United States Sports Academy doctoral student Doug Wharam continues to earn accolades for his work coaching elite swimmers at the Nashville Aquatic Club.
For the second time in the last three years Wharam – who is pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in sports management from the Academy – has been named the USA Swimming Developmental Coach of the Year. The award is given annually to the coach who has the highest number of athletes and swimmers on the United States Swimming National Junior Team. It is the highest national award given to a swimming coach at the 18 and Under (18U) Developmental level by USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States.
In addition to his honor from USA Swimming, Wharam was also recently named the SwimSwam Coach of the Month.
As associate head coach for the Nashville (Tenn.) Aquatic Club, Wharam provides vision, planning, oversight and guidance to the club’s competitive athletes, coaches and parents. He also provides leadership for the club’s non-competitive side.
“I lend oversight and advice to ensure that our club’s vision and short and long term goals are being met,” Wharam said. “The athlete development side is truly my passion, but the administrative portion of running a club like ours – 250 competitive athletes, 200 non-competitive athletes, and 225 ‘masters’ athletes – takes up most of my day.
“Evaluation is a critical piece of my job – whether that is how our training is progressing, how our coaches are coaching, or how our programming is running. The evaluation, adjustment, and implementation of all facets of our organization is something in which I take a lot of pride.”
Wharam’s Academy degree emphasis area is sports leadership, something he said has changed his approach to his every day work as a coach.
“The coursework and the willingness of my professors to allow the pursuit of interests related to things happening in my work life – within the confines of class material – have allowed for a unique perspective to be brought to bear in our organization,” Wharam said.
“While some courses are clearly immediately applicable, the ability to critically think has provided not only myself, but our organization and community, with great opportunities to fill voids or improve shortcomings.
“I never could have pursued my passion for coaching swimming and my passion for higher education without the Academy,” Wharam added.
“Working a full-time job like coaching, where you are up at 4 in the morning and back home after dinner, is not conducive to the traditional learning model. Being able to do work in an airport, on the road, and late at night has been a great mental break from the ‘grind’ for me. I’m extremely thankful to my professors and advisors who have helped keep me on track.
“In earning a degree from an institution that focuses only on sports, I’ve found that both the students around me and the professors helping me not only have a deep understanding of the material, but also of the challenges that I face every day as a coach. This depth and breadth of knowledge has allowed me to learn from my classmates and professors and apply ideas and solutions directly to my own organization.
“Being able to talk ‘shop’ with practitioners who are also academics is a unique trait that I feel the Academy offers. The professors are a good mix of being action/experience driven and research driven.”
Wharam earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in 2005 and a master’s degree in sport management from the State University of New York-Cortland in 2011. He said he is grateful for the support and help from the Academy’s staff – the registrar, student services department, and library – for being responsive and helpful while he pursues his doctorate.
In Wharam’s 20-year coaching career, he has served in many capacities in the developmental swimming world, including head age group coaching stops in Wilmington, N.C. and Providence, R.I., and as a head coach in Waynesboro, Va. He has also served as a volunteer member of the collegiate coaching staffs at Brown University, the University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt University.
In 2013, Wharam was selected as a member of USA Swimming’s National Select Camp coaching staff, and in 2016 was selected as a member of the staff for National Junior Team Camp. In 2014 and 2016, he received recognition as an American Swimming Coaches Association Fitter & Faster National Age Group Coach of the Year finalist.