Giving Back – FCS Alums Return to Coach at FCA
Giving Back – FCS Alums Return to Coach at FCA

Friends’ Central enjoys a proud legacy of excellence in the pool. From dominance in both girls’ and boys’ swimming – 14 consecutive championships for boys’ swimming – to a vibrant yearlong aquatics program, swimmers of all ages flock to Friends’ Central to learn from outstanding coaches and have the best experience possible in the water. This year, five alumni/ae – Max Bernard ’08, Ryan Cassidy ’13, Olivia Gillison ’10, Victoria Gillison ’13, and Mary Stroman ’08 – have returned to FCS to continue this legacy of excellence in swimming and to pass along what they learned as swimmers, and as students, at Friends’ Central. 

Victoria Gillison ’13, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, has been working with Friends’ Central Aquatics since high school. So, when Friends’ Central Aquatics Director Iain Anderson asked her to become a coach, it seemed like a no brainer. “All throughout high school, I helped out at Saturday Morning Swim Lessons, and when I began college, I transitioned into helping out with private lessons on the weekends. When Iain called to say they were in need of a new coach for the Novice group, it just seemed like the natural step to take,” Victoria explains. “Coaching at FCA has been a really rewarding experience that has allowed me to continue to be around a sport that was such a large part of my time growing up.” Victoria is now an Assistant Coach on Swim Team and a Head Instructor at Swim School with FCA.

Mary Stroman ’08, a graduate of Washington College, where she swam for four years and was captain of the swim team, shares that one of the reasons she returned to FCS to coach with FCA is to share her passion for swimming. “When I first graduated after swimming in college, it was the only thing that felt the most natural to me,” Mary shares. “Being able to pass along my passion for the sport has been the most rewarding aspect of coaching.” Max Bernard ’08, a graduate and swimmer at Vassar College and now Head Coach at Team Phoenix, has also had some rewarding moments since coming on to coach with FCA. “Working with the team has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Early on, I had the more immediately gratifying experience of working with swimmers I'd known from my time as an athlete on the team, but as time has gone on, I've been fortunate to get to see swimmers grow over the years and really find their sea legs, so to speak. I'm grateful to get to see swimmers breaking records on the Upper School Varsity team after first meeting them when they were fun, carefree 10-year-olds just getting into the sport.”

For Ryan Cassidy ’13, Captain and 4-year Swimmer at Hamilton College, having the opportunity to coach with FCA was “an easy choice. I knew the staff understood my enthusiasm for both the program and the sport, so I felt like I would be welcome at FCA and that I would get to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm to the next generation of swimmers,” Ryan shares. “I also think that the fact that I started my time with FCA as one of the slowest swimmers and ended my career with several team records has taught me to focus not on one individual swimmer who shows potential off the bat but really work to develop all of the swimmers I work with to reach their full potential, no matter what that is.”

For Olivia Gillison ’10, a graduate and 4-year Varsity swimmer at Ohio-Wesleyan, it’s much more about the process and the effort each swimmer contributes. “I care so much more about the effort that a kid puts into the sport than I do about their actual outcome,” Olivia explains. “My standout coaching moments are all around the kids who don’t necessarily have the best natural talent but who put the work in every day and keep getting better. The kids who show up every day with a smile on their faces and ready to work hard are the ones who keep me coming back every year.”

Iain Anderson, Varsity Swimming Coach and Director of Friends’ Central Aquatics, shares, “Two great philosophical tenets of Friends’ Central School are simplicity and learning to give back to the community. These FCA coaches encapsulate this notion to a zenith point. Despite being immersed in their diverse professional pursuits – graduate school, working for the city of Philadelphia, professional acting, and more – they have made the time to help kids, teaching them a life time skill that will serve them in so many ways in and out the pool.”