BAM’s Cheadle wins Masters coaching award

April Cheadle
April Cheadle

The nomination didn’t come as a surprise for Bainbridge Aquatic Masters swimming coach April Cheadle, but the award did.

Cheadle, who is in her third season heading the masters program for adults 18 and over on the island, won the Pacific Northwest Association of Masters Swimming PNA Coach of the Year. It’s a first for Cheadle and likely a first for BAM, which has been in existence for at least two decades.

“It really is an honor to my team because they’re the ones that took the time and effort and committed to be part of the team,” Cheadle said of the award, adding her team is an “inspiration for me as a coach. I feel like it’s a recognition for them as well.”

The PNW Masters covers all of western Washington with close to 60 teams — which range from two to 140 members.

Cheadle is not new to the coaching/teaching field. She is an elementary education teacher, but is currently not in a classroom. Cheadle graduated from Eastmont High in Wenatchee — she swam distance free and individual medley — and swam for the University of Washington.

BAM has doubled in size since Cheadle’s arrival — going from 70 to about 140 members.

BAM member Eileen McSherry wrote in the nomination form about Cheadle:

“When I returned to BAM after cancer surgery, a bit scared and lacking confidence in my body, she knew just the right words to let me know that she believed in me and my ability to heal, at my own pace and with the support of the team.

“She treated me like I was going to be normal again. I am sure that she was part of the miracle that led to my remission.”

Cheadle said the admiration is mutual.

When she joined BAM, she found a group of adults open to change and ready to be challenged, Cheadle said.

“That’s the thing that inspires me,” she said. “(To) work with adult athletes of all abilities, willing to trust you and try something new. I give them all my creativity and knowledge. I just love that combination.”

Cheadle, who is also an assistant coach with the Bainbridge Island Swim Club, said she especially enjoys the masters program because it’s not limited by time, like coaching club or high school in-season only.

“I appreciate that these are lifelong learners,” she said. “I have all the time in the world as long as they put in the effort.”