By Lauren Gaskill//Contributor | Friday, February 12, 2016
There are many ways to motivate a child to learn how to swim, and eventually, swim across the deep end. For Nitro Swimming Head Age Group Coach Allison Brol, all it took was an order of cheese fries.
“Maybe it was the future swimmer coming out in me. You know, swimmers will do anything for food,” Brol says. (We checked our sources on this one, and she’s right — swimmers will in fact do anything for food.)Six years after Brol learned to swim, she made the transfer into club swimming as a 10-year-old, after her summer league coach asked her to give it a try. And to this day, she’s never looked back. Brol’s passion for swimming quickly turned into a passion for coaching when she took her first coaching job as a 14-year-old at her neighborhood pool.
“I was asked to help with the 6-and-unders each morning. It was everything you’d expect, but I was able to see kiddos improving each day, which was new to me,” she says. “It was amazing to watch something I loved so much turn into a learning experience for someone else. The excitement they brought each day was contagious for me. Soon enough, I became the head coach of the team and that led me to my first club coaching experience right out of college.”
USA Swimming sat down with Brol to learn about her coaching experience and secrets to success.
What moment did you know you wanted to be a coach?
I don’t know if it was a defining moment or an accumulation of many positive and great moments together. In college, I remember my mom asking me, what do you love doing more than anything else? My response was coaching Piedmont, the summer league team I swam and now coached for. From there, I went on to finish school with my Elementary Education degree and began coaching right out of college.
What's your coaching philosophy and what makes your team unique?
I’ve always kept the same core values when it came to coaching my kids.
1. To teach my swimmers how to participate in the sport of swimming the right way.
2. To be a positive impact on them as young adults.
3. To do all of this with dignity.
I truly encourage my kiddos to take ownership for their swimming. And as always, I tell them to smile, even when they don’t want to. Smiling cures everything. At the beginning of each season we complete vision boards together. It holds all of us accountable and pushes us each day.
What do you love most about your current position?
I couldn’t possibly be in a better position or situation. I am exactly where I need to be right now, with some of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. Nitro has faith in me, and I truly believe in what we are doing here in Austin. Mike Koleber and Tim O’Brein are quite the duo. Being one of the only females on deck, I try to bring out as much energy as I can each day. I have a silly saying, but I tell everyone to "Sparkle and Shine."
What has been the crowning achievement of your career?
There have been many accomplishments I am very proud of, as well as the people who have been a part of it, but I can honestly say that I get true happiness from the kiddos I work with each day. I learn so much more from them than I could ever teach them. Everyone has the days where they have to fight through the day. I’ve had those days, too. But the minute I hit the deck and see those kids I can’t help but thrive off of their happiness.
What’s that hardest part of being of coach, and how do you balance life/work?
I have to admit, I’m not the best at this part. I suppose the hardest part of being a coach is simply working the opposite hours of all of my friends. Because I live in such a cool city like Bee Cave, Texas, I try my best to see and do as much as I can during the day.
How have you been able to grow as a coach?
Simply put, I do my research. I’m always trying to learn. If I am unsure of something or have a question, there are unlimited resources around me, whether it be the coaches I work with, or great online information (e.g.sftest.usaswimming.org). Another thing that helps me grow is the new coaches on deck with us at Nitro. They each bring something new to the table, and the questions they ask always have me constantly re-evaluating.
Allison Brol’s Five Keys to Coaching Success:
- Positivity. We talk all the time about having a positive attitude, no matter the situation, and changing the way we speak.
- True love of the sport. I believe one of my closest friends has been quoted saying, “If Allison could marry the sport of swimming, she would.”
- Respect and communication. This is needed in every relationship.
- Keep the sport pure. Swimming is the purest sport there is, and you get out of it what you put into it, both as a swimmer and as a coach.
- My secret handshake, because who doesn’t need a secret handshake in their life?