Tim Jasperse, Hall of Fame swim coach, retires


When legendary girls swim coach Tim Jasperse stood at the podium to start this year’s banquet Monday night, the typically chaotic FHC cafeteria grew silent.  

Swimmers and their families knew this might be the year.  There had been hints and rumors over the past few weeks that Jasperse, an FHC Athletic Hall of Fame inductee and two-time state champion coach, might retire after this year’s third-place finish in the state meet.

“I think people expected it,” senior swimmer Emma Harner said.  “But, we didn’t want to accept it as reality.”

Using a train analogy in his speech, Jasperse spoke of this season’s ride and how the state meet was the “last stop.”  Then, it happened.  

“And, for coach Deipholz, Emaus and me, this is our last stop,” Jasperse announced.  His retirement quickly went from hints and rumors to official.

Harner described the atmosphere in the room with two words — “quiet and crying.”  

“I was just waiting to hear it,” said junior Felicity Buchmaier, who won two individual state championships last week and was named Division II Swimmer of the Year.  “I think we all knew, but it was still a shock.”

Then in his typical matter-of-fact way, Jasperse called up the first diver to begin the banquet.  His final banquet was underway.

The numbers are not the story

In his 26 years as the girls head coach (he also spent 23 seasons as boys head or assistant coach), the statistics that outline his teams’ success are gaudy.  These accomplishments include two state championships, including the first-ever state championship in any sport for FHC in 1993. But, they don’t stop there.

Jasperse-led teams also finished as the state runner-up twice, third place three times, and fourth place twice. He coached 17 individual state champions while collecting 8 conference championships.  In Jasperse’s final year, Buchmaier was the first FHC swimmer to be named Swimmer of the Year, and sophomore Anna Hansen was named Diver of the Year in the state of Michigan.  

Coach Jasperse has set the standard for coaches at FHC,” athletic director Clark Udell said about Jasperse’s success as a head coach. “His passion, commitment and work ethic have established our girls swim and dive program as one of the best in the state.  His program gave FHC its first team state championship and he will be dearly missed by our athletes and community.  FHC Athletics is extremely grateful for all the time and energy Coach Jasperse invested over the years.  He is truly a Hall of Fame coach.

But, even Jasperse’s most successful swimmers don’t mention the championships or records or state meets when asked about his impact on them as swimmers and young women.  They admit that he helped them swim faster, but focus on the relationship he had with his swimmers as the thing they will carry with them.

“Tim was always there for me and the other girls on the team,” said Rachael Foe, who graduated in 2004 and was a member of the state champion 200 Free Relay team.  “I have so much to thank him for including helping me get a swimming scholarship…but, most of all I am thankful for Tim always setting a strong example for me and others.”

Foe is just one of many former swimmers who recall the lessons Jasperse taught them beyond the pool.

“I didn’t realize how important and significant consistency, accountability and dedication were until I left high school and saw that so many other kids didn’t have this,” Foe said of the habits Jasperse taught her.  “He is a role model for what kind of person I am and am becoming.  He always pushed me to be a better swimmer, a strong leader and a gracious person.”

Former swimmer Anna Wilner, who graduated in 2012, echoed Foe’s thoughts.

“The news [of his retirement] was another reminder that a lot of the lessons that I learned from Tim are what got me to where I am today,” said Wilner, who graduated from the University of Michigan and attends graduate school in Boston.  “Work ethic, commitment, thoughtful leadership, collaboration and confident leadership were qualities that he brought out in all of his athletes.  I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me and my teammates.”

One of those teammates was Katlynn Emaus, the daughter of Clare Emaus, who also retired from coaching at the banquet.

“With Tim, it was always more than just swimming,” said Katlynn, who is a sophomore swimmer at Oakland University.  “He saw the bigger picture.  There isn’t a practice that goes by that I don’t think back to something that happened during my time as a Lady Ranger under Tim.

“The life lessons I learned during those four years will impact me for the next 40 years,” Katlynn continued.  “He wanted us to succeed not only in the pool but in the classroom and life.”

