He certainly knew how to coach, though. From years of directing youth soccer teams, he was well aware that working with kids was more a calling than a job and that success results as much from mental and physical preparation as it does from innate talent.
He understood, too, that good teams become even better when the culture allows athletes to have fun while working hard and teammates display a one-for-all, all-for-one mentality.
And he certainly knew swimming.
Growing up in Winnetka, IL, he served as manager of the swimming team at New Trier Township High School. On long bus rides to and from competitions, he picked the brain of Dave Robertson, the Indians’ legendary coach who during his career coached 14 state championship squads and two future Olympic gold medalists.
As an adult, Stott had swum for enjoyment and conditioning and for years served as an organizer and administrator of summer swimming programs around Richmond. He was also a great fan and supporter of Collegiate swimming because many of his summer athletes competed for the Cougars and his son David was the head coach.
Then, in 2002, David stepped down after a very successful tenure.
Friends he knew through the sport urged him to apply, the interview process went well, and Mike Stott, at a youthful-looking 59 years old, became a rookie head coach.
“David’s record with the team was 62-1,” said Stott, a writer by profession. Those are tough shoes to fill. I didn’t worry about that, thought. I was very familiar with the lineup.
“My concern was that I might not be as technically competent as the job might require. I was also concerned about being able to write the proper workouts the first year. But David gave me his template. The other thing I benefitted from was working for Swimming World magazine. I knew a lot of coaches, and I could reach out to them if I needed.”
Stott would lead Collegiate’s swimming program until his retirement following the 2016-2017 season. To say that things worked out just fine during his 15 years is an understatement.
His resume includes nine VISAA championships (girls in ’04 and ’12-‘16; boys in ’07-’09) and 11 league crowns (League of Independent Schools in ’03, 04, and ’12 through ’16; Prep League in ’06-’08 and ’12).
“My philosophy,” he said, “was Fun, Fitness, Competition. If I made it fun, I knew kids would come to practice and we could get them fit. If we got they fit, they could compete well. I always like to compete well.”
During his tenure, 29 girls earned 133 all-state citations, six girls won 23 individual state titles, 26 boys won 128 all-state citations, and nine won 21 individual titles. Stott also coached five girls who accounted for 15 All-American honors and 18 boys who earned 35 All-American honors.
He was voted state and league coach-of-the-year multiple times, and in January 2019, he was inducted into Collegiate’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I owe my success at Collegiate to a number of things,” said Stott, who holds a Level 5 designation by the American Swim Coaches Association. “One was that I had really good athletes. We obviously benefitted from good summer leagues and club programs around Richmond.
“My coaching staff and I were able to get the kids to buy in. I had wonderful coaches and parents. The Collegiate administration supported our efforts in the classroom and in the pool. It was a great environment to coach. I’m eternally grateful.”
When Stott stepped down, Mike Peters, his long-time assistant, succeeded him.
“Mike has been a constant source of knowledge and enthusiasm for the swim team,” Peters said. “He not only brought his own knowledge of swimming but spent countless hours talking to other coaches, reading up on coaching practices, and attending clinics in order to get better himself. It would be hard to imagine anyone who has given more of himself to a team than Mike.”
Though Stott continues to support the Collegiate swimming program, he has kept a respectful distance.
“I miss the competition,” he said. “I miss the seeding of meets. I definitely miss the athletes. I told myself when I stepped away that it’s Mike’s team now. I’ll be a resource if he asks, but I’m not going to interfere. He’ll do things a little differently. He’ll do it right. It’ll be with his imprimatur on it.
“If I have a legacy of any kind, I hope it’s that I got the kids to appreciate the rewards of hard work. And I hope they developed a lifelong interest in the water and developed some life skills along the way.”