September 26, 2008

Swimming on the Islands

Kevin Tyrrell ’92 coaches U.S. Virgin Islands swim team

Kevin Tyrrell ’92 is head coach of the U.S. Virgin Islands swim team, but much of his time isn’t dedicated to helping swimmers improve their times. He spends many hours teaching athletes how to swim, period.

“I was hired to train the Olympic swimmers and to start a club team to bring in more young kids,” says Tyrrell, who also coaches the University of Virgin Islands swim team. “There are very talented athletes down here, but many don’t know how to swim.”

Tyrrell tries to demystify water by taking children to a pool, as people often are afraid of the ocean that surrounds the islands, he says.

All of the University of the Virgin Island’s competitions are away and there’s no local competition, so the team travels to places like Thailand, Barbados, and Colombia to compete. This jet-set lifestyle may seem exciting, but it can be taxing for the father of two small children.

“I’m traveling almost to the extent that it’s too much,” Tyrrell says. “There was a world championship in Australia two-and-a-half months after my daughter’s birth. I drew a line there and didn’t go. For one thing, my wife would have killed me.”

He met his wife, Moriah, in Boston, where he was coaching there. Tyrrell had studied law and government at Lafayette and went to work for Proctor and Gamble, coaching club and high school teams at night. In 1996 he left the corporate world and began coaching at a local YMCA.

Some of his greatest lessons, however, came from being a volunteer assistant coach from 2000-04 for Harvard University’s championship swim team. All of this experience led to a phone call from the Virgin Islands asking him to check out the open coaching position there.

“We were happy in Boston, so I really didn’t think it was a possibility,” he says. Still, he took three flights for various interviews. “They even flew my wife down twice with a friend to see if she would like it. I think they knew if the wife isn’t happy, the coach wouldn’t stay for long. We decided to make the move.”

The New York native says it was his time at Lafayette that fanned the passion he had for swimming, particularly serving as team captain during his junior and senior years.

“I wanted to pay back the sport that gave me so much,” he says. He added that Jim Dailey, head swimming coach, was a major mentor in his life. “I think the world of Jim and I think he’s doing a great job.”

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