Head Coach Paul Murphy ’84 and Assistant Coach Catherine Carter have been coaching Andover Swimming together for the past 19 years. Murphy and Carter look to lead the team to a win against Phillips Exeter Academy and in the New England Championships at the end of the season. This past weekend, Murphy and Carter led the team to a 4th place finish at the Easterns Championship.
Due to Murphy’s extensive background as both a swimmer and coach, along with Carter’s calm demeanor, the team has continued to extend its history with a competitive and successful season, according to Sofia Smirnov ’22.
“Mr. Murphy is definitely the one who pushes us the most in terms of practices. He is the one who always makes the hard sets and gives us less rest to push our endurance. Before any meet, we’ll all gather together and he will lead and motivate us through his words. Coach Carter is very motivational as well and there for us in every way possible. She is a bit more laid back, because she understands that we have really hard practices. In that sense, I think they work really well together, because their energies really balance each other out,” said Smirnov.
In addition, Murphy and Carter keep in constant communication with all swimmers on the team, which helps swimmers accomplish their season goals, according to Co-Captain Grace Hitchcock ’20.
Hitchcock added, “Mr. Murphy and Coach Carter are incredibly open to collaboration from the captains in particular, but also from other swimmers on the team. I think that is a really important quality for our team’s performance, because it means that they are really there to facilitate what we as a team want to accomplish and that they’re willing to go the extra mile to see that that happens. It also means that they’re incredibly open to listening to the swimmers which I think is really important, because we have the best sense of our personal abilities and capabilities.”
What is your background in swimming?
Coach Murphy: So I started swimming [at Andover], which is not done anymore—most people come in as swimmers. I was introduced to the sport here and then just got better and better when I was in college. I really enjoyed it when I was there and applied for one job to come back and be a teaching fellow here at my old school. I ended up teaching math and coaching [Andover Boys Swimming] the first year I was here. Ever since 1991, I moved to the Girls team.
Coach Carter: I tried competitive swimming for the first time at Grinnell College, a D3 team with no cuts, and it was a formative experience in my life, even though I wasn’t winning many or any races.
What is your favorite part of coaching Andover Girls Swimming?
Coach Murphy: My favorite part is watching people progress through the season and progress from sometimes [Junior Year to Senior Year]. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down, but I like seeing the progression and having people’s hard work pay off. I think it’s really exciting.
Coach Carter: I love working with such a dedicated team of swimmers who work hard to perfect their own races in an effort to reach group goals—it’s inspiring! They are also really fun, and I like their practice playlists.
What is the most diffic[a][b]ult part of being a coach?
Coach Murphy: The most difficult part of being a coach—which isn’t hard but it is part of being a coach—is helping people through a dip or not a great season or meet. I think that is hard sometimes. It is part of being a coach and I’ve been doing it long enough to know that there is always a better day ahead.
What makes Andover Girls Swimming unique to other teams/schools?
Coach Murphy: I often get told by other teams and coaches that what stands out about our team is that the camaraderie is really evident and real. I think we spend a good deal of time on this in the beginning of the season. I believe that people who are athletes will do best when they’re happy. I think happiness comes from having a good time in practice and meets and just supporting one another.
How do your coaching styles differ but also complement each other?
Coach Murphy: We’re good friends, which I think is helpful to everybody. We talk a lot about the team but also just support each other on deck and during practice. I think we complement each other in that as the head coach, sometimes swimmers don’t want to come to be directly, but they are happy to go to the assistant coach. [Coach Carter] plays a really important in-between role sometimes for students, and because there are 20 kids on the team, there is no way I can necessarily appeal to everybody, so it’s nice to have someone to share that with.
As the season is coming to a close, what are your hopes going into Exeter and New Englands?
Coach Murphy: We had such a good weekend at Easterns, so I’m feeling good about our prospects as long as everyone stays healthy and uninjured. I think Exeter is having a bit of a rebuilding year, so that will be okay, but you never know. It’s Andover/Exeter, so it could go either way.
Coach Carter: I’d love to see us beat Exeter and win Interschols; we have so much depth this year, and after seeing the times at Easterns I have a lot of faith in our taper and in the girls’ determination to swim even faster at the end of the season.
What is a message you try to convey to your swimmers before a race?
Coach Murphy: Some people are very nervous and don’t want to be talked to, [while] some are very nervous and do want to be talked to. I try to figure out who those people are. When I was a swimmer, I think I didn’t want a coach talking to be too much before a race, because I was too focused at the time. [But] other people really liked talking about what you’re focusing on, turns, the third 50 in a 200, which is the hardest part of a race. So I talk a little bit about the progression of a race often to them, and mostly we spend a lot of time in practice talking about technique and putting the details together in practice, because you don’t have time to think about that during a race… You might go fast, but you’re going to burn out. In swimming, you need to last through the rest of the meet or rest of the season, so we’re doing pretty well on that.