While swimming around the still looks a lot different than normal due to the effects of COVID-19, we’re still highlighting and celebrating swim teams from across the country. Founded in 1975, the Nashville Aquatic Club has grown to become one of the premier teams in not just the state of Tennessee, but in the entire country. In 2020, NAC was named as a USA Swimming Gold Medal Club for the 16th time and ranked 12th nation-wide in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program.
While NAC has a long history of success at the national level when it comes to competitive swimming, the club has also recently expanded its program offerings to serve a wide range of ages and levels. Its new mission statement states:
Through an intentional process based on education, safety, proper technique, personal achievement, and fun, the Nashville Aquatic Club aims to provide the finest swimming instruction in the United States.
That certainly doesn’t mean that NAC has reduced its focus on the top level of swimmers or has ceased to become a presence on the national stage. The team has won titles like Speedo Winter Junior Championships, and recent alumni like Alex Walsh and Ella Nelson are already making impacts on the college level, while Gretchen Walsh is the #1 recruit in the high school class of 2021.
We spoke with three of NAC’s top coaches — senior assistant coach Jack Folcarelli, head coach John Morse, and associate head coach Doug Wharam, who was an assistant coach at last summer’s Pan American Games, where Alex Walsh and NAC alum Meaghan Raab both earned gold medals.
Asked to describe the team’s coaching philosophy in one sentence, the NAC staff respond by saying, “Fast is good. Our aim is to have every swimmer be in a position to be successful and improve at every practice.”
Every team that is clicking along like NAC has been has something right going on when it comes to team chemistry.
We have a great leadership team that has been together for 10 plus years. It makes it easy for everything to flow down from there, and we are always looking to hire professional coaches to help with that culture.
The swimmers work daily to prop each other up, get through a tough set or week of training, and they do a great job being supportive of individual goals.
Good team chemistry doesn’t mean everything is easy, however. Any time you talk to an experienced coach, or group of coaches, you’re going to hear them speak about the how the sport is constantly changing and how what worked at one time, or for one group of swimmers, may not work right now, or for everyone, and great coaches constantly have to work to adapt to that.
I think the biggest struggle is always how to keep it fresh for the athletes and yourself. We are always looking at what we can do better, more efficiently in our coaching and swimming. You have to adapt to the group and their needs. It is an ever changing landscape within each group, and we have to keep an eye on that to make sure everyone is getting what they need.
In addition, the NAC coaching staff strives to make sure that the lessons they teach will produce great individuals as well as great swimmers.
We teach swimmers to take accountability and responsibility for their own swimming, and also for their teammates and the culture they create at practice around them. We want swimmers to enhance each others experience and performance.
When a team has been around as long as the Nashville Aquatic Club has, there are plenty of great memories, but it can be tough to choose just one, as the coaches pointed out.
Its hard to pick one. Every time a swimmer achieves a goal, whether it be a small drop or a National Age Group record, it represents hours of practice and hard work. It is hard to distinguish because everyone’s goals are important no matter what level they are.
Nashville Aquatic Club is one of 3,000 swim clubs in the United States. How can we grow that number and promote the sport?
With an experienced coaching staff, some of the top swimmers in the country, and a team that serves swimmers at every level, NAC athletes are sure to be making many more memories in the months and years to come.
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