by Nick Traver ’20
Head Coach Alex Kraus is most commonly known as the human genius, comic book fanatic who teaches chemistry and physics; however, what many people probably don’t know is that Coach Kraus is the coach of both the boys track and field team and the boys swimming and diving team, the latter of which has won three straight New England championships.
He also won the M.D. Nadal Sportsmanship Award in 2018, a great honor that recognizes one Founder’s League coach every year, within all coaching disciplines.
He was also an extremely talented collegiate swimmer and one of the few teachers able to teach every class at KO; he has taught AP English, different science classes, Latin, tutored in math, and is basically a human encyclopedia who would make a terrific partner on “Jeopardy!”
Most people don’t know many, if any, of these things about Coach Kraus though. He is a man that despite all of his accomplishments, doesn’t truly care about the recognition.
He’s more concerned about the experience, as he said his best moments of collegiate swimming weren’t winning races but truly being confident in the pool and as a member of the team. “I remember getting used to college level events like the 200 fly or 400 IM,” Coach Kraus said, “and halfway through freshman year just feeling like I could do all of those events, even if it was the thousand free. I felt like I belonged and I felt strong.”
The feeling of belonging and strength is Coach Kraus’ number one concern as the swim team coach. “For me wins, losses, and times aren’t the highest goals,” Coach Kraus said.
He said that you can’t force belonging into the lesson or workout for a specific day, but gradually over time the swim team becomes a very close knit community. “My favorite moments of coaching are when the team [members] get comfortable with being themselves,” Coach Kraus said.
He said that he doesn’t always know why his teams seem to suddenly click most years, whether it’s because of the grueling practices, like hundred-hundreds, or the fact that the team is seeing a lot of each other, both time-wise and physically. He said that those moments are some of his favorites, when it doesn’t matter about ability, popularity, or any other characteristic, and people just accept everyone for who they are.
This accepting everyone and becoming a close team also helps the Wyverns in the pool. One of the team’s main focuses is positive energy, as for every race there must be at least one person cheering each person on. This stems from Coach Kraus as he says the thing he misses most about swimming, and something he wants everyone to strive for, is being a supporter while accomplishing their goals.
On Coach Kraus’s team, supporting each other is more important than anyone’s skillset, and that’s why captains in the past haven’t also been the best swimmers, but they’ve been the best motivators. “Kraus always emphasizes the importance of team unity, and because of this I have grown closer to my teammates,” senior Co-captain Tom Betts said.
Coach Kraus has a different way of running his team than most coaches. “In practices usually a coach will be constantly screaming at you to push you harder but Mr. Kraus’ way of doing that is through encouragement,” senior Co-captain Ellis Winfree said.
Winfree described Coach Kraus as having a quiet compassion for others which is evident with the way he ends all of his emails, saying “you are loved.”
Over Coach Kraus’s 33 years coaching swimming and diving, he has created an environment and culture where people can be themselves, be confident, and be together. Coach Kraus helps guide people in more ways than just swimming. “Mr. Kraus knows things about me that I don’t even know about myself,” Winfree said.
The KO swim team is a unique blend of people with all different personalities. “We are one big family, and Mr. Kraus is the father,” senior Nick Spina said. .
Mr. Kraus is a man of so many great accomplishments, but his primary concern is being a great man. Maybe that’s why the swim team has been so great in recent years, or has always had great chemistry because of its great coach, Coach Kraus.