Christian Fossum aiming to build culture as new Dakota Riptide coach

May 11—MITCHELL — Things have come full circle for Christian Fossum.

When the Mitchell native started swimming at 7 years old, it was with the Mitchell Aquatic Club. And now, starting June 1, he'll be the new head coach of the Dakota Riptide back home in Mitchell.

"It's really exciting," Fossum said. "It's something I'm really looking forward to doing now that I can lead the club that I swam for in middle and high school."

As a swimmer, Fossum had a decorated career at MAC. He was a three-time state champion in the 200-yard fly, two-time state champion in the 100 fly, a champion in the 200 individual medley and the 200 backstroke and held the Mitchell High School records in the 500 free, 1,000 free, 1,650 free, 100 fly, 200 fly and the 400 individual medley when he graduated, and he went on to compete at the Division I level at the University of South Dakota.

He said that during his time at USD he learned a lot about team building and culture, and it's something he plans to bring to the Riptide.

"I think I need to really meet some of the swimmers that are on the team now and start building those relationships with them," Fossum said. "Just building that team culture. We want to have a positive, fun, uplifting environment for all our athletes. ...

"That culture is really something that can help you through some of the bad days you have and make the good days even better," he added.

With the Mitchell Recreation Center's indoor pool being out of commission for a nine-month period that included the of the winter 2022-23 swim season, there were a number of swimmers who left the Riptide for other clubs in Sioux Falls. And while Fossum understands getting back the swimmers who left may be tough, he's hopeful some athletes will return.

"Hopefully over time, they'll give it a shot again and they'll come to enjoy it again as well," he said.

Outside of his swimming experience, Fossum also brings coaching experience to Mitchell with him. During his time in Vermillion, he was an assistant coach with the Vermillion Area Swim Team, and he said it helped him learn how to better coach on the fly during a meet.

In the short term, Fossum is focused on building a culture and positive environment with the Riptide, but in the long term, the Mitchell native wants to leave the program better than he found it.

"Just building the program up to where it was at before the pool in Mitchell shut down and then surpassing it," he said. "Just improving the program, getting our numbers back up again, getting kids in the community interested and loving swimming from a young age is really my long-term focus. Just to build the interest back up again and get a good group of kids and athletes that just love swimming."