Meet Our New Head Swim Coach Vinny Pryor

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An Interview with our new head swim coach -

As many of you know the SportsPlex is home to many youth swim teams around the triangle. While we appreciate the hard work and dedication that all of these swimmers put into their sport, we definitely have our favorites. The Hillsborough Aquatic Club is starting it’s third year as the home team at the SportsPlex. This season we have introduced a new head coach, Vinny Pryor. Coach Vinny joins us from the Marlins of Raleigh Swim Team where he coached for the past two year. Prior to coaching for the Marlins, Vinny swam for four years at UNC. In college Vinny held school records for the 100 yard breast stroke, 200 and 400 yard medley relays and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic trials.

The team has been practicing for the last two weeks, and Vinny is as excited as ever to be coaching. I was able to get with him briefly this week to discuss his swim history as well as his hopes for the HAC

How long have you been swimming/when/why did you start swimming?

I started swimming on an actual team when I was 4 years old…I believe it was on a rec team called the Stone Crabs down in Orlando.  So why I started swimming…I’m the middle (yes, the rebel) of 3 children.  I have an older sister and a younger brother and my sister was the first one of us to start.  Since my brother and I are pretty close in age, we did everything (good and bad) together, so we were a handful for our parents.  I’m pretty sure that they started both of us in swimming as a way to give my mom a break while my sister was practicing.  All 3 of us ended up swimming in college, so I guess they made a pretty good decision.

What made you stick with swimming through college and into coaching?

Simply put, I love swimming.  I did other sports growing up, but swimming always just felt right for me.  It’s just so refreshing, both physically and mentally.  I always used swim practice as my sanctuary.  If I was having a rough day or just needed to sort out my thoughts, it was somewhere I could go and just put everything on hold for 2-3 hours.  When I was done it was like I had pushed a reset button – I had this sense of clarity and everything just seemed easier.  I never really got that from anything else.

Swimming is just such a wonderfully unique sport in that it has this perfect balance between solitude and camaraderie.  Nowhere is this more evident than on a college team.  The training that you do and the races you compete in are your own  – no one else can do those things for you.  However, at the same time, your own individual results directly affect  something much bigger and more important than you…it’s very humbling.  It’s an indescribable feeling to be in the locker room before a crucial dual meet.  No one is talking, but everyone is looking around the room, silently nodding to each other and you know that something big is about to happen.

As a coach, you get the opportunity to share your experiences with your swimmers and hope that they’ll find as much joy in the sport that you did.  Being provided with all of these opportunities made sticking with swimming one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

What do you hope to gain from your new position as head coach of the HAC? 

In a word: experience.  This is my first time being directly in charge of a competitive swimming program and I know it’s going to be a tremendous learning experience.  The best part about coaching is that even though you’re teaching, you’re also learning.  You learn so much about the sport that you would not have learned from simply being a swimmer, and that’s what makes coaching so enjoyable.  I’m very excited to see how this year ends up and even more excited for the future.

What are some of your coaching strategies, and skills you want to focus on with the HAC?

I always tend to approach coaching the way I approached swimming.  I was very meticulous when it came to my technique.  I would constantly watch footage of my races – even in middle school and high school, I asked my parents to tape everything – and find ways to make my strokes look better (a bit vain, I know).  As a coach, I take this same approach.  I believe that things need to be done correctly before they are done in excess.  Otherwise, you develop bad habits that can lead to inefficiency and injury – neither of which are productive.  I’ve always told my swimmers that there is no point in doing anything if you aren’t going to do it 100% correct.  This means exhibiting the proper effort level, technique, and any other requirements specific to that particular set.  I’m infamously known by the swimmers on my last team for spending 2 full practices working on nothing but pushing off the wall correctly.

I also try to keep things interesting with my practices.  As a swimmer, I got bored easily.  I hated long winded sets where I felt like I was just swimming forever.  I enjoy writing smaller sets that the swimmers have to repeat 3 or 4 times where I can push them to perform each time through better than the previous.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I loved sports and did a lot of stuff growing up – some in organized leagues and some just with my friends.  My brother and I were really big on inventing our own games by combining the rules and equipment of multiple sports.  The older I got, the smaller my list of sports that I participated in became, until by the time I was 16 all I was doing was swimming.  I played baseball, ran Cross Country, I pretended that I could play soccer, I played street hockey in the summer and pond hockey in the winter.   Even in college, we would play ultimate Frisbee and beach volleyball during the off season as a way to stay in shape without getting wet, and now I play a lot of pick-up basketball.

We are excited to have Vinny as part of the SportsPlex team, and even more excited for a great new year with the Hillsborough Aquatic Club!

ImageSwimmers having a funny photo shoot before practice.

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