Since first coaching Andover Girls Swim and Dive in 1991, Head Coach Paul Murphy ’84 has led the team to four New England titles, all while providing guidance for more than 25 All-Americans. He has been named Eagle-Tribune Coach of the Year three times, and his current career record stands at 193-44-3.
In his 31st season with the team, Murphy’s main motivation is being able to observe consistent improvement throughout each season. According to Murphy, excitement about achieving the end goal in a training sport like swimming is equally important as the training process itself.
“I think what keeps me in it is I really love the girls team. I think it’s been a long run with this team specifically. But I love watching the progress. I love watching people get faster during the season. I love the surprise on their faces when they pop a really fast race,” said Murphy.
In practice, Murphy describes himself as a “cheerleader,” especially during long and difficult sets. However, he prioritizes making the most out of meets to showcase the hard work of the team.
“On deck during meets, I tend to think much more about watching their technique and watching not their mistakes necessarily, but I’m watching about things they could’ve done better. And really trying to lift up each individual person because what they’ve done that day is usually pretty awesome. It may not be exactly what they wanted, but it’s their work product, and that’s what meets do for us,” said Murphy.
Despite the individual nature of the sport and the varying levels of strength within the team, the faster swimmers on Murphy’s team are not the only ones to receive attention. Each swimmer brings their own unique traits to the team.
“I think one of my core values is that despite the fact that we have stars on our team — we’ve always had kids that are faster than other people — I tend to over-emphasize that I think everyone brings something to the team, and speed might be one of them. But you can also bring personality, you can also bring a sense of togetherness, funny, joking. So I think there is this fabric of the team, that all the pieces of the fabric need to be honored, not just the fast kids,” said Murphy.
According to Molly MacKinnon ’24, Murphy often emphasizes that the team races for each other rather than oneself. Even in the event of a disappointing individual race, the team still remains highly supportive of one another, cheering as loud as possible.
“Coach Murphy keeps the energy of the team really high, and I think he really brings us all together. We’re always a very supportive team. We cheer on one another in all of our races, and we’re always the loudest team on deck, or at least we try to be. And Coach Murphy really helps foster a really good team atmosphere as well as giving us really challenging sets, which also helps bring us together as a team,” said MacKinnon.
As an alumnus of Andover’s swim program, Murphy understands the challenge of balancing sports and academics. He tries to maintain the intensity of practices while realizing that academic stress can play a role in a swimmer’s focus during sets.
“They’re thinking about what has to come afterwards, and I like talking about that because the fact that I did that myself I think makes me very empathetic about what their lives are like. We talk about leaving that stuff behind. There’s nothing you can do about it while you’re here in the pool except maybe thinking about your English essay…There is this marriage between academics and athletics that the school has embraced,” said Murphy.
To prevent his swimmers from being overwhelmed, a tradition Murphy has consistently implemented is visualization prior to every meet. He finds that the team is more focused going into the meet, and a strong sense of community is established through this technique.
“We stop wherever we are, we get it together, we close our eyes, we do deep breathing, and we really put ourselves in the moment. And I think that kind of skill can be replicated into the rest of your life. But it definitely helps us as a team to focus on not being nervous but being focused, not worrying about what happened yesterday, what happens tomorrow, it just matters about what happens now,” said Murphy.