Student Viewpoint: Davis' legacy at Windsor more than championships


Editor’s note: Vince Valdes is a recently graduated senior from Windsor High, where he was a member of the football, basketball, track and swim teams. Windsor’s male scholar athlete of the year, Vince has been admitted as a member of the Air Force Academy. If you are, or know of, a student at any North Coast school who is interested in writing a Student Viewpoint for PD Preps, please contact Eric Wittmershaus at eric [dot] wittmershaus [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.


The standard definition of a coach – someone who trains an athlete or team – fails to sum up Catherine Davis, who is retiring as Windsor High School’s swim coach after seven years. For the athletes who learned from her, accolades, words on paper or the stroke of a pen fails to describe coach Davis and the legacy she is leaving.

I experienced her legacy firsthand swimming for the Jaguars. Going in with a football player’s mindset that muscle can do anything – which undoubtedly led to countless cramps and flops off the block – I came to realize swimming requires more than brute strength. It requires functionality. It does not require anger or frustration, but passion mixed with every stroke.

During my time as a swimmer, coach Davis taught me not only styles and strokes, but an art. I could immediately see what made her a good coach. It wasn’t the workouts she led that would lead to soreness that completely overshadowed that of a football game.  Nor was it the constant treading of the Healdsburg pool’s water that led to the smell of chlorine becoming second nature. Instead it was the love she had for water and the competitive drive, her fire, inside.

Catherine Davis desired purely for her athletes to feel what she felt after finishing a set, the euphoria found in the water. Her greatest coaching strategy was opening up her pupils’ eyes to the art and beauty of swimming, and the love and success that can be found in the sport.

Windsor sophomore and rising star Micaela Luders described it as “a love for swimming that expanded to a love for her athletes. She wanted to make us feel like champions, so she made it happen.”

But it wasn’t easy. Through work that would sideline or bench any other coach, Davis’ love for aquatics persisted. She sent hours when other coaches were sleeping or vacationing getting an advantage, allowing her competitive drive and her refusal to lose take over and allow her athletes to feel like champions.

She brought the sport of swimming, which was underacknowledged and underprivileged, up out of water through long hours and persistence that laid the foundation for names like Samuel Haley and Allie Davis to be etched into the memories of Empire swim fanatics.

Allie Davis, who will head to Purdue University next fall owning a number of team and Sonoma County League records, reminisced on four years of high school swimming under her mother’s guidance.

“I remember her countless late nights configuring the next lineup, or planning a story about a past memory from her swim years that she shared with us every Wednesday morning.”

When speaking of a coach, it is easy to speak of surface-level accomplishments. It is easy to speak of Davis leading a team more decorated than any in Empire history. We can talk about her training athletes who would go undefeated in all four of their years. We can talk of her completely engineering a school’s swim program, long before the football or basketball teams came into play. How she not only brought Windsor seven swim championships, but their only ones in history.

Any athletes who swam under Catherine Davis’ tutelage can agree her legacy is more than championships, records and scholarships to top colleges. More important is the love she had for water that she passed down to those seeking the same euphoria. Her enthusiasm, both as a disciple and a mentor, sprang from something so profound yet so simple as eight lanes and a pool. When years of coaching and carrying a childlike enthusiasm test a coach’s love for what they do, it builds an undeniable passion and irrefutable persistence. The championships and legacy came along the way.