While reflecting on his many years as a swimming coach and founder of NOVA of Virginia Aquatics, Geoff Brown knows that the mark of a great coach is his ability to teach.
“A lot of it is a willingness to understand that you have a lot to learn,” Brown said. “I changed what I did over the years from learning and discovering new things. You should be very open to learning from any good swimmer.
Brown knows the key to coaching is not only the communication between the coach and the athlete, but also the communication the players have with themselves.
“You have to be humble enough to understand that the second conversation is important, and you can’t try to end that by distracting them,” Brown said.
This coaching style has earned Brown much recognition as a coach, including being named Virginia Senior Coach of the Year 10 times, NCSA Coach of the Year four times, USA Swimming Developmental coach of the Year in 2012 and Team USA coach for the 2015 Junior. World Championships in Singapore.
Brown’s job with NOVA ends next month; he and his wife Lisa are moving to South Carolina, where they will continue to teach swimming, just on a smaller scale. NOVA held a celebratory and send-off event on July 19 at the club’s Regency home for the Browns, before their final day on August 31.
For Keira Reid, Brown’s coaching helped her take her swimming to the next level.
“Geoff gave me confidence and worked with me every day,” Reid said. “He is my No. 1 supporter and is determined to help me achieve my goals.”
Whitney Wallin and her two sisters swam with Brown for many years in high school and college and understood that Brown’s impact on swimmers was outside of the water.
“He not only helps kids become better swimmers but also develops character and focuses on discipline and hard work,” Wallin said. “When you swim for Geoff, he can push you to be the best, and he’s pushed me to be the best.”
Wallin said he is excited to continue the family tradition of swimming at NOVA and watching his own children swim with Brown.
“Geoff built NOVA into what it is today and it’s more than just a company, it’s a family,” Wallin said. “For us, the community is just a committee of people who guided us through childhood, teenage years, school years and now my children are back. It’s just a good thing to be a part of.”
While Brown has helped several swimmers make the sport on the world stage – such as 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Townley Haas, 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist Charlie Swanson and Kerry O’Hanlon, who won the USA National Title in 1992 – still honored. be a place of work.
“I was surprised to be on tour. When it was really low, I went ‘Wow, I’m there,’” Brown said. “It’s great to watch an eight-year master hit, and it’s no different to watch someone do it in the Olympics. They are like companion pieces to me. ”
While watching the swimmers he coaches succeed at every level is always fun, Brown’s favorite part of coaching is being able to help lead the younger generation to make better decisions and drive growth.
The best thing any coach can do is broaden their horizons, Brown said. But he said it’s also important to get a variety of teachers no matter what sport or subject a person is studying.
“To me, you’d better read Madame Bovary because you might learn it one day,” Brown said. “Educate yourself, don’t stay where you are. Read as much and as little as you can.
After teaching swimming at the Tuckahoe YMCA for ten years, Brown was inspired by the YMCA’s leadership and passion for teaching to found NOVA of Virginia Aquatics.
“Competitive swimming is something that I think is a vehicle to keep kids on target. So it’s an outgrowth of the natural mission of the YMCA,” Brown said.
Since its founding, Brown and his wife have helped NOVA of Virginia Aquatics expand two aquatic centers in the Richmond area and expand the scholarship program to more than 1,500 overall. Under Brown’s leadership, NOVA has been recognized as a top USA Swimming team since 2003 and has been successful at state, national and international competitions.
After they move to South Carolina, Brown also hopes to release a book she wrote about swimming.
But no matter where their next adventure takes them, NOVA will always be a special place for the Browns.
“I’ve been blessed to learn all summer and all the families we’ve been able to meet and their lives have shared with us,” Brown said. “We want it to be a unique and wonderful time.”