At the beginning of their 2023-2024 season, the men’s and women’s swimming teams gained a new member: head coach Jacob Ragsdell.
Ragsdell’s main duty is to advise swimmers on their technique, help them drop time during races and get the entire team to be as fast as they can be.
From age five, Ragsdell said he could always be found in swimming pools. Throughout his youth, Ragsdell constantly relocated because of his father’s military involvement, allowing him to swim anywhere from Hawaii to Virginia on multiple club teams.
After high school, Ragsdell attended Ouachita Baptist University, where he studied business management and swam backstroke and Individual Medley for five years. Upon graduation, Ragsdell was offered a job as head coach for the Columbia Swim Club but ultimately decided to go into waste management sales instead. After three years, he realized he missed coaching.
“I wanted to help people. All my biggest role models were swim coaches growing up, so I just wanted to be that positive influence on a swimmer’s life and give back a little bit,” Ragsdell said.
After interviewing at Truman State University, Ragsdell said he found his place.
He was searching for a small-town vibe and enjoyed how close he was to family members that lived in Kirksville and Columbia, Mo.
“I loved the campus, and I thought the people were awesome. The team has had a really successful history in the past, and I knew they had a good [swimming] program, so I just wanted to be a part of it,” Ragsdell said.
Ragsdell said when he started as a coach he was excited to join the staff, and after the team’s first week of practice, he knew he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Throughout the first couple weeks of practice, Ragsdell has worked on multiple parts of the team. Every day of the week, the team engaged in different activities corresponding to an exercise, such as sprint work and aerobic-free activities.
Although Ragsdell has largely focused on the physical aspects of the team, he has also tried to connect with them individually and get to know their strengths. The swim team manager, Maggie Laux, said she saw results within the first week.
“Just from what I’ve seen, I think everybody is already adjusted to him, and they all like him a lot. He’s bringing really good vibes to the whole team and is doing a good job mixing in technique and a little bit of fun here and there, but also some good hard work,” Laux said.
Laux said, overall, she felt this year was the most positive she’s seen the team and that Ragsdell was building solid relationships that would make the swimmers want to come back for more.
Before becoming the swim manager at Truman, Laux swam on multiple club teams and worked as a head coach to the Columbia Hurricanes Swim Team the past two summers. As a frequent swimmer, Laux said she had seen many different coaching styles but none like Ragsdell’s.
“It’s interesting to see another way to approach how to coach swimming from a swimmer and coach standpoint. His style will bring a lot of improvement to the team as a whole. They’ll be a lot more excited to come to practice every day,” Laux said.
Ragsdell said his biggest personal goal this season was to motivate his swimmers to the best of his ability and help them swim the fastest they can.
The Bulldogs started their season Sept. 16 with their Alumni Meet and will swim Oct. 7 for their Dual Meet at William Jewell College.