Skylar Kreske and Annie Rogula

Swimming has never been about the awards, but rather being around hard-working athletes and the excitement of the team, stated Keith MacDonald, head swim coach. MacDonald has coached swimming for over 30 years and attributes a lot of his success at South to the swimmers themselves; however, there is something to be said about his love for the sport and inspiring coaching techniques.

With season accomplishments consisting of IHSA Sectional Champions, 200 medley relay state champions, triple-state champion junior Max Iida, and placing 3rd in state, it is no wonder MacDonald was awarded the Illinois Coach of the Year Award by the National Federation of High Schools in the 2019-2020 season. This award was a testament to MacDonald’s character and coaching ability, however to him, the award was more of a reassurance than congratulations.  

“Not to sound arrogant, but the coach of the year awards are nice and probably had more of an impact on me earlier in my career,” MacDonald said. “It’s more about the excitement of building a team and being around amazing athletes that motivates me.” 

Having coached for so long, MacDonald has won his fair share of awards. As the years go on, MacDonald sees awards as a reminder to keep going. He also attributes a lot of his – and the team’s – success to the swimmers as opposed to himself.

“The awards are nice,” MacDonald said. “But they just mean I’m doing what I should with some really good athletes. We have talented swimmers that come in here and I’m fortunate to have the chance to work with them. We’ve had a state champion in 11 out of 13 events this past season and we won the 200 medley relay [at state,] which was extremely exciting.”

MacDonald’s enjoyment for coaching has seemed to be beneficial for the team, senior swimmer Elliot Chen explained, and MacDonald’s passion for swimming is evident through the way he interacts with his swimmers. MacDonald’s attention to team chemistry is also a major factor in his success as a coach and to the team’s overall success over the course of the season, Chen stated. 

“What Coach [MacDonald] does really well is his mentoring, and you can go to him about anything: school, swimming, advice,” Chen said. “He also is a coach that is very open to adaptability. He’s always changing what he’s doing based on the team dynamic and who the swimmers are. He really loves the sport and the team.”

Growing up, MacDonald had a passion for swimming and continued to perfect his skill throughout college, however, coaching was not his first career choice. Although MacDonald went to Southern Methodist University and from there became a stockbroker, he said, he wanted to pursue his true passion for swimming. It was from then on that MacDonald made the transition into coaching. He began his career at Northwestern University and later made the decision to transition into high school swimming where he coached at Niles West and then Glenbrook South. 

“It’s not hard work when you enjoy it,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald hopes he gets to continue as a coach here at South, and see more kids explore their strengths as a swimmer, as he did with his current senior class. MacDonald emphasized the importance of his swimmers being present and committed to the team, which plays a big role in their overall success, and although he appreciates the recognition for the award, he does not want that to be the sole legacy of him and the team. 

“I think the fact that I was given this honor [could be pointed out] but I think [South] should [focus] on the program’s success,” MacDonald said. “We celebrated a really good year and I hope the culture of excellence continues [to grow].”