Rodger McCoy

Coach, Mentor and Inspiration

Swim Coach Rodger McCoy advises a student. Photo: Ellen Boomer

When swim coach Rodger McCoy stepped up to the microphone at a surprise luncheon given in his honor, he responded to the afternoon of accolades by saying to his swimmers, “I reflect what I see in each and every one of you. I try to find the best in you and instill that in you as your mantra for your daily use.” Coach McCoy’s generous spirit and dedication have drawn a loyal following of even the most reluctant swimmers for nearly 30 years, inspiring one young swimmer named Blake to thank Coach McCoy, “from the bottom of my heart to the top of  my brain.” In February, he was the honored for his service to the community during the DC Parks and Recreation Department’s (DPR) 26th Annual Black History Invitational Swim Meet, an award that was given posthumously to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dedicated Coach

Despite his years of service as a senior coach for the DPR, Coach McCoy prefers to talk about his swimmers rather than about himself. On a bright Tuesday morning, Rodger was at Hains Point, coaching several swimmers from the Water Wizards, a dedicated group of about 100 novice and experienced swimmers, ages 50 and up. While we talked, Rodger kept his eyes on his swimmers and checked in with one man, asking, “How’s your lower back today?” and questioning another swimmer’s kicking style, asking “Why are your hips that far under the water? You’re working hard and you should be hardly working!” Coach McCoy believes that part of his job is to remind swimmers to “Relax and enjoy swimming,” knowing that, if something is amiss with their strokes, they are probably thinking too much and not relying enough on their muscle memory.

Surprisingly for a swimming coach, McCoy first learned to swim when his children were also learning. Although he grew up in Virginia Beach, McCoy said he had very basic swimming skills when he, his wife, and their oldest child learned to swim. Within a month, however, Coach McCoy said he became a more confident, capable swimmer, and he hasn’t slowed down since then. Fellow coach Rob Green remarked that, “Rodger is a constant…who people can count on, just as the sun rises and sets.” In fact, a typical day for Coach McCoy means getting to the pool at four-thirty in the morning and coaching until nine at night, often at various pools throughout DC.

Inspiring Mentor

In that time, he may be encouraging a six-year-old girl to try swimming for the first time or may be helping a ninety-year-old man perfect his butterfly stroke for the National Senior Games. His coaching duties run the age gamut from this group of Water Wizards to the DC Wave Swim Team, which is a youth swim team of 110 children ages five to eighteen. An eighth grader named Parrish, who just moved to DC from Richmond, feels that Coach McCoy knows her so well already that he “sees into [her] soul,” and “knows what to say and do” because “he always works for his swimmers.”

Another young swimmer named Liana remarked that, “no one else had that kind of influence” on her life, instilling her with enough confidence to return to swimming after a four-year break. Coach McCoy’s lasting influence was also evident when Miriam, another former swimmer, said Rodger inspired her to become a swim coach. Miriam thanked her former coach for “teaching coaches to carry the torch for the next generation of swimmers,” and for instilling “life lessons through the sport of swimming.” Although Coach McCoy “doesn’t like a lot of fanfare,” according to fellow coach Rob Green, his grateful swimmers had the opportunity to thank him for seeing the best in each of them.