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Mother knows best in pool, too

(ran PW, PS editions)

It sounds like every teenager's nightmare.

Get up every morning, head to school. Mom's already there, teaching class.

After school, head to swim practice. Mom's already there, coaching the team.

Go home, and look, there's Mom again.

Huddle together with Coach for some last-minute strategy before an important meet, and, well, there's Mom again.

Only Ridgewood swimmer Matt Vien isn't embarrassed to have his mom, Sue, coach him.

"It has it's good and it's bad," Matt said. "Like (Monday) night when I was swimming, I didn't really have a good night at swim practice, and she was on my back. But she's a great coach, for the whole team."

There are benefits to having Mom as a coach, of course. When her son swims in the first state meet of his career Friday on the Rams' 400 free relay team at the Class 2A meet at the International Hall of Fame Aquatic Center in Fort Lauderdale, she'll be there to help guide and root him on.

"No, I didn't think I'd get that far," Matt said. "I always dreamed of going there, but I didn't think I could get there."

Matt started swimming at a relatively old age _ as a freshman.

"I didn't know I wanted to be a swimmer until my freshman year," Matt said. "My mom told me to try it."

He was one of the original Rams when the sport was instituted four years ago, and swam for former Ridgewood coach Mary Keane's Lansbrook Aquatic Center club team.

Mom was excited to see him come out, too.

"I was thrilled to see one of my kids interested in a sport I was coaching," said Sue, who is also the girls track coach. "No one in my family likes to run, but I swam in high school and he wanted to be a swimmer from the get-go.

"Trust me, it's not all gravy. There's times when you'd like to discipline him, and he knows how to push his mother's buttons."

But then, Mom knows how to push his buttons, too.

"When she's watching me, she's just on my butt because I'm the team captain and she wants me to do really good," Matt said. "But she's not just on my case, she gives it to a lot of people but she does give a lot of it to me."

Matt swims the third leg of the 4x100 relay with teammates Michael Mansfield, Dan McCarthy and Brooks McNichols. They finished third at districts with a time of 3 minutes, 50.46 seconds, just .10 of a second off the team's best.

"I just jumped for joy," he said. "Once I saw Brooks pull away from the pack, I started jumping up and down. I can always rely on him to finish strong."

Having Mom instruct you at practice also helps in another way: Coach knows how busy her son is. Matt wants to be an orthodontist, and is taking classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College and Ridgewood to do just that. Then there's that part-time job at Hollywood 18 theaters.

"It's got to be to tough when you have your mom there hanging over your neck, expecting more from you," Sue said. "I think we both go through our share of frustration, but when it all comes together it's so neat, because you appreciate the whole picture and the sacrifices he makes.

"I don't have to constantly ride him although he'll tell you I do."