High schools

HIGH SCHOOL SWIMMING

Legendary Andover girls’ swim coach Marilyn Fitzgerald retires

Andover, MA: 9-18-18: Andover High School swimmers listen as coach Marilyn Fitzgerald (right) gives them some last minute instructions at the Greater Lawrence Technical School before a meet. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
In her closing speech Monday night, Andover swim coach Marilyn Fitzgerald, 76, told her swimmers: “For the first time since 1992, I will not be on the deck to greet you.”

Twenty-seven year head coach Marilyn Fitzgerald announced her retirement from the Andover girls’ swim and dive program at the team’s end of season banquet on Monday night.

In her closing speech, Fitzgerald said, “For the first time since 1992 I will not be on deck to greet you. I have known since July that this would be my last year coaching this wonderful team, but I did not want the season to be about me so I did not tell anyone except my family and, more recently, the administration.”

Just more than two weeks earlier, Fitzgerald and Andover captured their fifth straight state championship, winning the Division 1 meet by nearly 300 points. The win marked Andover’s 18th state title during Fitzgerald’s tenure. Fitzgerald will exit the program with a senior class that finished undefeated, which is the second class to do so under Fitzgerald.

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Fitzgerald, 76, said she’s still of good health. But after 48 years of coaching, “it was just the right time,” she said.

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“[Coaching is] what my real passion has been,” Fitzgerald said. “So it’s the thing that I’ve done that I’ve had the most fun at. I have never dreaded — not one day ever dreaded— going to practice. Pretty much when the girls walk in the door each day it’s like my day begins.”

For the better part of a quarter century, Marilyn Fitzgerald, 76, has been a source of motivation for the Andover High girls’ swim team.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
For the better part of a quarter century, Marilyn Fitzgerald, 76, has been a source of motivation for the Andover High girls’ swim team.

Fitzgerald noted in her speech that she hoped daily motivational quotes to her swimmers would push them beyond the sport. She wanted the hardships of the sport to serve as lessons to the more than 400 swimmers she coached.

Many athletes have gone on to be business owners, doctors, entrepreneurs and nurses, among other careers, Fitzgerald said.

“Marilyn has been a enormous part of Andover athletics over the last 27 years,” Andover athletic director Bill Martin told the Globe Monday night. “Her legacy isn’t the 18 state championships that her teams have won, but her ability to guide young student athletes into strong, successful women.”

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Fitzgerald retires as Andover’s fourth coach in program history which began in 1974. She leaves her program with her two assistants, Becky Pierce and Patty Barrett.

Said Fitzgerald in her closing remarks at the banquet: “Now let’s get started on state championship number 19.”

Andover coach Marilyn Fitzgerald, high-fiving one of her swimmers during a meet, said after 48 years of coaching “it was just the right time” to retire.
Winslow Townson for the Globe
Andover coach Marilyn Fitzgerald, high-fiving one of her swimmers during a meet, said after 48 years of coaching “it was just the right time” to retire.