From diving to swimming to water polo, Coach Elrick, affectionately called Chuck by his students, has been coaching for forty-eight years.
After starting in college in 1973, Elrick launched his career as a diving coach. He moved to Amity and Notre Dame high schools. In 1976, Seymour High School asked him to be the head coach of the boys’ swim team. After traveling around a few club teams, Chuck formed the New Haven Mariners club program in 1981, which is now known as the Hopkins Mariner Swim Team. Two years later, he came to Hopkins school to be the coach. “I was hired by Hopkins in the fall of 1983 to take over the swim team from Bud Erich…[who] was retiring and wanted me to apply for the position...At that time Hopkins did not have a pool but was planning the construction of the Athletic Center. The school asked me to work with the architects to design a pool, now known as the Bud Erich Natatorium.”
As Elrick was growing the swim team, a student petitioned for a water polo program. Just two years later, the co-ed water polo team turned into a varsity sport. In 2004 Coach Elrick’s daughter, Elizabeth, asked for a seperate girls team, leading Chuck to coach diving, swimming, and water polo for both girls and boys.
In his thirty-seven years at Hopkins, Chuck has made many memorable moments. At the 1996 New England Swimming Championships, the Hopkins team pulled off a nail-biting relay to defeat Exeter, the previous five-year champions. In 1994, Chuck coached Hopkins’ first all American, Grant Gritzmacher, who was the diving National Champion for three years in a row. Another favorite memory of Elrick’s is when the girls’ varsity swim team broke the national record in the 200 freestyle relay. Through all these successes, however, Chuck stresses one thing: “If you don't love it, don't put yourself through it. Swimming is very tedious and boring...Every muscle in your body will ache. Water polo is the same. You are swimming constantly, and most of the time you have someone grabbing you or your suit. If you don't like contact this is not the sport for you.” Coach Elrick’s most notable achievements are through his athletes: “When I see them do really well that’s enough for me. I have been lucky enough to have coached at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the National Elite Camp, and I have been recognized by the New England Prep School coaches with the Distinguished Service Award. Neither of these awards would have been possible if it were not for the athletes that I have coached.”
He continually motivates his athletes through his strong belief that “it is better to expect hard work than it is to demand hard work.” Chuck prefers to guide instead of force. This year’s captain, Rita Roberts ’20, emphasizes this: “He’s so intense and cares about the swimmers so much. He really does want us all to succeed and that’s why the thought of letting him down is so scary. In conclusion, I love Chuck.” Ava Hamblett ’22 adds, “He taught me that even if you think a goal is out of reach, you have to trust your journey...you can come back and win as long as you have the drive and the heart.” As his coaching style has mellowed throughout the years, he has learned to “respect each athlete, and they will respect you. It is not a coach’s job to be the best friend to the athletes. When they respect you it means so much more.” Water Polo captain Julius Herzog ’20, says, “He was always a constant in a time when so many things were changing for me, and just his presence was always enough to get me to call myself out on my shit when I was skipping laps or not giving 100 percent.” His swimmers all agree that a “Chuck hug” is the ultimate reward at the end of a season. Each year Coach Elrick welcomes a new team into his pool and each year he gains their respect.
Looking ahead, Chuck remarks upon the upcoming 2020-2021 year. “After graduating 12 seniors, next winter will be a rebuilding year. Nothing changes about the program expectations, the only thing that changes is the faces.” He keeps coming back each year to achieve new goals that he sets and keep things fresh. But his desire to “watch someone swim faster than they have ever gone before” is what truly keeps him coming back. Luckily, Hopkins won’t be getting rid of Chuck for a while: “A lot of people ask me when I'm going to retire. My answer is that I would like to continue doing what I am doing until Hopkins feels they have had enough of me.”