Spiniello’s passion yields success in second year
The “No running on the pool deck” sign that hangs on the wall of the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center might as well be in Latin for Rutgers swimming and diving coach Phil Spiniello. He tends to do the opposite as he roots for every swimmer all the way to the finish.
The second-year head coach credits the energy to his older sister and his habit of jumping into the pool and compete every time his team cuts through the water.
“My sister was on the town team and I got dragged to a meet,” Spiniello said. “I got tired of sitting in the stands. So I asked my mom if I could join the team. It was a blast, and I never looked back.”
While the passion for swimming might have come from seeing his sister compete, Spiniello’s coaching demeanor attests to another woman in his life — his mother.
“The way she raised me to be positive and to be encouraging is what I bring into my coaching every day,” Spiniello said. “That’s what I want to be, and that’s what I got from my mom.”
Senior Trisha Averill sees the encouragement every day in practice. The co-captain described her coach as “passionate” and willing to do whatever it takes to motivate his swimmers.
“What has made us successful is the amount of energy and passion he brings,” Averill said. “He is very capable of getting us motivated and is constantly pumping us up.”
Averill used the motivation and turned in one of the most impressive seasons this year for the program. She collected a Big East Swimmer of the Week award and broke the school record in the 200-yard breaststroke.
One of the main reasons Spiniello enjoys the job is the team accolades.
“I have a real passion for seeing people reach their potential and believe in themselves,” Spiniello said. “Seeing the school record fall for the 200-yard breaststroke by Trish was a highlight on the year.”
Not only has he seen individual success, but Spiniello witnessed the team accomplish a complete turnaround from where it stood last season.
During his first year on the job, the Scarlet Knights finished with a 2-4 regular season record and placed seventh in the Big East Championships.
But the Knights continued to work on swimming and diving technique under Spiniello’s guidance in the offseason. They arrived on campus in the fall and reached their win total from last season in their first meet, as Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova all fell to Rutgers.
The team rounded out the season with a 9-2 mark, a symbol of the hard work Spiniello instilled in each one of his swimmers and divers.
“Seeing the girls get better and having faster times this season than they did last year was great,” Spiniello said. “These women believe they can do it, and they are putting it into action.”
All of the energy, excitement and support instilled into the program by Spiniello show in the way he conducts himself at meets. His demeanor as he watches athletes push off the block or plunge from the boards is apparent to those in attendance.
Every aspect of Spiniello’s job makes him enjoy working with this team.
“I have fun every day at work, and it’s just fun to come to practice and to work,” Spiniello said. “That fires me up and gets me up in the morning.”
Right now, that passion comes on the sideline as he prepares his team for the Big East Championships.