Leadership, culture, and open doors, that's what Swimming and Diving Assistant Coach Alice McCall brings to the team through past championship experience and working with the WeCoach Mentor Program.
McCall, a swimming standout through most of her swimming career, has competed at some of the most prestigious competitions. She was a member of the Great Britain Open Water squad and competed in various international competitions including the FINA World Cup series and European Cup series racking up Top 5 and Top 10 finishes. She also moved from Wigan, Great Britain to Dallas, Texas to attend Southern Methodist University (SMU) where she became a standout swimmer and competed at the Conference USA Championships.
"We had a really solid team and we managed to get I think in my time, two championships and some runner-up spots," McCall reminisced. "It came from a good chemistry and a good culture ... so I attribute a lot of it to that. Obviously we worked hard and our coaching staff was amazing and our head coach was a big culture guy too."
McCall was named captain of the squad her senior year at SMU and became a consistent scorer for them. In her first year with the team, she earned runner-up honors in the 500-yard freestyle and won the 1,650-yard freestyle at the C-USA Championships. After completing her four years of college, McCall got a coaching job right after graduation at the University of Toledo where she helped mid-distance and distance swimmers swim at 95 percent of their personal best. She transfers those experiences of championships and coaching styles onto her student-athletes, pushing them to become better.
"At SMU in four years I had three assistant coaches, but when I first went into coaching I wanted to kind of implement all three different coaches and what they brought to the team," she explained. "They were all very different people, but they all brought something to the program."
Coming into her third season as an assistant coach, McCall has helped distance swimmers perform at their absolute best. She is aiding in having numerous distance swimmers compete at their peak, setting lifetime bests at both the 2017 and 2018 Conference USA Swimming and Diving Championships, attributing their performances on "culture" and her "open door policy."
"I personally have an open door policy. One of my graduates stopped by and I think that is kind of how we are as a staff. It's just making sure that the student-athletes know they are wanted and needed, that's a huge thing for us coaches being able to project that," expressed McCall.
McCall makes sure the student-athletes and herself have a mutual understanding of expectations, a sort of "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" mentality. She explains that the hard work will be put in both ways in order for success.
"It works pretty well, especially coaching distance," explained McCall. "Obviously the performance is the result of my coaching from people who I try to have the best relationship with because I'm just with them the most. We have got to get along and you're not going to be loved by everyone and for those people you have to find a way to get through to them."
In order to grow as a coach, McCall looks to implement some ideas that she has learned through the WeCoach Mentor Program and other coaches she meets with.
"There's conferences that happen in Denver which is where I went this last spring, and we do a lot of workshops," she said. " A lot of it is kind of personalized, but quite a lot of it is useful to take back and implement in your team."
WeCoach Mentor is a premier membership organization that is dedicated to helping female coaches develop their coaching skills by networking and learning ways to implement various ideas to their team without being restricted to one sport. A program that is exclusively for women coaches is fairly new, starting their first program in 2017 with 48 participants and has expanded to 66 this year. There were over 100 applicants and Coach McCall was one of the lucky ones to be chosen.
"Not sounding too much like a feminist with what's going on right now, (but) it's a really cool time to be a part of this, especially in sports, which is traditionally a male-dominated field especially in coaching," said McCall.
She is right. According to an NCAA article, in 2016, the number of NCAA women head coaches was just over 40 percent. "It's something that we can communicate as women together," said McCall. "I'm with the head rowing coach at Colgate and the head field hockey coach at St. Joseph's University. Once a month we have an assignment to do and it's not overly strenuous ... it's for us to share ideas and for us to be able to have a network where if we feel something could improve at our current institution we ask how do you do it at Colgate or how do you do it at St. Joseph's."
She further described the program as "a cool way to do stuff with people (rather) than trying to do it on your own." Grabbing ideas from other institutions and implementing it to the team to help advance their performance in a positive way is what McCall is doing here at FAU.