New swim coach Garland Bartlett is always ready to dive in headfirst
After nine years as an assistant, Bartlett brings a fresh perspective to a rejuvenated program
Being in the water is something that comes naturally to Garland Bartlett, American University’s newest swimming & diving head coach. After over 15 years of competitive swimming, Bartlett dove headfirst into the world of collegiate coaching. And after nine years of being an assistant at four different institutions, she’s looking forward to her first full season as a head coach.
Coaching is in Bartlett’s blood. Her mother, Wendy Bartlett, has been coaching squash at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut for over 38 years. Bartlett says that she “grew up in a coaching family,” and that watching her mother interact with her student-athletes growing up had a big influence on her.
“They were all my big sisters,” she says about the Trinity players.
Bartlett has been swimming from a very young age, at first in the summers with her family at the pool and then competing on a summer league swim team when she was just four years old.
“[I tried] every sport, from soccer to lacrosse,” Bartlett said. “Anything that involved running I didn’t like.”
When the time came to choose a sport in high school, the decision seemed easy. Bartlett said she loved the water, so “things got pretty streamlined with what sport I wanted to focus on.”
After graduating from Conard High School in West Hartford, Connecticut, Bartlett chose to attend and compete for Franklin & Marshall College. She swam all four years at the Division 3 school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as a distance freestyler. She posted some of the fastest times in the school, with her effort in the 1650 meter freestyle swim still holding the 6th fastest time in school history. The same season she set the then-record for the 1650, Bartlett was named the Most Valuable Swimmer in 2010.
When it came time for Bartlett to weigh her post grad options, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do.
“I knew I didn’t want to give up the sport of swimming,” Bartlett said. “And I loved seeing what my mom did. I’m like, ‘I want to do this, I want to try this!’ And so I tried it right out of college and loved it. And I’ve been lucky enough to stay with it.”
Bartlett’s first full time coaching job out of college came as an assistant coach at the College of New Jersey. After spending a season with the Lions, she went on to join her mother at Trinity College, serving as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bantams’ swim & dive program while also getting her master’s degree in American Studies.
After her time at Trinity, Bartlett joined the coaching staff of a familiar face at Middlebury College. Bob Rueppel, who has served as head swim & dive coach at Middlebury since 2012, was also Bartlett’s coach at Franklin & Marshall. She credits him as one of her biggest influences and “biggest role model” as a coach.
“He really helped me excel in the pool,” Bartlett said of Rueppel. “I felt like he believed in me, he had this positive energy on deck, and that was something I wanted to keep with my team and what I’ve really tried to instill.”
After just one season at Middlebury, Bartlett made the jump to Division I when she was hired as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at American University. She started as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, but was promoted to the full-time head coach in June after a two-month interim head coaching period after the retirement of Mark Davin in April 2020.
The Eagles enjoyed a very successful season last year, even with the circumstances of a coronavirus-ridden school year. Four school records were broken during the season finale at the 2021 Patriot League Challenge, with three being broken by standout freshman Mimi Watts.
Looking forward, Bartlett is already excited about what the program is becoming, and said that the team culture is growing in a positive direction. After a season of record-breaking individual and relay times from the underclassmen, she’s confident in the team’s long-term potential.
“We can make a big leap nationally in Division I, and in the conference, I think there’s a lot of swimmers and relays that could score higher than we have at conferences, break more records, and then hopefully get more NCAA ‘B’ cuts as well,” she said.
“I think the world is the team’s oyster,” Bartlett said regarding her level of optimism for this upcoming season. “I think the possibilities are endless with this team and with their motivation, positivity and energy and commitment to the university and how excited they are to represent the Eagles.”