The new Verona Area Swim Team is turning to an accomplished athlete and coach to lead the fledgling program.

Emily Paradis was introduced as VAST’s head coach in a May 22 post on the team’s Facebook page.

“The most important thing people can expect is that I’m going to care about their kids,” she said. “Children have a lot on their plate nowadays and having a positive role model is huge. I’m going to care about them not just as an athlete, but as a person.

“I’ll coach to what each child wants, whether that’s a national-level swimmer or someone there for social reasons.”

Paradis will start at VAST this fall when the team begins operations. Madeleine Nelson – a Verona Area High School graduate and current assistant coach for both Verona Area/Mount Horeb’s boys and girls teams – was announced as VAST’s assistant coach in a May 29 post.

Paradis started her coaching career in 2007 as an assistant with the DeForest Aquatic Club. She became the head coach of the Green County YMCA in Monroe after her family moved to New Glarus in 2012. Three years later, she was named age-group coach of the year.

A native of Freeport, Illinois, Paradis lives in New Glarus with her husband Todd (principal at Parkside Elementary School in Monroe) and the couple’s four kids – Mazie (12), Harper (10), Lucy (8) and Brooks (5).

Instead of making a 20-minute drive south, she’ll be making a 20-minute drive north.

“I had a couple families approach me about helping restart a program in Verona,” Paradis said. “It’s a board-run club and I think they’d seen me coaching at other meets. They told me they liked what I was doing and if I’d be interested in the job.

“I felt pretty honored to be approached. There aren’t a lot of female head coaches in the state or in swimming in general.”

Paradis – a 2000 Freeport High School grad – was a three-time state champion in the 200-yard individual medley under the tutelage of her father and coach, Mike Pisula. He retired from coaching in 2013 after guiding the Pretzels’ girls team for 30 years and boys team for 26 years.

Paradis was the first swimmer in FHS history to win a state championship in 1997, then set state records in the 200 IM in 1998 and 1999. Her record stood until 2016. She still holds NIC-10 Conference Meet records for the 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke and 200 IM, and she swam on the Freeport teams that still hold the conference records in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.

Paradis went on to swim the breaststroke and individual medley for four years at the University of Wisconsin. She was an All-Big Ten selection, NCAA All-American and Big Ten champion in the 400 IM.

The former UW team captain broke the school record in the 400 IM (4:15.20) in 2001 – a mark that has since been broken by eight swimmers. She was an Olympic Trials qualifier in both breaststroke and IM events in 2000 and 2004.

“I feel like just because you’re a good swimmer doesn’t necessarily make you a good coach,” Paradis said. “I’ve learned to teach through multiple levels because of the coaches I had. I’m the coach to my own children, so I understand it from a parent’s perspective, too.”