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Elerding brothers to get in the swim of coaching local teams

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Joey Elerding, a Sunnyside Christian High School junior, recently returned from Junior Nationals, where he placed in the top 50. He will be an assistant coach this summer with the Grandview Neptunes youth swim team.

In the Lower Valley the name Elerding is synonymous with swimming excellence at local, state and national levels.

Now, brothers Patrick and Joey are about to add to their swimming repertoire, putting on the coaching whistle to help lead local youth teams this summer.

Joey, a junior at Sunnyside Christian High School, will be an assistant coach for the Grandview Neptunes swim team, while Patrick, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, will take the helm of the Sunnyside Sharks program.

Both have plenty of know-how in the water, with Patrick, 20, and Joey, 17, combining for about 25 years of competitive swimming experience.

The sons of Dr. Steven and Linda Elerding of Prosser, the two have competed well.

Joey just returned from Junior Nationals in Florida, where he placed 49th out of 80 competitors from around the country in a 1,650-meter freestyle event. His finish assured him a berth in next year's Junior Nationals.

Patrick was a State champion for the Knights as a junior swimming the 100 breaststroke.

A 2005 SCHS graduate, Patrick still swims competitively and next year will move to North Carolina where he will compete as a scholarship athlete for the Gardner-Webb University swim team.

The brothers not only share a surname, swimming talent, a swimming hero (Olympian gold medalist Josh Davis), but a similar approach to coaching their respective swim teams this summer.

"I swam for Prosser as a youth," Patrick said. "The Sharks always beat us."

Now coach of the Sharks, Patrick said he feels his experience will be helpful in taking the club team's helm.

"I think it will be fun," he said. "I've done competitive swimming at every level except the Olympics. I think that will help a lot of these kids."

Patrick said his focus in coaching the youths will be technique rather than training.

"It will depend on the age level," he says. "With the younger kids I don't believe in making them train. They're going to get faster by learning their technique." Of the older swimmers under his tutelage, Patrick noted, "For the older kids technique is part of it, but there will be more speed work and training."

Though they were interviewed by phone in separate visits, thousands of miles apart, Joey sounded a similar refrain.

"I'm mainly going to work on improving their technique," he said of the young Neptune swimmers he'll assist. "You can pound on the yards in practice, but it's better to get their swimming technique down, it will make it easier and more efficient for them."

That's not to say that swimming, and doing it well, is easy.

Far from it, the brothers Elerding will tell you.

Patrick for example, is still recovering from surgery to repair both of his shoulders following tears earlier this year.

In fact, he'll still be rehabbing those wings when coaching season rolls around. Patrick's also planning to compete for a shot at senior nationals in hopes of earning an Olympic berth.

He and Joey both say that sacrifices must be made to reach the highest levels of competitive swimming.

Besides the physical wear and tear, such as Patrick's shoulder injuries, there is the time element.

The Elerding brothers both compete year-round with swim clubs, in addition to their high school or college team competition.

"The main thing is time," Patrick said of practice needed to excel in the water. "In high school you need to practice two or three hours a day. In college it's four or six hours a day. The higher level you reach, the more time it takes to train."

That in turn means hitting the top marks in competitive swimming takes time away from other possible pursuits, such as training and competing in other sports.

"If you do competitive swimming with year-round training it's hard to do other sports," Patrick said. "You miss out on some things you could be doing." He added with a laugh, "Then again it keeps you out of trouble!"

With all they share in common-including their love of swimming and the work ethic that goes with it-about the only thing separating the brothers is that they'll be on opposite sides of the pool when it comes time for the Sharks and Neptunes to tangle this summer.

"It'll be interesting," Joey laughed. "I think Sunnyside usually has the stronger team, but I'm not scared."

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