At 85, Switzer Only Looking Forward

Photo Courtesy: Plymouth State

By Elise Campbell, Swimming World College Intern

Alan Switzer Jr., a former athlete and Harvard graduate, has dedicated most of his life to coaching. After completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard University, he began to pursue a career. Switzer served in the military, then started work at an insurance company. That was when he realized he wanted to coach.

Finding His Passion

In 1955, Switzer began a job coaching at the Hebron Academy in Maine. There he coached football, baseball and swimming. The job was his introduction to the sport of swimming.

“From the Hebron Academy experience, I began to really pick the sport apart as much as I could,” Switzer said. “I studied it every way I could, from the standpoint of interacting with other coaches, finding out about their athletes and going to clinics. I did everything possible to study every part of the sport at that time, a lot of it coming from other coaches.”

After Hebron, Switzer moved on to the Hill School in Pennsylvania where he stayed for nine years. Throughout his time at Hebron and the Hill School, Switzer attended clinics at the Ft. Lauderdale Hall of Fame pool to sharpen his coaching skills.

A Different World

In 1972, Switzer took on his first job in the world of college swimming. He spearheaded the University of Maine at Orono Division I swim team, becoming the first ever coach for the new program. Switzer coached the men throughout his 19 years at UMaine.

Following significant success at UMaine, Switzer decided to take an early retirement from coaching in 1990. He again found himself working for an insurance company. However, a small twist of fate at the gym led Switzer back to his passion and he was offered a job at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, leading the women’s Division III swimming and diving program there.

This is where Switzer currently resides, embarking on his 25th year of coaching swimming and diving at Plymouth State, his 60th year in total.

“Being at Plymouth, I wonder why I ever wanted to stop,” he said.

Throughout his coaching career, Switzer taught a summer swimming lesson program at his home pool in Center Sandwich, NH. Since 1967, Switzer has coached young swimmers in his area to love the very sport he was so passionate about himself. In his 60 by 25-foot backyard pool, the Sandwich Aquatic School continues today.

During his 60 years in the swimming community, Switzer has accumulated several awards, including inductions into the University of Maine and Hebron Academy Halls of Fame and most recently, the state of Maine Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.

Age Is Just a Number

Though many would be led to believe Switzer is wrapping up his long and historic coaching career, he is in fact only looking forward.

“Now I’ve reached an age and people say, ‘when are you going to retire?’ I don’t have any plans. I love what I’m doing. “

This is good news for those who can continue to learn from and admire Switzer, both in his endless knowledge and experience and his love for the sport. More than that, Switzer is a thoughtful and kind man, making sure to thank those who have supported him in his pursuits.

“My first wife, Polly, passed away a number of years ago and she, of course, supported me with all the things that I did,” Switzer said. “My present wife, Betsy, we’ve been married since 1980 and she’s been so supportive. Every time I come home, my face lights up because of her. They have been instrumental in my success.”

Switzer described himself as hating to lose and loving to work with people. This combination has formed his personal coaching philosophy and allowed him a successful and long-lasting career in the world of swimming and diving.

“I feel that I’m able to have maybe a little bit of an impact in people’s lives — how they’re able to handle situations, helping to build confidence, to learn respect and be caring of other people,” Switzer said. “One of my strengths is an ability to relate with people and try to get them to see what is necessary, to give them the winning attitude.”

5 Comments

5 comments

  1. avatar
    Lane Four

    A winner teaching the winning attitude. What a great man to have in your life.

  2. avatar
    Melissa

    Coach Switzer was my Coach in college and I can only say it was a honor to have him as that. Not only did he get me swimming at my best, but he continued to believe in you and know that you could do more. Push yourself and work hard! A great mentor, Coach and just an all around great man! #CoachSwitzer

  3. avatar
    Al Rozzi

    Great job, Coach! See you at an alumni meet:)

  4. avatar
    Deb Link

    Hi Al, It was an honor to have been your assistant coach for all those years at Plymouth State. You were an inspiration to me as well as all those young women who passed through the pool doors. I miss the sport and I miss you!! Keep on going!

  5. avatar
    Cheryl Starkie Edison

    It’s wonderful to see you still in the world of swimming! I remember seeing you at St. Joesphs Collge in Connecticut after a swim meet there with my 2 little kid in tow. You introduced me to your team and Made it a teaching moment that swimming is a life long love affair. You are proof of that!

Author: Annie Grevers

avatar
Annie (Chandler) Grevers is a staff writer for Swimming World. She swam for the University of Arizona, winning the 100 yard breaststroke at the NCAA DI Championships as a senior in 2010. She was also a member of six NCAA Championship relays during her college career as well as a member of Arizona’s NCAA Championship title in 2008. She represented the United States at the Pan Pacific Games in 2010 and at the Pan American Games in 2011, where she won the 100 breaststroke. She is married to Matt Grevers and resides in Tucson, Arizona.

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