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Trading Coaching Time For Grandpa Time

Bruce Kennard with (from left) swimmer Maureen Michels, age 13, and coach Cassie Pardee | Don Edelheit photo

Bruce Kennard with (from left) swimmer Maureen Michels, age 13, and coach Cassie Pardee | Don Edelheit photo

After 40 years of coaching some of Hawaii’s top up-and-coming swimmers, including the last 10 years as head coach of Aulea Swim Club in Kailua, Bruce Kennard is finally putting away his stop watch and coaching towel.

“Yes, I’ve retired,” Kennard says. “It’s time to spend time with my granddaughters.”

But don’t count on him ever being far from the pool.

Kennard, 62, has been poolside in the Islands since he took a job as an assistant coach at Windward YMCA back in 1974. He met his future bride, Margie, who was then an assistant coach for Aulea, at the pool, and they raised their two daughters, Kristina and Kari, and son Lucas in the Enchanted Lake section of Kailua. All three of his children helped coach at Aulea at one time or another, while Lucas also played some football at the University of Hawaii, where Bruce was manager of the pool at Duke Kahanamoku Swim Complex.

“We’ve got five granddaughters, and it’s time to watch them grow up,” Kennard says, proudly pointing out that his three eldest granddaughters, now between the ages of 5 and 10, are already on swim clubs near his daughter Kristina’s home in Reston, Va. “I hope to have some quality Grandpa time.”

Kennard certainly deserves it. Families of swimmers on the Windward side of Oahu give him strong credit for rebuilding the once-proud Aulea Swim Club when he took over 10 years ago. “The club was in a bad way at the time (membership had reduced by nearly two-thirds from the 1980s), and I knew it was a really important community resource in Kailua. To tell you the truth, I never knew I would stay so long,” he says.

But Kennard had a reason to stay and to build up Aulea’s numbers, which he has.

“It’s hard to get involved with kids and then walk away,” he says. “You don’t want to abandon them when they’re working so hard for you.”

Kennard grew up in southern Indiana and was a swimmer at the University of Evansville before moving to the Islands. Besides his head coaching stint with Aulea, he was a longtime coach at Pearl Harbor, and then an assistant coach and pool manager at the University of Hawaii. In 2001, he also stepped up briefly as acting head coach at UH.

It was the year that former UH head coach Sam Freas suddenly left the program. Kennard stepped up and took over a team full of promise that needed a leader.

“When Sam left, we had to pull together,” he recalls. “We ended up working hard and taking several swimmers to NCAA National Championships, where six or seven of them earned All-American. It was an amazing success and one of my brightest memories.”

However, he also remembers that the celebration was short-lived.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but on that same night, back home in Hawaii, one of our swimmers, Tammy Tye, was killed when she was run over on her bicycle in a crosswalk,” he says. “It was very devastating. It made you really put things in perspective.”

Kennard emphasized a caring, compassionate approach throughout his career. “I remember coming to Aulea 10 years ago, and it was a small group, but a great group to work with,” he recalls. “They had so much loyalty, and they trained hard. I’ll never forget how great they were. Many of them already have gone on to tremendous success as young doctors, pharmacists and professionals. I’m really proud of them.”

Kennard will leave Aulea in very good hands. The new head coach is Joe Glenn, formerly of Punahou Aquatics.

“He’s going to do an excellent job,” Kennard says.

And don’t be surprised if the retired coach stops by the pool for an occasional visit.

“Coaching swimming is living it every day because you love it,” he says. “Not every day is a great day, but you do get the opportunity to work with great kids and see their improvement and, in many cases, watch them grow up. I’m going to miss that day-to-day interaction.”

Bruce Kennard now will have that same interaction time with his own grandkids. Coaching time now becomes Grandpa time.