RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande finally has someone to head up the reboot of its long dormant swimming program.
Michael Kocsis has been named as the head coach of the RedStorm’s men’s and women’s swim teams and the school’s Aquatic Director.
Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham made the announcement Friday afternoon.
Kocsis spent the past two seasons as the head swimming and diving coach at Manchester University, an NCAA Division III school located in North Manchester, Ind.
Prior to his position at Manchester, the 29-year-old native of Grand Forks, N.D. spent one year as an assistant swim coach at the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) and for five years was the assistant swim coach and strength coach for the boys’ swimming and diving teams at Grand Forks High School.
“It’s really exciting to be able to start a program from the ground up,” Kocsis said. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can build in the years to come.”
Kocsis is a 2015 graduate of the University of North Dakota, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology & Health along with a minor in Coaching.
He was also a member of the Fighting Sioux swim team.
While Kocsis is, essentially, starting from stratch, he’s actually bringing life back into a sport which the school hasn’t sponsored since the 1970s.
The late date of Kocsis’ hiring — he officially takes the helm on May 1 — and the ongoing restrictions on recruiting which resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic won’t make the job an easy one.
“It’s going to be a bit of a challenge thanks to the coronavirus, but the whole country is that way right now. Coaching and recruiting are no different,” Kocsis said. “We’re going to do the best that we can and, hopefully, have a good group of athletes coming in this fall to give us a base that we can build on over the next 2-3 years.”
Kocsis said he hopes to sign at least four men and four women for the upcoming season, before fielding 12 swimmers on both rosters next year and a full squad of 18 athletes in each program by the 2022-23 campaign.
“Swimming’s a little easier to judge the athletic aspect than it is with say basketball or football. Just like with track & field, you’ve got concrete times you can look at,” Kocsis said. “Personality-wise, there are two main traits I look for, particularly when you’re starting a program like we are here. One, you want leaders who want to help build your program. They can be assets to the team, but if they’re being passive on the sideline and not helping things to grow, they’re only stunting the progress. Secondly, they have to be hard workers. Natural talent is great, but if you don’t have the work ethic to push yourself in practice, you’re just wasting potential.”
“I’m being realistic with what I want to accomplish the first year, but swimming is pretty popular in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan — really in the whole area — and there’s a good group of athletes we can tap into,” Kocsis added. “The trick now is to let them know that we have a program and to try and give them an idea of what we can offer them.”
Lanham said he thinks that Kocsis is the perfect person to get the RedStorm’s aquatic programs back into the drink.
“We’re excited to bring Mike on board here at the University of Rio Grande,” Lanham said. “We’re very fortunate to have him join us as our swimming and diving coach and our aquatics director and look forward to Mike building a new tradition of success with our program.”
Rio’s men’s and women’s teams will compete as affiliate members of the Mid-South Conference — a league the new coach is familiar with, based on his previous time at Cumberlands.
“The Mid-South Conference is a very good conference, that’s for sure,” said Kocsis. “I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, but I think two or three teams from league were in the top eight at nationals last year. If we can get to the point where I could compete or beat my old boss, that would be pretty cool.”
It’s a scenario that Lanham would enjoy seeing come to fruition.
“Mike will bring new energy and a focus on recruiting, while continuing to provide a positive learning environment where the student-athletes can thrive and meet their goals — both in the classroom and in the pool,” he said.
Kocsis’ certifications include American Red Cross CPR/AED & Lifeguarding.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.