Swim Coach Retires After 36 Years


The Entrance to Fraser’s Varsity Swim Meet Decked Out for Coach Nowinski’s Retirement Surprise

Jessica Reinhart, FHS Flash Staff Reporter

Coach David Nowinski, after 36 years with the Fraser High School swim team, retires this year. October 4th, 2022 was his last swim meet for the varsity girls’ team versus L’Anse Creuse North, but, unbeknownst to Nowinski, the event would double as an emotional reunion.

The pool was decorated with gold and blue ribbons and a giant poster of his accomplishments, but a surprise was the dozens of swim alumni presenting Nowinski-face signs and smiles. 

Nowinski’s daughter had reached out to alumni, asking them to attend the meet to support her father, and many did. Extra chairs were set up in front of the stands, packed full of people.

As for the reason why the swim coach became so popular, when asked, Mrs. Bielecki, a parent of a 2015 swim alumni, explained why she was there for her son’s former coach.

“He’s a man of a lot of character, approachable, a very decent man,” Bielecki said.

With a similar opinion, Wendy Hammond and Missy Leahy, Nowinski’s first four-year alumni swimmers from the class of ‘90, attended with mixed feelings about the event.

“I feel sad and happy about this because I’m thrilled for him to have time for himself,” Hammond said, “but what makes me sad is the people who won’t be coached by him anymore because he makes a difference. Period.”

Both alumni lauded the difference he made in their lives, expressing that Nowinski was even like a father, at times, due to the before and after school commitment that had them spending much of their time with the coach, a commitment he experienced himself as part of Fraser High School’s first swim team years earlier.

Coach Nowinski first began his swim career because of his mother, who couldn’t swim herself and recognized the importance of water safety, placing all four of her children in the Macomb Marlins and the Somerset Pool. 

This act sparked a passion that had Nowinski swimming through the high school varsity swim team, as an all-American at Wayne State University on a full-ride sports scholarship, and a return to Fraser High School as coach, but, according to the people at his last meet, “Coach Dave” Nowinski was not just a swim coach.

“When Dave coaches a child, he really coached the whole child. Not just as a swimmer, academically, socially,” his former assistant coach, Bob Ogilvy, said.

At Fraser High School, Mr. Nowinski is also a science teacher, originally with studies to be a doctor, which he applied to his swimmers as well. Nowinski not only taught his swimmers technique but why, biologically, certain techniques and habits, such as big team meals before and after meets, are best. 

“He coaches them through good times and bad,” Ogilvy said, “He helped them outside the pool deck. Kids who have gone on to be really successful in life.”

Indeed, Hammond stressed the huge difference Nowinski made in her life. 

Two other alumni pointed to the bench right in front of them, reminiscing how their introduction there during swim led to a lifelong friendship, having talked at the pool and still talking 10 years later. 

Some alumni even spoke of aspirations to create a Fraser High School swim alumni club and host reunions in the future. 

These people are living proof of the kind tradition and community Nowinski created.

“Without that connection there’s nothing to build off of,” Nowinski said.

It’s due to this community and his love of coaching that stepping back is so hard.

“I think I was supposed to teach and coach,” Nowinski said, “It’s been a blast. I have very, very few days I feel bad.”

According to Nowinski, during his career, just having a student smiling at him made his whole day better, no matter how it started. 

He felt honored to be faced with the smiles of his alumni again and that people would invest so much time to make him feel special at his last meet. He gave fist bumps and high fives to the spectators he could reach when he walked by the audience and thanked both his mother and wife for everything he’s accomplished.

“He’s been so focused on everyone else around him and his life for the last 36 plus years that this is going to be a transition that is going to take time and effort for him and the family to adjust to,” Tori Barterian, Nowinski’s daughter, said.

Since 1986, as a coach and teacher, Nowinski worked 60 hours a week, not including grading papers, grateful for his wife’s support and the swimmers who occasionally babysat his four kids. 

For the future, Nowinski plans to continue teaching as a substitute after finishing the 2022-23 school year and, he hopes, drive to the sights around the US and Canada. As for afterwards, he thought of going up north for fishing, hunting, and swimming. 

In his stead, Nowinski suggested the current varsity boys’ swim coach, Danielle Woody, though his successor hasn’t been named. 

For her and Fraser’s swim community, at his last meet, donations for swim equipment at Fraser High School were collected at Nowinski’s last swim meet, and a GoFundMe for the donation in Coach Nowinski’s name marks his last act as swim coach, still giving back to the community he helped.

As Ogilvy said, “For swimmers, there’s so much legacy, so much bond… Dave’s legacy, all the people he’s affected. So many pieces of his legacy go on, right on that pool deck, in the memories of every swimmer who met him, FHS and not.”


Nowinski’s GoFundMe (owned by his daughter): https://www.gofundme.com/f/swimming-equipment-donation-in-coach-daves-honor?qid=4c1f57d83255fdfe97d78cc3bce447d2