By Lauren Hardy//Correspondent
With a record of 146-80-1, Cyndi Gallagher has been leading the UCLA women’s swim team to victory for the past 30 years. Originally a student-athlete for the Bruins, Gallagher began her career assistant coaching for five years after graduating from UCLA in 1983. With Gallagher’s direction as head coach, many of her swimmers have gone on to compete in the Olympics. As a team, the Bruins have also produced excellent results with Gallagher’s help, boasting ten NCAA top ten finishes in the last 24 years.
As a child plunging into Lake Washington for an afternoon swim with The Beach Club swim team on Mercer Island, Wash., she never dreamed where the road ahead would lead. Gallagher admits it hasn’t been easy — juggling family, friends and a full-time job that involves a lot of overtime hours — but on the other hand, the relationships she has formed continue to make her job an incredibly rewarding experience. She gets together frequently with former swimmers to grab dinner and reminisce about their NCAA days.
Gallagher coaches her team with an individualized approach. She emphasizes team meetings, but the bulk of her time is spent bolstering her swimmers’ life skills, in addition to their swimming abilities. She knows the sport is about more than just improving times on a scoreboard, or producing championship athletes. For this reason, she takes her job very seriously and tries to be an inspirational figure for the UCLA Bruins team. She wants the best for them, in and out of the pool.
“Watching them becoming really confident young women who know where they are going, what they want to do, and are ready to do it when the graduate is often the best part of my job,” Gallagher says.
Cyndi Gallagher’s Keys to Success:
Always look to the future and keep learning about yourself and the sport. “I am a huge learner, and I love reading,” Gallagher says. “I’m constantly trying to improve myself because if I do that, then my athletes will be the ones to benefit. Being a good role model is important, and your words as a coach have impact.”
Don’t forget about technique. “There used to be a lot of emphasis on putting in a lot of yardage and working harder. Now I realize how important teaching technique is, even from a young age. It’s about being efficient and creative, and working smarter. I think I’m a lot more creative now than I was ten years ago.”
Be resilient. “If you have a bad moment or season, you have to brush it off and keep going. Think about what you can do better next time, and then work toward whatever that is.”
Be passionate. An authentic love for the sport will be contagious to your swimmers. Being a dedicated coach encourages your team to be just as dedicated, in return.
Work hard. “This is a huge factor, I think, in how successful you will be in swimming and in life. I try to model that for my athletes.”