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Where are they now? Hannah Stoyel (Cooper) Class of 2011

posted Sep 20, 2019, 9:40 AM by Rey Aguilar   [ updated Sep 20, 2019, 9:43 AM ]

When Hannah Stoyel (Cooper) first came to swim at Dads Club, she was 12, had just relocated from California, and didn’t know anybody. She had been a competitive gymnast, so she dressed like she was going to the gym. “On my first day I showed up in a bright pink velvet pants and jacket, which haunted me for years! But I made friends nonetheless.”

Hannah and best Friend Susannah Shoemaker

Indeed, during her six years at Dads Club, Hannah made a lot of friends, and developed the skills and understanding that inspired her to go to Kenyon College and study sports psychology, while swimming on the school team. She currently works in the United Kingdom as team psychologist for England Swimming.

She credits Dads Club with preparing her for college and her career. It’s hard work being a competitive swimmer, especially on cold winter mornings. She quickly learned how to juggle the rigors of training 9 times per week while doing AP classes at Memorial High School, graduating in 2011.

Along with discipline, strength, dedication, perseverance, Hannah will always treasure that it was at Dads Club that she learned how to take responsibility. “I needed to make sure both my school and swimming was successful, and I learned that it was up to me. It wasn’t up to my parents or my coaches. It had to be me.”

And because Dads Club is not a mega-club, there can be great opportunities for a driven young swimmer. When she was still an age-group swimmer Hannah got invited to swim on the freestyle relay at a ProAm meet in Oklahoma. “I remember I was put on a freestyle relay as the anchor and dropped about 4 seconds in my 100 free because I was so excited to swim ‘with the big girls.’ What is great about Dads is the size of the team allowed me to have that experience.”

On away meets Hannah would help out Coach Rey Aguilar by organizing dinner and taking care of her teammates — a practice she carried on into college. “I learned to love being a leader. And I came to understand that whether or not I swam well was down to me. Something I think some athletes never get to learn and therefore don’t enjoy the success they crave.”

Those years of team building are what inspired her to study sports psychology while swimming at Kenyon College. She earned a Masters degree and is now a registered Sport Psychologist in the United Kingdom, with clients including cheerleaders, rugby players, divers and swimmers. Through England Swimming she helps run national camps and travels to international events with the team.

She knows from personal experience what athletes are capable of when they are in the right mindset. “Taking responsibility for your own success is something I talk about to many athletes, coaches, and parents now in my practice.” And she stresses the importance that down time plays in cultivating that mindset. Swim team was a big part of Hannah’s social life in high school, with everyone getting together to make Christmas cookies and cosplay for Harry Potter movie premiers. “We were all just great friends.” One of Hannah’s best swim buddies, Susannah Shoemaker, was bridesmaid at her wedding last year.

Dads Club cultivates these kind of friendships by allowing for a friendly yet disciplined environment. “Both Mark Boerner and Coach Aguilar were also excellent in pushing me to excel without causing burnout. Other college swimmers I knew had been pushed so hard during high school that they had gotten worn out on swimming. At Dads Club I was lucky to have been part of a team that pushed me to excel, but at a measured and careful rate. My coaches were conscious of wanting to help give me the opportunity to swim in college, and I appreciate that to this day! Swimming at Kenyon wouldn’t have been possible without Dads.”

Can she sum up her approach to sports psychology in a way that today’s Dads Club swimmers can understand? “It may be a cliche, but there’s a lot of truth to the phrase: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’” Success in the pool (as in life) all comes down to how much time and effort (and laps) you put into it. “I feel forever indebted to Dads and my coaches for helping me love hard work.”