High school is a place where athletes find their niche. Growing up, parents will generally sign their children up for an array of sports in their early years to determine interests and skills, but only in high school does a player get to narrow these down for themselves. An athlete will excel at one or maybe two sports, pursue these in hopes of a college scholarship and leave the rest behind. However, this was not the case for assistant swimming coach Jimi Kiner.
Kiner displayed proficiency in nearly every sport his school offered. Upon graduation, Kiner already had college offers from Division I football programs as well as tryouts for Major League Baseball teams and proposals to pursue swimming for many DI programs in Tampa. Despite his myriad of options, Kiner set his heart on the University of Tampa, where head coach Ed Brennan gave him “the opportunity of a lifetime,” according to Kiner.
In his four year duration at UT, Kiner managed to rack up quite the resume of swimming accolades and honors. As a four-year, 18 time All American, two time national runner up, former University of Tampa record holder, Olympic trial qualifier and National Champion, Kiner acquired more than enough experience after college to secure him a career in many sports ventures. However, after graduating from the University of Tampa in 2001 with a finance degree, his short-lived career as an insurance agent quickly had him returning to the Spartan pool to pursue a full-time career in coaching for UT and the Greater Tampa Swimming Association.
“I chose coaching because it was always something that I enjoyed doing,” Kiner said. “I worked at a bank for about a year all the while still coaching club and volunteering with the college team, after my year at the bank I moved on to sell life insurance and boy did that suck. I am now full time and have been the assistant swimming coach for 12 years, loving every minute of it.”
Although Kiner’s football and baseball offers posed admirable opportunities for his post high school endeavors, swimming was the only venture that held his interest. After his successful career at UT, he was able to bring back his expertise to aid the same team where he once thrived.
“The fact that Jimi is a UT alumnus and former UT swimmer really gives him the experience that I think every coach should have. He has been in our shoes and he understands the struggle bus,” said sophomore swimmer Connor Zazzo. “It also gives us swimmers no excuses or reasons to complain, because we know he has been through it too.”
While Kiner’s college achievements give him merit to lead the team, his swimmers note that it is his attitude and mentality that are most crucial to the team’s success. They appreciate his distinct coaching style that relies on devotion, fervor and the value of truthfulness. He takes the time to personalize his coaching style so that each swimmer understands his or her individual assets that they contribute to their team.
“Jimi’s biggest impact in helping the team succeed has to be the passion and extremely positive outlook he has on the future of the team,” Zazzo said. “He wants us to be champions and he makes us believe that we are champions through different forms of encouragement. He’ll tell us when we are swimming like crap when we are, but he’ll also tell us when we are kicking ass. I think that attitude/mentality is the most important attribute that Jimi brings to the team.”
Although he achieved his fair share of accomplishments throughout his athletic and coaching careers, Kiner notes that above all, it is others who have made his experiences worthwhile.
“The most rewarding part of my career at UT I would have to say would be the relationships that I have created and the people I have met along the way,” Kiner said.