Tributes to Swim & Dive Coach Mike Doherty

In the winter issue of The Raider magazine, we celebrated and honored Mike Doherty's 32-year career as head coach of the boys Swim & Dive team; one that brought with it 20 state titles and countless lives touched. Below is the full text of tributes alumni swimmers sent in recalling Coach D's impact on their lives years after high school.

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Alumni Tributes to Mike Doherty RSS Feed
From Matt Dunker '94

Coach D set the benchmark for motivation, compassion, leadership, accountability and success. I’ve never found another mentor who held those benchmarks either in sports or in life. Twenty years later I still strive to live up to the expectations he put on all of us. He taught me how to succeed with class, how to overcome mental obstacles and, most importantly, how to deal with failure and disappointment long enough to turn it into success.

From Chris Yonushewski '07

More than any else, Coach D taught me the value of hard work, the feats one can accomplish when pushing their physical and mental limits, the importance of teamwork, and the joy of chasing down goals backed by a brotherhood. Swimming at Regis was unlike any other team I've been a part of; it took the widest range of athletes and formed a cohesive team of champions. There aren't enough words to express my gratitude for the opportunity and experience. Thanks Coach!

From Aaron Hebenstreit '98

He was able to get the best out of us. No matter what. He was able to inspire us to challenge ourselves more than thinking about the opponent. We were always pretty heavily favored. I don't think we lost a meet. But even if were were going against a team of eight swimmers, we were up for every meet.

His knowledge base of what was needed to train a swimmer was well beyond anything I had been exposed to at that point. He knew exactly at what point in the season it was time to push our training and when it was time to back off. And he didn't do it in a way that was in your face. His planning, practice and consistency were impressive.

We pushed him in the pool during a morning practice senior year. It was me and Zach Shattuck and Tom Johnson. He wasn't too happy about that. 

From Phillip Long '92

I respect how Mr. Doherty has high expectations for an individual, team, and school. He gave credit when working and accomplishing toward those expectations and held you to standards of excellence. "D" could only do that with the confidence he does because he has the same high expectations for himself. It is a way of life that I have learned and tried to emulate because of him. 

From Fritz Long '90

Mr. D turned a kid who could barely do a flip-turn in the slow lane to an athlete who placed at State. He showed the team compassion, strength and the importance of doing what you know is right. These area all qualities that I have taken from the pool and tried to integrate into my life. His example has influenced the way I taught and coached all of my students. 

From Andrew Long '00

I remember watching Regis swimming from the stands wearing an oversized Raider sweatshirt that was far too big, over a Regis swimming t-shirt far too worn. At a young age, I marveled at the teamwork, camaraderie and passion a group of high school swimmers and a coach would share, from the early morning to the late evening, traveling from one pool to the next. As we, the parents and siblings, friends and teachers of the swimmers down in the pool gathered to cheer for our Raiders, there had always been a single constant over the decades- Coach Mike Doherty. 

It can be mind boggling trying to fully comprehend the impact that this man has had on Regis Jesuit High School, the sport of swimming in Colorado and the countless swimmers that he has coached over the years. The tradition of excellence that is Regis Swimming is found first in the dedication and example set by D. for he has worked tirelessly, year in and year out in order to unveil excellence in those around him.   

Coach Doherty has been known by many names over the years: D, Big Dog, Coach, Friend, Dean, Boss, Father, Husband, Co-Worker, the Competition, but in any name, he inspired us to be the best we could be individually so we could be the best together as a team. Through him, the Regis swim team is recognized for hard work, and a tradition of excellence that rests on each shoulder of every young man who joins the team, no matter his ability. We learned that every person’s success is invaluable to the team, whether it is B-League or State - if you were not swimming than you were fully supporting your teammates in whatever capacity you could.   

It is not uncommon to spot former swimmers coming back to visit the team, or a parent of an alumnus at dual meet or state, cheering side by side with the new parents, because Regis swimming has always been more than laps in a pool and points on the board. It is about every single entity in that community doing what they need to be doing to make the people around them successful; to keep a tradition proud by moving forward towards excellence: no excuses, no regrets. To that, we thank Coach Doherty.  

A young man in high school can quickly learn a lot about himself and his team the first time he shaves his legs for the big swim meet. The type of atmosphere Doherty created and managed through the years allowed for young men in high school wearing speedos to feel completely confident in shaving their legs. D’s example of recognizing swimmers individually as well as a whole, taught us the importance of recognizing the achievements, as well as ‘bone-headedness’ in our own self and in our teammates. 

Whether we knew it or not, D was teaching us life skills right from the get go. As a Dean of students, I am reminded of advice Doherty once gave us before we set off on a travel meet: If you have to ask yourself, is this a good idea or bad idea, you usually already have your answer. Coach instilled in us pride that and confidence in ourselves that whether we were stepping out onto the pool deck or into our cars, we not only represented ourselves, but instead a much greater community - our team, school and family. 

I also distinctly remember him telling us about the importance of being professional. During the swim season he always pressed upon us the importance of not looking like or acting like we had just finished morning practice. No matter how difficult the situation is, put your best foot forward. 

Other advice:
Is there someone else right now, working harder than me?
Every detail is important.
Drink water.

Every spouse I meet whose significant other swam under D just “wants to meet this coach of yours.”

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

From Brady Lowdermilk '00

I am reminded of Coach Doherty on a nearly daily basis as I teach and coach at a Catholic high school in LA. "What would Doherty do?" is a question I find myself often asking. In fact, one of the initial reasons I wanted to become a teacher and coach was because I saw what a positive impact a Catholic male role model could have on students and athletes. Even now, so many memories I have of Regis involve Coach Doherty, the swim team and the friends I made on that team.

There are plenty of fun memories I have of particular practices, special pep talks, and the annual state championships, but I also remember those occasional hard conversations we shared. He was always calm in his tone, firm in his direction and compassionate in his correction; a model I try to emulate as I work with young men and women.

Of course, any student-athlete can speak about the lessons learned through sport—perseverance, teamwork, humility, sportsmanship and commitment, among others. And any alumnus of the Regis swimming program can thank Coach Doherty for the presence of those traits in their lives. But Coach Doherty's impact is unique because of the sheer amount of hours we spent together in the water or on the deck. The lessons I learned on that team served me well as a student-athlete in college and remain at the cornerstone of my work as a teacher, coach and father.

From Zach Shattuck ’99

To me, Coach Doherty was someone who taught me the value of loyalty and teamwork. He consistently created an army out of a very individualized sport and he created an atmosphere only found in tightknit families. He didn't win all those championships because his teams were stacked with talented swimmers. Yes he had extremely talented athletes come through Regis the past 30 years but the majority of guys he coached were very average. He won championship upon championship by helping people to believe in themselves and to believe in one another. He was the absolute master of maximizing your potential.

I look back and wonder how I ever made it to morning practice and to class afterward and then back to practice again. Coach Doherty made you believe that all the sacrifices were worthwhile and he made competition and camaraderie the best rewards. I worded hard through those years but had a lot of fun along the way. Heck, I even pushed Big Dog in the pool one day after practice...not a great decision on my part, but a fun memory.

I owe Big Dog a lot for the many great memories of competing for him. He is a wonderful person and an amazing mentor that will remain synonymous with championship swimming.