When Columbus North swimming coach Jim Sheridan retired from coaching in 2015 after 21 years with the Bull Frogs, the athletics administration was faced with an extremely rare task.
Searching for a new coach.
North thought it had its guy when officials saw Bridger Bell’s impressive résumé. Unfortunately, Bell was not able to match the results the community had hoped for when he was hired.
After a disappointing 2015-16 season, at least by local standards, Bell left the program to accept a position at Team Santa Monica, an elite club program in California.
The Bull Frogs finished fourth in the Conference Indiana girls meet last year, ending a run of 18 straight conference titles under Sheridan, and were second in the boys meet after winning the league the previous two seasons, also under Sheridan.
It did not take long for North to find its next head coach, however. Logan Schaefer will be at the helm when the Bull Frogs begin their 2016-17 season later this fall.
Schaefer joins the program after being the head coach at Southridge High School, his alma mater, a school of 550 students — just over one-fourth the size of North, which has 2,015 students. Southridge is in Huntingburg, about 120 miles southwest of Columbus.
Previously, Schaefer was a student assistant coach at Indiana University for three years.
It was tough for Schaefer to leave Southridge, but the offer he received from North was too good to let slip away.
“Columbus North has a strong tradition,” he said, “and I want to continue to build upon that and putting together a strong championship team and making a presence at the state level. We’re building back to that and the values and principles that Columbus North has.”
In addition to his head coaching duties at North, Schaefer will also be the head swimming coach for the Donner Swim Club, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with USA Swimming and Indiana Swimming governing bodies. The swim club, based at North High School, was formed in 1948 and is considered one of Indiana’s oldest and most successful clubs.
Schaefer is currently working full-time between Donner and coaching at North. He is not teaching at North at the moment, but he hopes to get more involved with the school corporation when the opportunity presents itself.
Before moving into coaching, Schaefer was a standout swimmer. After graduating from Southridge, he swam at Indiana University for one year before an injury suddenly ended his career.
He has found just as much, if not more, success as a coach.
IU head coach Ray Looze saw the potential Schaefer possessed when he made him one of his assistants, and Looze was rewarded with instant results.
“He had a great reputation with the athletes,” said Looze, who was also named 2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year. “He was really good right off the bat. His ability to relate and to gain respect among everyone was almost immediate. The most important quality he has that makes a successful coach is his ability to communicate in a way that they will respect you and really want to push themselves to do better.”
Schaefer’s résumé left an impression on North athletics director Jeff Hester, but it was Looze’s strong endorsement of Schaefer that helped make Hester’s decision much easier.
“When I first spoke to Logan, I really liked his demeanor, his vision, and his professionalism,” Hester said. “When I spoke with Ray, he basically told me, ‘If I was in your shoes, this is who I’d hire.’ Ray compared him to a lot like (Boston Celtics head coach) Brad Stevens, and I listened, and I feel really comfortable going in this direction.”
Schaefer has a tough challenge ahead of him. North lost its top female and male swimmers last season — Grace Haskett transferred to Bloomington South and Michael Brinegar, the 2015 state champion in the 500 freestyle as a freshman, did not swim in any meets for North under Bell. It is still uncertain if Brinegar, who will be a junior, will rejoin the program.
“A lot of things have changed and it will take some time to adapt, but it will not put us in the wrong direction,” Schaefer said. “A lot of coaches have their own individual way of doing things, but I’m going to promote the values that Columbus North is built on, like teamwork, hard work and excellence in the classroom — that is important for every student athlete. Historically, they do a great job in both, and that is something that will help build our program and help us become successful overall.”
Administrators are confident there will not be any similar drama this year under Schaefer.
“It was hard for people to buy into the (previous coaching) change, and it was a different program and training methods (than) they were used to,” Hester said. “(Bell) wasn’t forced out or asked to resign; he just had another offer he couldn’t refuse. I urge everyone to give (Schaefer) a chance and see for yourself, because he has been endorsed by several top coaches in swimming.”
Schaefer conducted a meet-and-greet for parents and the student athletes Tuesday evening.
He said he will address every athlete on an individual basis and figure out their strengths, styles and experience levels. Then he will be able to give each of them the proper training necessary to make themselves better.
“We have lots of different styles of swimmers, from kids who are just joining the team to those who are swimming from the Donner Club and the high school swim team,” Schaefer said. “We have groups that are tailored to the different kids we have. Kids that are more prone to sprinting, we will have a program tailored for them to be successful. For our kids that swim longer events and middle distance events, things will be catered for them individually.”
Looze urges the Columbus North swimming community to stay patient.
“Things are not going to happen overnight, but it will bounce back in a great way,” Looze said. “(Schaefer) is ready to step up to the challenge. I am a huge fan of Logan, and he has coach Sheridan in his corner and is someone Sheridan respects. Columbus North is very lucky to have him.”