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UCLA swim and dive hires Tracy Slusser as temporary coach amid parental leaves

UCLA swim and dive temporary assistant coach Tracy Slusser holds a paper by the pool deck. Slusser is a former associate head coach for Stanford. (Courtesy of UCLA athletics)

By Aaron Doyle and Sabrina Baker

Feb. 22, 2024 2:31 p.m.

A new face will join the Bruins on the pool deck heading into championship season.

UCLA swim and dive welcomed Tracy Slusser as a temporary assistant coach for the remainder of the season. Coach Jordan Wolfrum will not be traveling with the team as she takes maternity leave, and assistant coach Wesley Foltz, who also just welcomed a baby, is on paternity leave. Slusser will join associate head coach Karissa Kruszewski.

After two years as an assistant, Slusser spent nine years as Stanford’s associate head coach and is set to usher a wealth of experience to Westwood.

The veteran coach said although she just joined the team, she is already familiar with it.

“I think the best part is, because Jordan and I have been so close over the years, I’ve been able to not have a direct role in seeing this team evolve, but through her, being able to hear her vision over the years, and really get to be with them now, and to see how it’s so much a reflection of who she is and her values,” Slusser said.

Slusser is herself familiar with going on maternity leave amid the swim season, as she began coaching at Stanford while pregnant.

The three-time national champion said another coach stepping in while one takes leave requires help from the team and the athletics department.

“It’s basically the administration stepping up and saying, ‘Yes, this is important for not only the athletes, but also for our staff that’s on leave to know that their people are taken care of,”’ Slusser said. “College coaching is like, ‘Take what you need’ and that can sound great. At the same time, when you don’t have anybody stepping in for you, it also feels like a sense of urgency to get back.”

The California Family Rights Act offers 12 weeks of maternity leave. With a six-month long swim season, a coach could be on maternity leave for up to half of it.

Slusser said in her experience, it can feel pressing to return when there isn’t someone filling in.

“If I had had somebody come in for me to say, ‘Hey, I am going to cover these three months or six months,’ or whatever that is, that would probably feel very different stepping away,” Slusser said.

Wolfrum and Slusser have a friendship that extends beyond the pool deck. Wolfrum said in a statement that she and Slusser share similar philosophies toward the sport.

“For 10 years, I’ve had an incredible friendship with Tracy, during which we have frequently shared ideas and debated how to be and support better coaches in our sport,” Wolfrum said. “Tracy and I share a particular passion for elevating women coaches in the sport of swimming and diving, a sport in which there are far too few.”

Slusser said she gets the easy job in the grand scheme of things.

“I’m kind of like the grandparents that just get to come in and give hugs and high-fives and tell everybody they are awesome,” Slusser said.

(Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)
Coach Jordan Wolfrum points something out to
associate head coach Karissa Kruszewski. Kruszewski and temporary assistant coach Tracy Slusser will be leading UCLA swim and dive while Wolfrum is on maternity leave. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

While at Stanford, Slusser helped lead the team to 18 relay national championships and 30 individual national championships. Prior to the 2017 season, Slusser coached three Rio 2016 Olympians – Simone Manuel, Lia Neal and Maya DiRado – who accumulated nine Olympic medals, four of which were gold.

Slusser also has experience coaching an athlete often regarded as one of the greatest swimmers of all time, Katie Ledecky. Ledecky managed eight national championships and was a nine-time All-American under Slusser. Atop her accolades, she broke NCAA records 15 times and American records 11 times during her collegiate career.

Slusser’s expertise is rooted in her time as a collegiate swimmer herself. Slusser graduated from Purdue in 2006 and was the first Boilermaker in program history to go under 23 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.

After 11 seasons at Stanford, Slusser stepped down to pursue a new path in leadership and executive coaching. Slusser said her role as a temporary assistant coach gives her the opportunity to serve a group of people in a sport she is closely connected to.

“I stepped away knowing I was super satisfied with the career I had, yet still hungry to step into a new space,” Slusser said. “I could not be more thrilled to step in and help (Wolfrum) as she gets to welcome her first child and her family.”

As Wolfrum takes her maternity leave, Slusser will step into the championship stretch of the Bruins’ season.

UCLA will head to Federal Way, Washington to compete in its final Pac-12 Championship from Feb. 28 to March 2.

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Aaron Doyle
Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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