Nick Bradford beginning first college coaching gig at Penn State Behrend

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 at 11:58 AM
Nick Bradford beginning first college coaching gig at Penn State Behrend by Nate Steis
Photo courtesy of Edinboro Athletics

ERIE – For 2020 Edinboro graduate Nick Bradford, coaching and the athletics industry is in his DNA. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” is something that could be said as similar to his father. Nick Bradford finds himself in the coaching industry as the assistant men’s and women’s swimming coach for the Penn State Behrend Lions. 
Bradford’s father, Wayne, is a former Edinboro Head Football coach who is now a member of the Cathedral Prep Ramblers football program coaching staff. For over two decades, Wayne Bradford coached in the college ranks before making the move to the high school ranks. For Nick, coaching was something he has grown to know and love because of his father. 

Back in September, the Lions made it official as Bradford accepted the role just weeks before official practice began. Despite this, he is not a rookie coach as he has spent some time coaching club swimming alongside Gregg Sarback for the Peninsula Wave Riders (PWR). Coaching club swimming and lifeguarding was something he spent much of his first year out of college doing as he continued to search for a full-time job in athletics. 

After a year of searching and working a few jobs, he heard that the Penn State Behrend job had opened, something he thought little about before applying. While he is a young collegiate coach, he has a fresh perspective and experience from the Division II level he brings with him to the Behrend Lions. 

Bradford’s swimming career for the Fighting Scots included qualifying for the PSAC Championships in all four years of his college career while also being named a PSAC Swimmer of the Week during his time as a collegiate athlete. In high school, he won eight total letters, with four coming in swimming and four in golf. He was also named all-state as a member of a 200-yard individual-medley (IM) relay team, while picking up all-state honorable mentions in the 200-yard medley relay and the 500-yard freestyle. 

“I think I did the best I could,” said Bradford when reflecting on his time as a swimmer. “I started summer league at the County YMCA at 10, and I started winter at 14, so I was kind of late to the swimming world. Swimming was something I really fell in love with because of having a great friend group, and then I joined the high school team.” 

No question there were some growing pains when Bradford made swimming his number one sport as a freshman in high school, but his dedication showed as just a few years later, he joined a Division II swimming program under the direction of his first ever swimming coach, Chris Rhodes. 

At the time, Bradford’s father was a member of the football staff at Edinboro, something that played into his college decision. Edinboro also offered a few different majors he was interested in, including business and sports and recreation management. Bradford would ultimately study sports and recreation management with an athletic coaching minor, a degree and minor he completed in May 2020. 

From a young age, he saw the impact coaches can have on young people’s lives, and now it is his turn to become that mentor like his father, Bill Frick, Jim Graham, Dr. Shawn Ragan and Chris Rhodes were for him. 

“My biggest influence all of my life and to this day is my dad,” Bradford said. “He wakes up every day and loves what he does. He also showed that coaching is not just about what happens out on the playing field, but it is about showing the players you care while also doing your best to win. My dad is also someone who showed me the importance of show and don’t tell.” 

Bradford also shared how Bill Frick was someone he admired from an early age because of Frick’s influence on the football program when he was growing up in the General McLane School District. Frick was a coach during the Lancers state championship 15 years ago, an event that inspired Bradford and many others to help General McLane High achieve highly in athletics for years to come.  

While he enjoys traveling, he is happy to be sticking around the Erie County area; a place he feels has a great deal to offer. 

“It has been fun growing up in Erie County. I have seen people come and go, but overall, I think Erie County has some great communities and a lot of things to do here. There is some room for growth and Presque Isle is something that continues to keep people coming here from all over the world. I still believe there is so much potential here.” 

The Lancer turned Lion did not have to go far for his college experience, and now, his first full-time college coaching job. He has joined a program that has been one of the elite Division III traditions for the last two decades; something he has quickly found out in just a few weeks in the role. From his days swimming at the neighbors’ pool down the street to becoming a college coach, being involved in athletics is what Nick Bradford has worked hard to do, and it is what he is meant to do.  

Nate Steis, Sports Editor and Graduate Assistant | @EdinboroNow 

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