ANA Synchro Welcomes Back Alumni for Coaching and Inspiration

ANA Synchro is fortunate to count many alumni among its ranks of fans and supporters.  Some, like 2011 graduate Alice Rodgers, come back to lend a hand coaching when they’re not in school.  “We very much appreciate when the college students come back to coach,” says Head Coach Leah Pinette.  “Not only are they really good at explaining moves because they’ve all swum synchro so recently, the girls on the team adore them and look up to them.”
ANA Synchro alum Alice Rodgers (center), surrounded by current athletes at a recent practice.

We caught up with Alice on a recent break from the University of Tampa, where she is a sophomore. This is the first of a two-part interview with her.


ANA Synchro: What do you like about coaching that keeps bringing you back to ANA?

Alice Rodgers:  I coached 13 & Over Intermediates the very first year I coached, and I was hooked! At the time, I didn’t perceive myself as one of the big girls yet because I was only a freshman in high school, but all of a sudden I was a coach and, suddenly, what I said mattered more. It was like having all these sisters, who wanted to hear what I had to say, and I had to tell them what to do. It was fun!


ANA Synchro:  What do you find challenging about coaching?

Alice:  As a coach, you have so much information in your head, and you want to give the girls everything you know.  But it's difficult because you can't just give everything in one shot because the girls won't remember it.  So, one of the important things is to note what information is most critical based on the age and experience level that you’re teaching.  When little kids do their figures*, for instance, I really just want them to go out and smile at the judges, stay right in front of them, and then try to do the figure to the best of their understanding.  As they get older, I can give them more complex information to process.

*a “figure” in synchronized swimming is a basic element; they vary by age grouping; and girls perform a set of them, individually, in front of judges at every meet.
Alice, on deck, calling on her synchro expertise, to give tips to the 16-19 team as they run through their routine.

ANA Synchro:  Surely it must help your coaching that you swam synchro for all the years that you did?

Alice:  I think that, for someone who hasn’t swum synchro, the hardest corrections to make are the ones that involve the position of your body.  It's not about counts; it’s not about where you are in the pattern; rather, it's the lining up your body with itself that is the hardest thing to understand and communicate.  So it's really valuable to have done those positions because you understand why it's so hard.  Plus, you can explain it.


ANA Synchro:  Do you find yourself channeling one of the coaches you had when you were the athlete?

Alice:  I had a coach, Genia*, who, if she would find us off by ourselves at meets, would say "why aren't you with your teammates?  You should be with your teammates at all times!”  She believed in this – that there was a social aspect in addition to all the training.  Because when you walk out on deck to start your routine, being in the same mindset of your teammates is really important.  If you’ve all been seeing the same things and exchanging the same information for hours beforehand, you’re that much more likely to be able to go into the pool and perform as one, which is our goal.  At the last meet I went to with the girls as a coach, I found myself telling the girls the same thing.  I even wanted them to be listening to their music together as much as possible.  I wanted them to be very, very focused for when it was time to compete.

*former ANA Synchro head coach, Eugenia Gillan, currently Head Coach of Boston University Synchro.

ANA Synchro:  What did you learn from being on ANA Synchro?

Alice:  It's kind of a cliché to say for a team sport that it was team and leadership, but those are by far the most outstanding things.   I learned how to work with people from all different ages who don't necessarily think the same way as me.  We all had common goals, which were to succeed in routines, or figures, or whatever we were doing at the time.  So I learned how to work extremely hard toward a common goal with people who didn't necessarily try to get there the same way as me.

In terms of leadership, I was the captain of the team of 85 to 90 girls for two years in a row. That's a lot of work!  I knew everyone's name.   Plus, I learned how to do things I didn't necessarily expect to know how to do as a captain.  Talking to parents, for instance.  I knew we would have to talk to parents, but I didn't expect to have to feel like a teacher talking to the parents about how their child was doing.
Also, speaking in public was an unintended consequence of swimming synchro.  I am much more comfortable now talking to a group of people I don’t necessarily know well.

ANA Synchro:  Will we see you back here on your next college break?

Alice:  I really hope so, because I want to keep involved and coaching for a long time.  I don’t want to forget anything I know, so I don’t ever want there to be a period of time when I stop doing it!

Readers, stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Alice Rodgers. Next month, we’ll find out her thoughts on synchronized swimming as a sport of choice, and we’ll learn how she found “sisters” at ANA Synchro!

For more information on the coaching staff at ANA Synchro, click here:
ANA Synchro is the competitive synchronized swimming team of the Merrimack Valley YMCA’s Andover/North Andover Branch.  To visit the ANA YMCA's website, click here: