group wins, 19 Southeast Zone records (four in SCY, ten in SCM, and five in LCM), 29 USMS top ten performances, multiple podium finishes for triathletes including 10 podium finishes at Pineapple Man Triathlon in Melbourne Beach in June 2022, and numerous open water individual overall and relay wins and podium finishes.


As important as winning and setting records is, another significant achievement is the feedback from more beginner swimmers. Many are reporting increased confidence, less anxiety, and more enjoyment with swimming and they are bringing their friends to the pool!!"