This was probably the only way for Coach Paul Murphy ’84 to follow up one of the most successful seasons in Andover Women’s Swimming. His PA team won the New England Championships, going undefeated in the process. And now, The Lawrence Eagle Tribune has named Murphy the Swimming Coach of the Year. Perhaps the reason that Murphy has had such success as coach of the Andover Girls Swimming team is that he does not really consider himself a coach at all. Rather, he believes he plays more of a motivational role. Instead of drowning the swimmers with loads of advice and criticism, he has found that it does nothing to establish himself as king of the pool deck. He said of his team, “Basically everyone who is on the team is a hard worker on their own, not only in swimming but in everything they choose to dedicate themselves to at Andover. As coach, I would say I’m 90% a motivator for them to consistently work hard, to improve, and to have fun.” This season, Murphy, along with assistant coach Ginger Fay, helped give the hard working Lady swimmers the help they needed in order to achieve their goal of becoming back-to-back Interschol Champions. Of Mr. Murphy’s commitment to winning, Captain Sarah Demers ’03 said, “He likes to win, but he likes even more to see us enjoying ourselves and the team spirit – seeing him get so into all of the different aspects of being a swim team really makes us want to do better – for ourselves, each other, and for him and Ms. Fay.” This competitiveness in a relaxed and fun loving environment has worked well for Murphy. He coaches a team that not only wins their meets but enjoys every aspect of the sport. Commenting on the difficulty of training a team to back-to-back championship status during the brutal Andover winter term he said, “It’s hard to have a season strategy. Everyone is so busy here and there are so many factors in each individual’s life – school, sickness, friends; everything is so close. I find it easier and more productive to make plans week by week, instead of one major strategy for the whole term.” However, one of his season long goals for his teams is for the girls to achieve a sense of their team as a whole, even though swimming is generally seen as just an individual sport. With the dual meet setup, every swimmer counts and has many opportunities to contribute to the team – be it in distance events, sprint events, relays, or cheering. The swimmers have to be willing to race in a multitude of events, so Mr. Murphy can arrange the best possible line-up. “I like to make sure that my younger swimmers try every event and don’t specialize too soon. It’s important that they see that they can do anything, and I try really hard to make them see how talented they all are. Then, I think they end up contributing more to the team by the time they are upperclassmen and can specialize because they appreciate hard work, and trying everything.” Commented Demers, “Mr. Murphy understands that everyone, no matter what their strengths, is a part of the team and that makes everyone feel more comfortable and happy to be there and competing.” In a sport that is both largely dependent on individual and team achievement, Murphy has apparently found the winning combination. Murphy has truly found the winning combination for swimming and for coaching. The question will be whether the team and Murphy can use this to go for their third straight New England Championship title next March.
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