“Meet the Coaches” – Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Meg Sisson French

“Meet the Coaches” – Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving Meg Sisson French

Cambridge, Mass. (September 30) – As part of a series that will take part throughout the 2020 fall semester, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) will be featuring a number of head coaches and DAPER staff members. The seventh installment of this series features Meg Sisson French, the Head Coach for Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving, who is entering her second year at MIT during the 2020-21 academic year!

As part of each feature, we have included a written question and answer session, along with a video interview where recruits, alumni, fans and others can learn more about the program and MIT. If you can't currently visit MIT, we will bring MIT to you!

When did you know that you wanted to be a coach?
During my senior year of college swimming, my coach at Springfield, asked if I ever thought about being a coach. And I always loved swimming and it was always a really big part of my life but it really wasn't until that point when I thought, "yeah, maybe I could really like coaching." So from there I went on to pursue a graduate fellowship as an assistant coach for my college team when I was finishing my master's of social work. And then when it came to the end of my MSW, I kinda had two paths, I could be a social worker and use my degree or I could choose something that I was really passionate about. And so I decided I wanted to give coaching a try and then I made the move to Southern California and my whole life changed.

What was your experience as a student-athlete like in the NEWMAC? How does it feel to return to your home conference as a coach at MIT?
I enjoyed my experience as a student athlete so much, that it's my career. You know I think back really fondly on my time at Springfield and, you know it changed my life in a lot of ways. Some of my closest friends are from swimming at Springfield. And it's funny because when I was swimming at Springfield, there was always a fun, competitive rivalry between MIT and Springfield. And funny enough, my last NEWMAC championships was here at MIT. So when I walked onto the pool deck, for the first time as the coach of this program, it was so surreal. And it was quite an amazing feeling. I feel lucky to be here every day and you know being back in the NEWMAC conference, it really feels like home. And it is an amazing experience to be sharing the pool deck with my former college coach John Taffe and some other coaches in the NEWMAC that I've looked up to for years. 

What is your favorite memory from your first season at MIT?
It's really hard to think of my favorite moment from my first year here at MIT, it was busier, it went by really fast. And, you know there were a couple of things that really stuck out when I was trying to think of my favorite moment. And the first one was when we were training during IAP, it's always the best time of year. You know everybody was working really, really hard and we wanted to do something to reward them, and you know boost some team morale. So we announced that we were going to do a get out swim. And first the look on everyone's faces, when we announced we were doing to get out swim was priceless. I wish I had my camera so I could have taken a picture. They earned it. They were so excited. And then when we told them it was going to be a mixed medley relay that was the icing on the cake. It was awesome. They really get up for relays. And so the energy on deck that helped those four people get through that relay was awesome. It's definitely a huge highlight. And then those four people swim wicked fast. So, that was definitely a favorite memory during the middle of really hard training, and watching the team come together no matter how tired they were.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the student-athletes at MIT?
Something that is surprising about the student athletes here at MIT, if they're going to do something, they're gonna do it a hundred percent. They're going to go all in and not look back. I always knew or figured at least that students at MIT worked really hard and were really passionate about what they do. But they give it their all with everything they do in the pool, and the classroom around campus, and even for fun team bonding things. Now our seniors, last year asked for a scavenger hunt from probably our very first conversation when I got to MIT. So on the last night of training during IAP, the night before their senior meet against the Amherst, we decided to surprise the team with a scavenger hunt. And everyone was so excited. Like it went pretty, you they know went loud, and then they got really quiet and then they got really competitive. And so during that moment, I was like wow! Like it doesn't matter if it's a hard underwater set, or if it's an all out sprint set, or if it's a scavenger hunt, they're going to go all in and give it a hundred percent. So I really admire that about our student athletes here. 

Can you talk a little more about your personal coaching philosophy and how that influences your work with student-athletes at MIT?
What our student athletes do here at MIT is pretty amazing. They lead very busy lives in the classroom and around campus. And they're also really invested in our team. You know I really believe that balance is key. It's essential to success in any arena on a college campus and in life in general. And so when I first got to MIT, I tried really hard to get to know them. And it was a really fast transition and season started about three weeks after I moved across the country, but it was important to know who they are and what they're passionate about and how I can help them be successful. So my coaching philosophy comes from making connections with my student athletes and really collaborating with them on how to make their experience the best it can be. We collaborate on things like training, lifting, taper, balancing academics, other things in their lives. And I really, really believe you can have the best of both worlds and at a place like MIT, I really want my swimmers and divers to feel valued. Like they have a say in how to get the most out of their training and that they feel like a really important part of our program.

What is your favorite place to relax away from the pool in Boston or Cambridge?
Favorite place to relax in Boston or Cambridge away from the pool, I have to say, you know since my swimming career ended a long time ago at Springfield, I've gotten into running, and so running on the Charles river, is still, really amazing. It hasn't gotten old. So it's definitely one of my favorite things to do. 

What is the best thing you’ve watched since quarantine started?
The best thing I've watched since quarantine started, I have to say an early favorite quarantine pick was killing Eve. that was amazing. And currently I'm watching Ozark and I'm hooked . We're about midway through season two. So we're excited to see what happens.

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