Head Coach Paul Murphy ’84 Motivates Team Through “Do it for Susie”

Head Coach Paul Murphy ’84 has been coaching for 33 years. He first swam competitively at Andover, then continued his journey at Bates College as a varsity swimmer. Coming in as a teaching fellow in 1988, Murphy has coached more than 25 All-American swimmers and has been named Coach of the Year three times by the Eagle Tribune. 

After coaching for three decades, Murphy has improved the program and found effective ways to lead each individual. He emphasized having fun and allowing flexibility during practices so that the swimmers can work on themselves. 

“Everyone’s an individual, but it’s also a team sport. So there’s always [some] kind of techniques and things that each person can get better [at], as I try to give feedback to people when they ask for it… My first goal as a coach is always for everyone to have fun. And I know that sounds trite, and it’s super simple and doesn’t sound very highly technical. But it’s a hard school. And so I want people to feel like when they come to practice to forget everything else, and just kind of focus on your body and focus on getting a little bit better,” said Coach Murphy.

Caroline Romano ’26 commended Murphy on his ability to hold swimmers accountable, while also encouraging them to have fun. Recently facing an injury, Romano reflected on how supportive Coach Murphy had been.

“He’s very supportive. I’ve recently had an injury, so I couldn’t be swimming. And he was completely understanding about it. He’s always smiling, he supports us and really wants us to just have fun and have a good time, which is something that I know a lot of my coaches have just not really been for me… And Murphy says, he wants us to do hard work, he wants us to be good. But he’s also made sure that you have found [to] push yourselves, but also have fun with it. And that’s been a key difference,” said Romano

Sharing similar sentiments, Molly MacKinnon ’24 emphasized how optimistic Coach Murphy is during practices. He focuses on each individual while promoting an inclusive team environment. 

“He’s very focused on a team. And he’s very devoted to the success of our team. And his practices, I enjoy how they are tailored to your specialty strokes… So if you have something that you want to focus on, or you have something that you need to improve, he’ll be there to support you through that… [And] he provides a lot of positive reinforcement. Like focusing on what we’ve done really well and what we can continue to improve, rather than focusing on the negative aspects of our races or our needs,” said Mackinnon.

One of Murphy’s favorite traditions is calling the previous record holder when their record is broken. All the most recent school record holders have been Murphy’s swimmers. 

Murphy said, “I’ve been coaching this team so long that I actually know all the kids who have broken records in the past, they’re all my kids. There’s no records that are left from before I was coaching. And I often have them on my phone contacts from when they were here.”

Murphy continued, recalling the most recent instance of a school record being broken. 

“On Saturday, when Elissa [Kim ’24] broke the 100[-Yard] Butterfly record, I texted the girl from 2011. She’s in the middle of medical school and getting her MD PhD at Yale. And I texted her and I said, ‘Your record was just broken by one of the kids here.’ She got on the phone with me. And then she got on the phone [with] Elissa. She congratulated her on the new record basically during the meet. So I thought that was kind of fun,” said Murphy. 

“Do it for Susie” is the motto of the team. Orla Naugton ’25 explained how the motto is a driving force during strenuous practices. 

“‘Susie’ is kind of just the name that we came up with. But Susie is your future self, or like the future team at our final meets of the season, which are Easterns, Exeter (Phillips Academy Exeter), and New Englands. And [thinking] about your race, even when you’re struggling. Think about your future self and how happy like she’s going to be when you put in all this hard work. And now you’re achieving your goals. So [‘Do it for Susie’], it’s really just like this motto to keep going and keep pushing to strive for that good end of the season,” said Naughton.

Murphy shared his excitement for the end of the season, since Andover will be hosting the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Swimming and Diving Championship (NEPSAC) for the first time since 1983. His goal is to have all his swimmers hit personal bests as a way of reflecting their hard work. 

“As a team, I’d like to win all these events, too. But I feel like that’s secondary to me. Because I think in a strange way, I kind of put my brain into each of my 19 swimmers’ brains. And I think that’s such a fun thing when you can make your body go faster than it’s ever gone before. It’s such a high for them. And it’s great if we score points as a team, but I really want each person to have that success,” said Murphy.