New swim and dive coach finds herself back in familiar territory

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After the alumni meet this weekend in McPhee Physical Education Center, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are starting to feel more confident about the new freshmen, new season and a brand new head coach.

Annie Ryder, who has previous experience coaching children, high school and college level students, said she is looking forward to helping the athletes realize how far they can go.

“I think there’s so much potential sitting in the pool that they don’t even necessarily realize that they have,” Ryder said.

Though she might be new to coaching, Ryder is familiar with the Blugolds, having been one herself several years ago.

She swam under previous head coach Art Brandt from 2002-2006 at UW-Eau Claire, but having grown up in the area, she has had Brandt as a coach since she was around 9 years old.

“It’s just really neat to be back as an alumni and be coaching for my former team,” she said. “It’s kind of extra special for me.”

The alumni meet showed Ryder where the team is in terms of training, she said, and it showed a lot of potential but also allowed her to see areas for improvement.

She has already tailored the rest of the practices this week to reflect those improvements, she said, and she can feel the positivity from her team.

“I’ve been very happy with the welcoming that they’ve given me,” she said.

Compared to being an assistant coach, Ryder said she enjoys the freedom she has to change the program in ways she hopes will help the athletes.

“I’ve worked with Art for a long time, so he taught me a lot of what I know about coaching,” she said. “I think our philosophies are the same, but we are different in some ways so it’s just nice to make the program how I want to make it.”

And the athletes are already noticing changes. Senior Jake McDade said he is excited for the new season with Ryder and so far the team has been welcoming to the changes she has made.

While the team has always been very close, McDade said some teammates last year had very different ideas than their coach, which led to butting heads at practice. He said he has already noticed his teammates’ trust in Ryder.

“I think what happened last year, some of the swimmers lost trust in the coaches, which is really unfortunate,” he said. “This year, having a trust in your coach, that’s a huge part of swimming, just being able to trust what you’re doing and know that it’s gonna pay off.”

McDade, who has swam all three years at Eau Claire, said after a strong freshman year in the pool, he feels he hasn’t performed up to par the past two seasons. This year, he wants to get back, or even better than, where he was.

“I think Annie can get me there,” he said. “I think she can get the whole team there.”

Senior Evan Koch also said he has noticed only positive feedback so far from his teammates in regards to Ryder.