JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Boardman native helps U.S. Olympic swimmers
Jacqueline Bak Yost of Boardman, who is entering her second season as assistant swimming coach at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is serving as an assistant team leader for the U.S. Olympic swimming team at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Yost, a former Boardman High and University of Pennsylvania swimmer who formerly coached the Youngstown State women's swimming team from 1999-2003, is one of two assistants who work under one team leader.
She helps to arrange travel, housing, food and other logistical details for the U.S. team.
"I have a wide range of duties. Many of them are logistical in nature," said Yost, who has been in Greece for more than two weeks.
She is married to Pat Yost, a former Canfield High swimmer who now is serving as a U.S. Navy Seal in Iraq.
In fact, today is their first wedding anniversary.
"During the [Olympic] competition itself, I will be working in the 'Call Room' or 'Ready Room' with the athletes," she said. "This is where they are prior to being marched out for their races."
Impressed by preparation
Yost has been impressed by Athens' progress in preparing for the Olympics.
"I was here in November for a USOC [United States Olympic Committee] Leadership Conference. They have made an amazing amount of progress since then. The city restructured and built an entirely new highway system and expanded their train system for the Games," said Yost, who was scheduled to march in the opening ceremonies last Friday. "Every day, more things get done in the village."
Yost arrived in Greece on July 30. "We traveled to Mallorca, Spain, for a training camp Aug. 4-10," said Yost. "During the week we were gone, the grass was put in, the fountains started running and the [Olympic] village starting bustling with people.
"The swimming venue looks great. It's more intimate than some in the past," she added. "The athletes will be able to sit closer to the competition pool than they have been able to in the past."
Will go to China
Yost, who has been involved with USA Swimming National Teams since 1998, also will be part of the U.S. coaching staff for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
"I made my way up the [USA Swimming] ladder, so to speak," said Yost, who also was an assistant coach at American University and nationally-ranked Texas A & amp;M before taking over the reins at Youngstown State.
While at YSU, Yost's teams improved from a 2-7 record to a 7-4 mark in two seasons, but, "YSU was not especially supportive of my involvement with USA Swimming," said Yost, the daughter of Edward Bak. Her mother, Ellie, died in 1983. Jackie also has a sister, Carol, and a brother, Ed.
Yost is getting valuable experience at Old Dominion.
"I am fortunate that the woman I work with [coach Carol Withus] treats me as a co-head coach," said Yost, who graduated from Pennsylvania in 1992 with a degree in history and completed her master's degree in 1998 at American University.
"She knows that I have been a head coach for several years myself and allows me to make decisions, write workouts, have authority, much like herself."
Yost said she has multiple duties at Old Dominion.
"My duties run the gamut: recruiting, on-deck coaching, liaison with admissions and financial aid, public relations, fund-raising. It's much like being the head coach, but I am able to share the job with someone else," she explained.
How it all started
Yost started swimming at age 11. "I began swimming as the result of a broken arm at age 11. I broke my arm doing gymnastics [balance beam] and turned to the water following that," she said. "I was a much better swimmer than I would've ever been a gymnast."
She credits coach Terry O'Halloran at Boardman High for her good start as a swimmer.
"From a swimming perspective, Terry O'Halloran was my coach from the day I started swimming until the day I left for college," she said. "He taught me how to enjoy the sport and maintain a good sense of humor. He also taught me how to deal with people and function in stressful situations."