Albiero Father-Son Bond Growing Through Good Times and Tough Times

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Arthur and Nicolas Albiero. Photo Courtesy: Louisville Athletics

After the cancellation of the NCAA swimming championships because of the coronavirus pandemic, college teams are leaning on each other like families. At Louisville, that is especially the case as coach Arthur Albiero and swimmer Nicolas Albiero bring a unique father-son relationship to the team.

“It is really strange, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I grew up swimming for my mom. My parents are opposite personalities, so I was a little worried about the transition at first — but it has been great,” Nicolas Albiero said. “He is always there for me. Sometimes it can be tough having your dad around you all the time when you are giving everything you have, and he wants more. We have figured out how to make this relationship work.”

Growing up, Nicolas swam for his mother, Amy Albiero (Comerford), a former All-American at Oakland University. He has an older brother Estefan, who also swam at Louisville, and a younger sister Gabriela, who will be a freshman for the Cardinals next year.

“We are already super close. I got to swim with my brother on my club team for a couple years and my sister will be here at Louisville with me next year. I get more nervous watching my sister swim than I do for myself,” Nicolas said. “I love hanging out with them. We are all super close.”

They will have a lot of time to get even closer with the coronavirus keeping families in close quarters.

“It is very special. All five of us are very tight and each other’s biggest fan,” Arthur said. “If they did other sports, I probably would have missed a lot of their games. But I have the best seat in the house for their races. We grew up around swimming. We are both coaches. My wife was the super star of the family. She was 28 for 28 All-American in Division 2 and the D2 Swimmer of the Year. They grew up with the Yin and the Yang. We are all very passionate about it.”

So passionate that family trips brought the Albieros around the world to watch swimming.

“We went to the London Olympics as a family and got exposed. For me, growing up in Brazil, it was important for me to expose them to other cultures,” Arthur said. “We got to go to Rio as a family, too, and got to spend some time with my folks. We have been that kind of family. We value competition. We never expected they would be swimmers. We tried to expose them to other things growing up, but it is just how things ended up. They all ended up in swimming and ended up enjoying it. It can be a tough sport and unforgiving, but that is what we love about it.”

One of the hardest parts for Arthur is balancing being a coach and father.

“It is one of the hardest things I have had to do. I am by nature an emotional guy. I want to celebrate for my kids. It is always a tricky spot. We both had to learn that in the moment when Nick has a great race and maybe another swimmer on the team doesn’t have a great race, you have to balance that. In that moment, I am coach, not dad. But that is always a little tricky,” he said. “My priority is to guide him but be honest in that process. Sometimes that is hard. Nick has had to learn how to adjust to that as well.”

Head Coach Authur Albiero talks with Nicolas Albiero during match against Xavier at Ralph Wright Natatorium on October 6

Photo Courtesy: Jermaine Bibb | Louisville Athletics

That adjustment has transformed Nicolas into one of the NCAA’s elite swimmers. He was the top seed at NCAAs in the 200 butterfly.

“I think he has done a really good job of taking things as they come. He has the confidence and trust of what we are doing. He got beat in a lot of dual meets this year. But that is not what we were focusing on.  He has trusted it, been consistent and gotten through those tougher times of the season. He is a student of the sport and always looking for ways to get better. I am not surprised he is swimming this well. The most important thing is to try to have fun at big meets,” Arthur said. “I have always had amazing confidence in him. He tends to get better as the meet goes in big meets. It happened at junior worlds. He went a lifetime best in his last swim. He has continued to do that and the 200 fly is on the last day of NCAAs.”

Nicolas won the ACC championship in the 100 and 200 butterfly and was looking to build into a strong NCAA meet, before it was cancelled.

“ACCs was a really great indicator of my hard work paying off. I know there was still more left in the tank. That gave me more confidence to push myself,” Nicolas said. “I certainly hope that as a captain people look up to me and I can lead by example. I am always going to be there to support them vocally, but also be that example. We have had a lot of kids do the same and trust the process.”

Arthur provided his thoughts on the coronavirus cancellations in a teleconference hosted by the University of Louisville on Thursday:

“It’s a weird time for all of us. Today would have been the day for our women at NCAAs with the 200 IM, 500 and 50 free,” Arthur Albiero said. “You recognize it is much more than swimming. It’s a worldwide situation we are all dealing with.

“Obviously we had a heck of a season. It’s been a great run for us. Eight years in a row we have had an individual champion and we had a chance to continue that streak this year. It was probably the worst team meeting of my career last Thursday when I had to gather everybody and share the news right after an awesome practice we had Thursday.

“We have 14 men and 14 women who were fired up and ready to go. It was a blow. There were mostly tears to be honest for what was lost. Our sport is so unique in the sense that we get up for very few opportunities. We feel really strongly for them as a staff that we hadn’t really shown our cards yet. We’ve been an NCAA team and that’s where we have been successful the last few years so it is tough not to be able to do that but again pretty soon you realize it is much more than swimming.

“Nick had a great opportunity being seeded first in the 200 butterfly and tied for first in the 100 butterfly and getting the chance to compete. There’s no guarantees, we know that, but getting a chance to compete for it. We are all resetting and getting ready for the next thing and we don’t know what that is in this moment so we are just going day by day.”

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That process is now looking forward to next season at Louisville with three Albieros on deck.

“I know it is going to be awesome,” Arthur said. “It is going to bring our family even more close. It will be great for Gabby to have Nick here and having gone through it. It will be a great support for her right away, but for Nick, too.”

Meanwhile, Nicolas and his teammates have some unfinished business after the way this season ended unexpectedly.

“I am really looking forward to what my team can do,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue (to improve) for years to come.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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