Herman Kelly is not your typical college professor. He swims laps at the crack of dawn, and he has a friendship with an LSU swimmer unlike any other.
This meaningful friendship started four years ago when Kit Hanley, a swimmer, was a student in his class her freshman year. Kelly had been a competitive swimmer all through high school and college but now needed to get back into swimming for exercise. Hanley went out of her way after class to talk to him about swimming. Kelly asked if she would coach him, and she said yes — this was the start of an incredible friendship.
“We just bonded because of the water,” Kelly said. “We just had that chemistry.”
There were many times where Hanley would get up early with Kelly or stay after practice to coach him. He has another coach now, but Hanley still gives him pointers. When she graduates, they will still stay in touch.
“She wanted to help me,” Kelly said. “She knew what my goals were.”
Hanley helped him prepare for his first competition, the Senior Olympics in 2018, and he won three first-place awards there. This year, he qualified for the National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He also is going to compete in three events for The State of Louisiana Meet in the fall.
There is never a doubt in Hanley’s mind that Kelly will be successful at these meets.
“I totally believe in you,” Hanley said to Kelly. “I am excited to help you achieve those goals.”
Hanley said they communicated a lot through Twitter. They would practice the butterfly and breaststroke techniques, plus dives and turns. She would record him on her phone and show Kelly what he could improve on from the recording. Kelly would always be appreciative of her help. He was very coachable, Hanley said, and whenever she would critique him, he would fix it right away and execute it well.
“He’s been really successful in his swim career,” Hanley said. “We have stayed in touch throughout the years.”
Hanley has seen him improve so much since the start of their first practice together and could not be more proud of him. Kelly went from belly flops to diving off the block like second nature, she said.
“He got the form down,” Hanley said. “He just inspires me.”
Hanley and Kelly are always willing to help each other, even outside of the water. Kelly’s wife is going through cancer treatment, and the two of them are planning to have a Swim for Life at Crawfish Aquatics, where Hanley will swim to help raise money for her treatment. Kelly is also giving back by teaching swimming lessons to children. He saw a need and decided to fulfill that need himself.
“God spoke back to me,” Kelly said. “Your gift is swimming.”