There's no place like home. The sentiment rings true at Asphalt Green for AGUA Masters coaches Ed Hagerty, Isla Hutchinson Maddox, and Hannah Altman-Kurosaki. All grew up swimming on the AGUA Swim Team and returned to Asphalt Green to coach AGUA Masters, our adult swim team. We caught up with the trio and learned about their journeys, favorite memories, and how the team has evolved!
Isla Hutchinson Maddox
Q: When did you start swimming?
A: I learned how to swim at Asphalt Green when I was 2.5 years old. At my first lesson, I got in trouble because I took off my swimsuit and peed in the pool! (All was forgiven.) I started on the swim team when I was 5 years old. I feel like I'm very much a part of the fabric of AGUA.
Q: What were some of your favorite memories on the AGUA Swim Team?
A: AGUA was such an outlet because I went to Sacred Heart, an all-girls high school. It was my first coed experience. Swimming at the US Olympic Trials in 2012 was a really special moment, especially because Lia Neal was my best friend. (Lia went on to make the Olympic team and win a medal.) We were a close-knit group, so seeing Lia's work come to fruition was really fun to experience together. For me, I was in the best shape of my life at Trials but got intimidated by the crowd, and it got the best of me. Growing up, Big Swim (now Big Swim Big Kick, Asphalt Green's annual free swim meet and soccer festival) was one of my favorite things to do as a kid.
Q: How has your relationship with the sport evolved over the years?
A: I swam at Yale in college. Swimming became a team sport, and I put less pressure on myself. The people on the swim team became my best friends. Now, I'm taking a long break from swimming, but I love teaching technique more than anything. It's fun to see people get excited about improving. AGUA has always stayed really close, accessible, and a place where I can feel like I am able to grow as a teacher.
Q: What life lessons have you learned from swimming?
A: Swimming taught me discipline. I start medical school in August 2019 at Mount Sinai, and I'm able to translate a million lessons from swimming to medicine. I learned how to invest in a team and hold myself accountable. From coaching, I've learned how to communicate effectively. It's also a great sport for the body. Now, I've found other ways to harness that energy. I'm hopefully going to run a marathon in the next two years.
Q: What is your best swimming advice?
A: Good technique! Also, do what makes you happy. Being able to have the opportunity to say, "I want to be here," is new to me. It's not an obligation. If you asked me during college if I liked swimming, I would say there are really huge merits to it. I like it now because I'm choosing it. Every time you go to practice, reflect that it's your choice to be there. You get out of it what you want.
Q: How did you get started in swimming?
A: I was pretty much a baby when I was tossed into the pool. My parents signed [me and my sibilings] up for swim lessons at Columbia University at a very young age. When our swim coach, Matt Gilman, joined the AGUA coaching staff in 1998, we followed him to Asphalt Green and never looked back. At my first ever Big Swim meet, I was 6 years old and did a false start. So, I dove in, saw no one else in the pool, and thought, "Oh my gosh, I'm so fast." I gave it my all, but then we had to redo the heat.
Q: What was it like swimming on the AGUA Swim Team?
A: I learned a lot about coaching styles because I was coached by so many different people. We are the largest team in NYC, so I got to know a lot of determined and talented swimmers. Swimming on AGUA coined me in school as, “that girl who goes to swim practice before school, then goes to swim practice again after school.” I loved the feeling of completing a three-hour morning practice on the weekend, then going to get a massive breakfast with my friends. It prepared me to swim in college at Case Western Reserve University.
Q: What is your coaching style?
A: When I'm coaching, I try to coach from a swimmer's perspective. I always remember what kind of feedback I appreciated from a coach. At Masters, I always want to make sure swimmers feel a sense of community. I want people to leave with a sense of accomplishment and enjoy what they're doing.
Q: What life lessons have you learned from the sport?
A: Swimming taught me a lot about dedication and determination as well as time management. I always put swimming before everything else, and I realized that you really need some sort of balance in your life. From a young age, [I learned] that our bodies are capable of enduring 20+ hours of training per week. It also sparked my career interest in nutrition, as I was always interested in how food impacted athletic performance. Swimming is still my favorite form of exercise. After my collegiate swimming career, I thought I was done swimming forever. However, when I started coaching Masters I had a change of heart and decided to swim with the team. I realized I still love training and have a competitive mindset. Swimming is a lifelong sport. You can leave everything else in life behind for an hour. It brings a sense of Zen, clarity, and calmness to your life.
Q: When did you start swimming?
A: I had a private lesson at Asphalt Green in 1993. I didn't do much after that until 1999 when I joined the AGUA Swim Team. I got cut from my high school soccer and rugby teams and didn't want to run track, so I took up swimming. Then I found that I had potential, so I took it more seriously.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories swimming on the AGUA Swim Team?
A: I remember actually hating it when I started. I quickly realized that I wasn't very fast at all and relegated to the back of the slower lanes. During my first meet, my 50 freestyle time improved by 5 or 6 seconds. I reaped the benefits of the training I had been doing. I really enjoyed the away meets because you got to know your teammates. At the beginning of my sophomore season, I was one of the top swimmers in the conference. I ended up continuing to swim at Amherst College.
Q: Why did you come back to swim/coach AGUA Masters?
A: I stopped swimming for a little after college. I wanted to get back in shape, so swimming was the lowest hanging fruit for me. I ended up joining the Masters team, then I started to coach. It's nice to be able to pass on my knowledge to people who want to improve and help them reach their goals.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: I still train and compete. Honestly, I feel like I've been part of Asphalt Green for so long that it's like a second home. There is a lot of nostalgia going to the uptown facility because I trained there when I was a kid. There always has to be a goal in mind. I always want to either improve or see what my training has done for me. The New York State Championships in Binghamton were a big motivator. I wanted to win (AGUA Masters won the meet). I'm competitive by nature so that was a challenge too. I want to see what I'm capable of now that I’m 13 years out of college.
Q: How has swimming shaped you as a person?
A: You learn commitment and drive. I work in sales, and in the industry, it can translate to having thick skin. You take a loss and keep going. Swimming helps you excel and understand how to face challenges and overcome them. A competitive environment teaches you how to manage expectations and loss.