North Texas Daily

From athlete to coach; Rachel Friel gets her feet wet with the Mean Green

From athlete to coach; Rachel Friel gets her feet wet with the Mean Green

From athlete to coach; Rachel Friel gets her feet wet with the Mean Green
January 31
13:46 2017

Morgan Price | Staff Writer

Many athletes dream of competing in the Olympic games. From the gold medals and pedigree, some consider the Olympics the peak of athletics.

But between highly-competitive qualifying contests and world-renowned athletes, the chances of actually make it are slim.

Rachel Friel did not get the memo.

The assistant coach of the North Texas swimming and diving team has not only competed in the Olympic trials but coached swimmers in the Olympic trials — swimmers who have gone on to compete in the Olympics.

“For any young athlete, being in the Olympics is the dream, you know?” Friel said. “Even if you don’t know if that’s realistic or not for you.”

Friel’s love for swimming began at an early age — and was jump started by an almost-tragedy.

That’s because when Friel’s mother was young, she almost drowned. For that reason, she wanted her four daughters to become strong swimmers and be comfortable in the pool. So she enrolled her daughters in swimming lessons. There was just one problem.

Friel’s coaches and teachers soon realized she was more talented than the rest of the kids in the pool.

After swimming with a summer team, Friel moved onto club teams to begin training, and to get closer to the time standards she needed. Being someone who was goal oriented, getting to the highest level of this sport became an aspiration for Friel.

That meant training as hard as possible, swimming and competing as often as she could to reach the Olympics.

Since Friel was born in Hong Kong and moved to California at an early age. She has dual citizenship and is able to represent both Hong Kong and the United States. Friel would frequently take summer trips back to Hong Kong, and upon finishing high school, competed on their international team.

In 2004, she narrowly missed out on the Olympic trials, but in 2008, she broke through and competed in the trials for both the United States and Hong Kong.

“[The Olympic trials] were a great experience,” Friel said. “It was great being able to be in the same pool as [some of the greatest swimmers in the country].”

When she decided to hang her goggles up, Friel graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in psychology.

But not swimming made Friel feel like a fish out of water.

Still wanting to be a part of the swimming community, Friel realized she could have a big impact as a coach. So she combined her love for the sport she once competed in and passion for helping others achieve goals.

And in 2012, Friel coached six players at the Olympic trials. When it was all said and done, two of her swimmers went on and competed in the London Olympic Games.

Fast forward five years and Friel moves to Denton, Texas because of her husband’s work. She coached a local club team before getting the opportunity to serve as the assistant coach for the Mean Green. Her goal is to have an influence on her swimmers, like so many of her past coaches had on her.

Many of her players refer to her as “Rachel” rather than “Coach Friel,” and seem to enjoy working with a young coach they can relate to.

“She’s really fun and personable,” sophomore Kathleen Rousset said. “She’s taken the time to get to know everyone and what we each need as an individual.”

Interim head coach Brittany Roth hired Friel in August, and despite her being on staff for less than one year, has seen results. Roth believes hiring Friel has paid dividends for the team, and is excited about what the future holds.

“She sees things I don’t see and that’s what you want as an athlete,” Roth said. “It benefits the athletes in the water simply because if they don’t understand it from the mouth of one person, then they might understand it in the verbiage of another person.”

For Friel, the opportunity to be near the water again is something she has longed for. It’s just that this time, the adrenaline will be pumping for a different reason.

Instead of her crossing the finish line, she’ll be rooting for one of her swimmers to make a splash.

“Being in the pool with your teammates, working hard, and accomplishing a goal, that’s where the thrill is,” Friel said. “It’s great, still being a part of it. It’s just a different kind of thrill.”

Featured Image: Coach Rachel Friel stands for a portrait in the POHL Recreation Center. Kaitlyn St. Clair

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Morgan Price

Morgan Price

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