Coach Anthony Powell doesn’t mind spending the extra time to help his team—even if his team is a team of one.
Gianna Short started swimming for Powell after joining USA Swimming in 2015. At Gianna’s first swim meet under Powell, her father, Jeff Short learned that Gianna was the only swimmer who came to represent Powell’s team.
“Right there I knew he was special,” Jeffrey Short said. “He took the time out of his busy weekend to coach my daughter in a USA Swim meet when he was not getting paid. He was doing this strictly out of the love of the sport, and to help my daughter get faster.
A Front Line Coach
At a recent swim meet in Fort Washington, Pa, Powell walked back and forth on the pool deck, cheering his swimmers on.
“My coaching style is to be a front line coach,” Powell said. “I want my kids to feel a part of something. I want them to understand that we are a team and I am their biggest supporter. ”
Powell’s interest in coaching began when he became a volunteer coach for a semi-professional football team while working at the Willow Grove Naval Base. He and his wife, Dawn have two sons, Anthony Jr, age 9, and Andrew, age 3. Powell said that the opportunity to begin coaching presented itself when he taught Anthony Jr., who has Autism how to swim. He continues that tradition, as he is now teaching Andrew how to swim.
A non-stop coaching season
Powell busies himself by coaching year round. He coaches a USA Swim team throughout the year, as well as a summer team at the Somerton Springs Swim Club. During the fall and spring he is also a volunteer coach with the Special Olympics.
“You can never tell how far a child will go based on how they start their swimming career.” said Powell, a former Junior Olympian Champion. “But if you show them you believe in them, they will begin to have that same belief in themselves. Very soon they will begin to do extraordinary things far beyond what anyone would have imagined. My parents were great examples that you had to be a hardworking person to be productive in the world. I took those lessons with me throughout my swimming career and into adulthood,” he said.
Preparing the way for young swimmers
Powell, a graduate of Roman Catholic High School, earned a swim scholarship to Clarion University. Powell swam with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) swim team for 15 years and seven years under Coach Jim Ellis on the US National team.
Many of Powell’s swimmers placed in the top three in their meets; over half have qualified for the Junior Olympics. Powell’s USA Swim team swims as individual swimmers, not as a sanctioned team. This year Powell said he is in a position to start his own USA Swim team–Northeast Swimming at AFC.
“His coaching style is unique,” Short said. “I had seen what he was willing to do for my daughter and how her times had improved. Sometimes I think the man is not only good in the water, but that he may actually walk on it when it comes to coaching swimmers.”
Powell may not be able to walk on water—but the sky’s the limit.