By: Bob Tompkins of the Alexandria Town Talk (A Gannett Company)
After she enjoyed a stellar collegiate swimming career at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then called Northeast Louisiana University, a team performance award was named in her honor, the Leslie J. Stanley Award.
A full-time social worker in Alexandria, the 52-year-old Stanley started the new team, based at the Louisiana State University of Alexandria Fitness Center pool, in May after having been an assistant coach for the Louisiana College Aquatics Team since last October.
She started the team, she said, “to provide kids in this area — south Alexandria and the surrounding areas — an opportunity for age-group swimming.” She will also be the swim coach for the new University Academy at the LSUA campus.
She said “roughly 27” youngsters are on the team and at the team’s last meet three swimmers — Maddie Carson and Ben and Miranda Marchand — each placed high in their events and qualified for the state championships.
“I expect some of my swimmers will qualify for Sectionals and the Zone Championships,” she said.
Carson, the All-Cenla Female Swimmer of the Year last year, and the brother-sister Marchand duo all competed in USA Swimming formerly for LCATS in Pineville.
“I needed a more competitive place to train,” said Carson, a 15-and-over swimmer who competed in the Sectionals last March in Florida. “I like the coach and her values and the way she works us and the way she pushes me.”
“I like it pretty good,” said Miranda Marchand, 13, noting coach Stanley “definitely does work us a lot harder than we were used to. There’s a lot more dry-land training than just running.”
Ben Marchand, 14, said dry-land work includes push-ups, sit-ups, stretching, sprints and isometrics.
“I have noticed I have improved a lot since I switched over,” he said, noting his swimming goal was “looking forward to going as far as I can go.”
Carson, who had a top-20 finish in the 100-backstroke at Sectionals last March, said her goal is to win at Sectionals.
Stanley is going to try to help her swimmers achieve their goals.
Her coaching philosophy, she said, is “to give any kid the opportunity to compete to the level they want to reach,” including those with high goals of winning state championships and getting college scholarships.
Stanley began age-group swimming at age 10 in New Orleans and became a national junior qualifier and got a college scholarship while swimming for coach Dick Bower, under whom she learned some things about coaching.
“He really taught me about the importance of being technically correct in the water and perfecting the technicalities in each of the strokes,” Stanley said about Bower.
Her college coach, John Pennington, “taught me about being a tough swimmer and working very hard. He taught me how to get more out of kids than they think they can do, and then teaching them to have that belief in themselves.”
“I think she’s a fantastic coach,” said Samantha Carson, Maddie’s mother. “She’s handling little kids up to elite swimmers.”
Stanley, who has a loud, animated coaching style, said when she screams, “I’m screaming for them. I’m constantly coaching. I’m never one who sits down, always standing and very engaged in what they’re doing.”
Stanley said she moved from Baton Rouge to Alexandria, where she had done an internship as a social worker, because she “wanted to get back to a smaller town” and had “lots of friends here.”
Maddie Carson said Stanley has team members swimming as much as 6,000 or 7,000 yards each practice, compared to the 2,000 per practice they averaged with LCATS.
“I really like coach Joie,” Carson said. “I think she can take us however far we want to go. She introduces us to things (in swimming) we’ve never heard about. She also makes a point to talk to us about what might concern us. I’m excited and looking forward to improving.”
Stanley graduated from ULM in 1985 with a degree in psychology.
Photo Courtesy Melinda Martinez of the Alexandria Town Talk
Note: This article originally appeared in the June 13, 2014 edition of the Alexandria Town Talk.