Jasperse’s current swimmers are no less impacted by the man they all call “Tim.”  Sophomore Jessica Schellenboom, who finished third in the state meet this year, called Jasperse an “amazing coach who has an indescribable passion and dedication for his team.”

“His sense of humor and his caring spirit make him an incredible person and coach,” Schellenboom said.

Buchmaier said, “Everyone adores him.  When he said he was retiring, we were all coming up with reasons why he couldn’t.”

Harner was finding it difficult to describe how much Jasperse meant to her and the team.

“It is really difficult to put into words how much he truly put into this team,” she said.  “Not only is he the best coach I have ever had, but he has taught me countless life lessons that I will always carry with me.  He is nothing less than extraordinary.”

Coach, mentor, and friend

Discussing coaching with Jasperse is like reading a textbook on team-building and life lessons.

“Building relationships is the most important aspect of building a team,” he said when asked about the key to success in his coaching career.  “When the athlete knows you care about them outside of the sport, then when you ask them to give 110% they rise to the occasion. Building trust with your athletes is the key to building a successful team.”

Jasperse understands that the times, laps and championships are not what coaching is all about. He said there is no substitute for hard work and that anybody can be good at something, but God-given talent alone will not make you great.

“Your legacy is not how fast you swim or how many records you achieve or how smart you are,” he said.  “It is how you treat your teammates.  Your actions and how you interact with your teammates will have a more profound impact than anything you accomplish as an athlete.”

His coaching style and commitment were obviously athlete-centered, and so was his reason for retiring. He always put his athletes first.

“I don’t have the energy or the passion that these athletes deserve from me,” he said.  “I felt like I was investing less into the athletes and this perception was against my coaching philosophy.”

Jasperse was quick to thank his wife and fellow coaches for their support throughout his coaching career.  His wife, Pam, has been by his side and according to Jasperse, she “made sacrifices when I was unable to do something because of swimming.”

Jasperse also wanted to thank his assistant coaches who retired with him.  He cited the complementary working relationship he had with Clare Emaus and Kate Diepholz over the years and also with diving coach Jasmine Ramahi who joined the staff last season.  

“It was a great group of coaches to work with over the past few years,” he said.

Emaus coached with Tim for 16 years, but has known him for more than 25 years.  Her praise for Jasperse as a coach and person gets to the heart of what makes his approach one-of-a-kind.  

“Tim believes in face-to-face communication,” Emaus said.  “He does not have a cell phone, so he does not text, tweet, and he is not on any social media.  He does email, grudgingly.  With that said, a relationship with Tim, either as a coach or friend, is special.  He brings a level of commitment, dedication, compassion and integrity to the program both for the team and the coaching staff. He has taught me to put the needs and respect of others first.”

Clare said the plan was always to retire together and they often said, “when you go, I go.” She said it would be work, dedication and compassion to get the program going at that level again with a new coach and that she is “ready to retire.”  In the end, she is thankful for the lessons Jasperse taught.

“[He taught me] that when student athletes are held at a higher level of accountability, they achieve much more than personal athletic accomplishments,” Clare said.  “They begin to understand personal growth and mature into young, responsible adults.”

The legacy

Jasperse hopes that his swimmers – past and present – know what they all meant to him.

“I hope my legacy is that the athletes know I cared about them outside of being a swimmer,” he said, “and raising the bar in athletics in FHC and setting high expectations for every athlete. I will miss the relationships with the girls, building a sense of team, the coaches I worked with, coaches I coached against and working with the parents to make each season special.”

It is clear that each season was indeed special.  The records and championships will always be overshadowed by the love his swimmers feel when talking about their favorite coach.

Harner wrapped up his influence this way.

“To the greatest coach I had and will ever have, I can speak for the whole team when I say that we would not be the swimmers or people we are today without your impeccable coaching and contagious personality. Thank you, Tim Jasperse, for making the swim and dive team as incredible as it is. Thank you.”