Callie Eyman-Casey

From student-athlete to assistant coach

The first time Callie Eyman-Vavroch swam the 200-yard race, she was afraid. As a sprint freestyler for Grinnell College, she was used to swimming the “short and sweet” 50- and 100-yard races.

“I was so scared that I didn't have the endurance to make it through the race. I went super slow and it was awful,” Eyman-Vavroch recalled. “It wasn't even like I was racing. It was more like a warmup.”

But she pushed through the race. “I just had to keep telling myself to trust my body and my training,” she said. “It's funny because this is exactly what I tell the kids when they ask me how to swim the 200.”


Swimming has always been a part of Eyman-Vavroch's life. She began swimming competitively when she was 9 years old at her local club, then joined her high school's swim team. But by the time she was ready to start college in 2010, she wasn't sure if she would continue ⁠— the stress of swimming for almost a decade had damaged her left shoulder, and she needed surgery.

Erin Hurley, Grinnell College's swim coach for over 25 years, encouraged her to try it anyway. “I'm really glad I did because of the support system that I had with the team. It was an immediate group of friends when I got to school,” Eyman-Vavroch said.

Eyman-Vavroch underwent shoulder surgery after her freshman swim season. The recovery process was rougher than she expected. “I didn't realize how fiercely independent — almost to a fault — I can be sometimes. I had to learn how to ask for help when I needed it, and that was a hard thing to do.”

Yet it was worth the initial pain. She continued to swim throughout college, becoming a top-eight finisher in the Midwest Conference five times.

Callie Eyman-Casey coaching at Grinnell College


After graduating in 2014 with a degree in chemistry, Eyman-Vavroch worked at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center. She soon realized that the medical field wasn't for her and applied to Grinnell Mutual's auditing department. She now works as an assurance analyst, which she loves because it allows her to solve problems by thinking outside of the box.

Eyman-Vavroch has also worked as the assistant swimming and diving coach at Grinnell College for almost four years. The role allows her to belong to a swimming family and to help collegiate athletes improve their performance. “The most rewarding thing is seeing someone put your advice into action,” she said.

Working as a coach has also taught her something new. “Sometimes, as a coach, when you're trying to change an athlete's stroke, you have to think about how to explain it in a way that makes sense to them. Those communication skills I've developed as a coach apply to my work at Grinnell Mutual, too.”

The transition from student-athlete to assistant coach felt natural, and she now considers Hurley a peer and a friend as well as a mentor ⁠— though Hurley hasn't forgotten her student’s swimming days.

“It's funny because every time Coach Hurley hears me talking to someone else about swimming the 200, I think she kind of giggles a little bit. She's told me that ‘I would never have thought that you would be coaching someone on the 200 after that day.’”

In the spring semester of 2020, the first group of swimmers that Eyman-Vavroch has coached all four years had their goodbyes cut short when Grinnell College closed its doors due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.

“We had a little impromptu pizza party, but I don’t know that it had sunk in that that would be our goodbye,” she said. But she's hopeful she'll see them when they return as alumnae to support meets.

Outside of assistant coaching, Eyman-Vavroch teaches private swim lessons during the summer and volunteers weekly at the local animal shelter.

And she is always encouraging people to get into the water. “I think a lot of people take for granted being comfortable in the water. I will say that I know many adults who are afraid of water and who have asked me to teach them to swim,” she said.

After conquering the 200-yard race herself, she knows exactly what to tell people about tackling their fears.

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