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DailyTidings.com
  • SUHA TOKMAN, RIGHT, HAS EARNED a reputation

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  • Two jobs equals no down time
    As Suha Tokman makes it to the Southern Oregon University pool Thursday evening, he is already exhausted from a full day of coaching.
    Tokman meets the Rogue Valley Masters swim club at 5:30 a.m. five days a week. Then he drives up to the Medford YMCA to coach the Superior Aquatics Stingrays club team. This year, he&
    s adding on the Ashland High School team. Tokman replaced Lara Bishop, who moved to Mexico this year in hopes of working with a surf camp, Ashland assistant coach Steve Mitzel said.
    &
    High school kind of conflicts with my other job,&
    Tokman said of his coaching the Stingrays also.
    Since all of the best competitive swimmers in the Rogue Valley swim for the Stingrays, Tokman says he&
    s grown accustomed to coaching swimmers one day then leading the Grizzlies against some of those same swimmers the next.
    Since SOU&
    s pool was out of commission for three weeks with a broken pump (which just got back into working condition last Tuesday) it has been a tumultuous season for the Ashland team.
    However, Tokman said, the team has a mentality that has helped it overcome adversity this season and win five of six meets.
    &
    The Ashland swim team has this attitude,&
    Tokman said. &
    They look happy. They look loose like it&
    s all nothing but fun, but when they&
    re on the water they mean business.&
    Like just about every swimmer on the Ashland team, senior Ben Dawson has been coached by Tokman outside of the high school swimming arena. He swam for the Stingrays for a while until he fell in love with water polo and limited his competitive swimming to just high school. Dawson says that Tokman&
    s unending enthusiasm is contagious.
    &
    He makes the practices motivational,&
    Dawson said. &
    He really makes you want to push yourself instead of just doing the yardage.&
    Tokman&
    s coaching strategy is &
    in person &
    exactly what everyone describes it as. He is jovial, friendly and encouraging on deck, and when his swimmers work on their drills, his demeanor turns much more serious. When it comes to swimming, Tokman is literally an old pro.
    The Ashland swim coach competed for his homeland of Turkey in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. In 1977 he quit swimming competitively and moved to Sitka, Alaska, to start coaching swimming. He started a master&
    s swimming program in Alaska, and when they went to the 1983 world championships in Montreal, Tokman decided to swim with his team for motivation. He finished second in the world.
    After 12 years of coaching in Medford, Tokman is still not tired of swimming and continues to gain recognition in the United States and abroad. In June 2005, the Turkish Sports Ministry recognized Tokman as one of the top 100 most influential sports figures in the country&
    s history.
    &
    Swimming is a flowing sport,&
    Tokman said.
    He takes this mentality from the way he coaches his local teams to what he does with his life. Tokman insists his teams train every day. Meanwhile, he does not get a break either. From 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days Tokman is traveling all over Southern Oregon coaching, and when vacation time comes he heads back to Turkey to teach coaching clinics.
    Steve Mitzel &
    Tokman&
    s assistant at Ashland High and the one whom Tokman credits for keeping everything together &
    said Tokman has impressed him the most with his ability to squeeze the most out of the time he has.
    &
    The most amazing thing about Suha from a sports perspective is how he takes 12 months of training and condenses it into three,&
    Mitzel said.
    Tokman said he does enjoy the challenge of the short season, although he believes it is necessary to swim year round in order to be competitive at a high level.
    With a tentative meet against Klamath Union Tuesday, Tokman and the Grizzlies are trying to play catch-up before regional competition. Tokman said the goal of the Ashland swim team has always been to beat Roseburg because Ashland came up short in that matchup for years.
    This year Roseburg has 60 swimmers while Ashland has 15. With three crucial weeks cut out of the season thanks to pool trouble that may be a struggle for the Grizzlies.
    &
    They&
    ve (Roseburg) been swimming like hell while we&
    ve been sitting on our butts,&
    Tokman said.
    He shouts to his team as they neared the end of practice, &
    You need this!&
    Tokman has always been able to motivate himself and his athletes to pull through
    even when it seems unfeasible.
    &
    He&
    s fun but serious,&
    Mitzel said. &
    When it comes time to swim, he doesn&
    t mess around.&
    The Ashland team has two more meets and 15 workouts before regionals.
    is a correspondent for the Ashland Daily Tidings. To comment on this article, contact Sports Editor Joe Zavala at 482-3456 ext. 3020 or joe.zavala@dailytidings.com.
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