Under the Sun: Interviews ~ Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma Valley Sun


Under the Sun: Jane Hansen, a life aquatic 

Posted on April 15, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The longtime operator of the Sonoma Aquatic Club, Hansen, coach of several champion high school teams, now runs the Sonoma Splash community pool at Sonoma Valley High School. 

Tell us about your personal background. 

I was born in San Francisco to British parents. I grew up in Terra Linda, with a brief couple of years in Texas. I have three siblings and we were a very competitive bunch. As the youngest girl I was always striving to keep up with my older sisters. I think this helped give me tenacity in life. 

It’s all about the water. 

Swimming was part of my life from day one as we had a pool in the backyard. I was taught to swim formally at Ann Curtis Swim School and swam competitively for 13 years mostly, in the Marin Swim League but also for Indian Valley Aquatic Club and the Woodlands in Texas. Being a swimmer was my identity. I also loved gymnastics, playing with my friends, having adventures. As a teen, I was one of the first girls to play water polo in Marin and played on the boy’s high school team. I was hooked and knew I wanted to pursue it in college. UCSD recruited me and decided to play there for Denny Harper, who just retired last year after 40 years of college coaching. 

What brought you to Sonoma? 

My husband Tom and I came to Sonoma in 1995 because it was the halfway point between where we were working at the time. We loved the small-town community feel and met great friends after having our first child in 1999. When our first child was 3 years old I taught her friend group how to swim, having been a swim teacher in high school. When my kids were 5 and 7, and we were looking for a team for them, I had to start one as none existed at the time. The Sea Dragons were resurrected in 2007 and began competing in 2008.

You’ve been very successful as a coach. 

I’ve always loved sports. I guess I was a bit of a tomboy. I watched every 49ers game as a kid and knew every player’s jersey number. I was even a Niner for Halloween one year, complete with eye black! In college my freshman year when I was riding the bench quite a bit I listened to everything my coach said. He was great at explaining what was going on in the game. 

What did you learn from him?

I loved learning about the strategy, and watching him out-coach other coaches. He also made me want to be the best player I could be, and the best teammate. I want to pass along to this generation the love of swimming or water polo and teach them how to be better swimmers and better teammates. I also want them to see that together they can achieve something great. I think that helps build team spirit, which in turn affects performance.

It’s a hard sport and takes hard work. How do you keep the kids motivated? 

It’s true, it is a really hard sport and their faces are in the water most of the time. I try to make sure each swimmer feels that I care and that I have feedback for them everyday.  After a few weeks they can see and feel that their efforts are paying off, which usually excites them. When they get a time drop or a win, it makes them hungry for more.

How’s it been opening this great new facility? 

Opening the new facility has been such an honor. I’m thrilled to be part of it. It has also been a huge task and I am lucky that I have a strong team working alongside me. There is no way that I could have done any of this without the incredible people who are working there. Gina Guzman (finance and employment coordinator) and Hanna Martin (assistant facility director) are with me in the back office, as well as Sarah Brady (swim lesson coordinator). All three are local Sonomans and are excellent at what they do. This community is truly lucky to have them and so am I. 

And Hannah is the new coach.

Hannah has also taken over the helm of the Sea Dragons from me and been the coach for the senior group. She has great success with her swimmers; she took one to sectionals last month. Having been a record-breaking swimmer herself who swam Division 1 at San Diego State, she knows what success looks like and how to get the kids there.

Married, kids? 

I have been married to my husband, Tom, for 25 years and have 2 daughters, Lizzie (23) and Meghan (21). Both girls grew up swimming for the Sea Dragons, playing water polo in high school, and then college.

If you could swim anywhere in the world…

At Sonoma Splash, of course! Actually, it is a gorgeous pool and so nice to swim in. I love swimming with my master’s group there. But, second would be Hawaii in some of the beautiful coves, and third would be La Jolla because I have fond memories of my college time there.

It was years and years in the making, but there’s finally a community pool. 

We are so fortunate to have this facility. In addition to the large, 16-lane competition pool, we also have a warm teaching pool for lessons, aqua exercise, therapy, and PE, as well as a community room to hold community classes like CPR, babysitters’ certification courses, and our kid’s camps. Our goal with this facility is to create an affordable and accessible option – whether for recreation or to increase their water safety. I truly feel that it will be the vibrant community hub we aim for it to be. I am so excited for the summer!

– Interview by Val Robichaud

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA