Colleen Murphy announced the WeCOACH Coach of the Month
February 2022 Coach of the Month
Colleen MurphyAir Force Academy
Head Coach, Swimming
Now in her 5th season as head coach at the Air Force Academy, and recently honored as one of the 100 Greatest Female Swimming and Diving Coaches of the past 100 years, Coach Murphy shares with us her keys to success, advice for the next generation of coaches and the woman who greatly influenced her coaching career.
Get to know Coach Murphy:
Now in your 5th season as head coach and 10th overall, you were recently honored as one of the 100 Greatest Swimming and Diving Coaches of the past 100 years. What impact has this honor had on you and your program?
It was a great honor to be included with so many amazing coaches. I think the best part was sharing the honor with Casey Converse who was my mentor and boss here in the Air Force during my first 5 years at the Academy. Being able to have two Air Force Academy coaches on this roster was quite an accomplishment for our school. Additionally, my mentors from Oakland University were also honored on this list; I was lucky enough to be considered with so many great coaches.
You were the first female swimming coach to win a national championship and one of the few to win a championship as a coach and student-athlete. At Air Force, your teams have had great success in the pool, from breaking school records to having the first-ever Division I All-American. Tell us about some keys to your success as a coach. And what do you consider your greatest achievement? Being a trainer at the Air Force Academy is such a great honor. In the Air Force, athletics are integral to the development of our nation’s future officers; it’s about the whole person, not just their sport. Swimming is part of their development as a leader and the qualities of dedication, teamwork, time management, courage and the ability to overcome adversity are all essential qualities when they graduate and become officers in the Air Force. Thus, the success they have in the pool both as individuals and as a team directly correlates to their Air Force career and helps them lead Airmen right out of college. We succeed in the pool because we see the big picture and know that their four years at the Academy develop them for their future. I sincerely believe that my greatest accomplishment is to see each swimmer develop over their four years of Air Force experience and to see them flourish as Air Force leaders.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in your career?
I think I’ve had two big challenges in my career. The first would be to juggle my role as working mother and coach. I have been very lucky to have a husband who understands college swimming and is supportive of my career goals. My children have grown up around swimming pools and each has found their passion away from the pool, they understand my career and they understand that women have the capacity to be gifted at many things. I strive to always be there for my children, to attend their events and to support them in their individual projects. The other challenge I had was taking time off from practice in my early thirties and returning to the college ranks; it was very hard to get my foot back in the door and i’m so grateful to Casey Converse for giving me this chance to get back to the sport i love,
Was there a woman who greatly shaped or influenced you? How? ‘Or’ What?
I’ve had a lot of amazing mentors throughout my career. Anne Goodman-James has been such an amazing part of my life throughout my career and has become a mentor and confidante now that we both live in Colorado Springs. She is a working mom and has coached at all levels of college swimming. His guidance, counsel, wisdom and friendship have been invaluable in my life. As a coaching colleague it is so important to have female mentors in our lives and Anne has been that mentor for me.
What advice do you have for future female coaches?
Always ask questions, never assume you know everything, keep learning, and look for mentors. Most swim coaches are happy to share their knowledge with others and are happy to help. Women can do both, they can have a family and a coach; learn balance and realize you are modeling for the next generation. Flexibility, communication and loyalty are so important in college coaching; college athletes are great at reading a play and will feed off your enthusiasm and energy.
How do you continue to learn and grow?
I am an avid reader and enjoy reading books on teamwork, communication, sports psychology, etc. I always ask other coaches what they do. I have been part of mentor groups through ACSCA and as an ‘older’ mentor I have learned a lot from the younger coaches and appreciate their enthusiasm and enthusiasm for the sport and their plethora new ideas. I reach out to my mentors all the time to find out what works for them or their favorite practices etc. It’s plain and simple, never stop learning!
What do you like to do outside of coaching?
I love running for exercise, it gives me great clarity. After every run I walk my dogs and enjoy slowing down and seeing the beauty of Colorado. My son is a theater child, I really liked discovering the world of theater and seeing him on stage. I love going to Broadway shows with my kids and letting them enjoy the arts. My daughter recently decided hockey was her sport, so I’m taking a crash course in ice hockey and loving it too.
If you could tell yourself one thing, what advice would you give yourself?
As a young coach I lived and breathed everything swimming, my whole life was centered around my sport. I told myself to slow down and enjoy the trip a little more; it’s good to take a vacation and rest. My children have helped me a lot to learn and grow in other areas of my life.
Is there anything you would come back and do differently?
I am very happy with where I am now, yes there have always been challenges; but honestly i wouldn’t change a thing, every challenge has helped me become a better person and a better coach.
Something else you want to share?
WeCOACH is a great community of coaches. Being able to connect with other female coaches in all sports has honestly been an amazing experience. Every coach should have the opportunity to do a coaching academy and connect with others.