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Julington Creek swim coach remembered as motivator, innovative

Shawn Delifus coached for Loggerhead Aquatics

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A beloved swim coach with Julington Creek Loggerhead Aquatics in St. Johns County passed away Friday.

Head Age Group Coach Shawn Delifus died unexpectedly, Head Coach Mark Corley wrote on the organization's Facebook page.

"Coach Shawn was an incredibly talented coach with a vision for our program and community that made him one-of-a-kind in swimming," wrote Corley.

Loggerhead Aquatics held a special meeting Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Recreation Center, where a counselor was available to speak with the team.

It was apparent from his first week on the job that Delifus was going to be beloved.

"He was very extraordinary. No one could replace him and he has such a drive. He had such a passion for this sport," said David Gapinski, 13.

When his swimmers pushed him into the pool after he completed the ice bucket challenge, it would be the first of many of his unconventional motivational ways.

He was a coach, motivator, friend and big brother. Parents said he always pushed his swimmers to reach heights they never thought possible.

"Shawn was a bundle of energy and when he coached on deck, that energy was infectious and all the kids, he got them to do things that they didn't want to do," Corley said. "It's stunning to think that somebody that seemed, you know, in the prime of his life, and totally healthy and his number was called and makes you wonder how precious life is and how things can change."

His innovative coaching style introduced swimmers in Julington Creek to underwater video cameras, virtual reality glasses showing proper technique, and blackout goggles to visualize their strokes.

It was all to make his swimmers the best they could be.

At championship meets he always wore his trademark tie -- blue and green team colors -- telling swimmers, "if we expect you to look your best, you should expect the coaches to look their best too."  

He was an avid Star Wars aficionado, often quoting the great philosopher Yoda. “Do or do not, there is no try,” he would often tell his swimmers.

Swimmers say Delifus had an unconventional coaching style that changed the game.

"He has pushed to me to the limits every day, and I feel like that's helped me tremendously in my swimming," said Raymond Prosinski, 10.

The team said they will miss his infectious smile and positive attitude, and that will continue to inspire them to keep going.

"He's done so much for me. It's unbelievable. I don't think anyone else in the world could do what he did for me," David said.

The Loggerhead Aquatics website said Delifus came to Julington Creek from the Blue Eagle Swim Team in Pennsylvania.

Previously he coached two years at the YMCA of Central Florida in Orlando, where he became friends with Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines (pictured).

Delifus also coached five years at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast in Jacksonville.

The website said Coach Shawn’s combination of swimming knowledge and proven record of success earned him an ASCA Level 4 certification, which placed him in the top 8-9% of swim coaches in the USA.

The Loggerhead Aquatics swim team and entire swimming community in Jacksonville said this is an incredible loss.