John Alaimo graduated high school less than a decade ago, , but he already has seven years of experience as a swimming coach.
Alaimo is in his third year as a head coach of the New York Sharks, a local travel team. Before coaching the Sharks, Alaimo was the coach for the modified boys and girls swim team at Tappan Zee High School. He also helped out the varsity team at Tappan Zee.
“Coaching is something I really enjoy doing,” Alaimo said. “I really like working with kids, and helping them improve and get better. I really hope that I can spend the rest of my adult life working with kids.”
Alaimo will work with even more kids this year. He took over as coach of the girls swimming team at Pearl River High School this fall.
“There has always been talent in Pearl River,” he said. “They’ve always had at least a couple of really good girls every year, but have been in the middle of the pack. All it takes is one transformative team to take a program to the next level and really change the culture. What we’re trying to do is make it a culture of working hard, buckling down and succeeding.”
While in high school, Alaimo swam at Tappan Zee and went on to swim in college at Vassar.
"He has a great deal of experience and knowledge,” said Pearl River High School Athletic Director Todd Santabarbara. “The hope is with that experience, he can continue to build the program here."
Coming into the year, Alaimo already knew some of the girls on the team because they swim for the Sharks as well. Among Pearl River's 37 swimmers, he coached seven of them on the Sharks. He’s looking to those swimmers to show the rest of the team how to work hard.
At practice, he splits the team up by club swimmers and varsity swimmers and gives them separate workouts.
“The club swimmers have just a bit more experience, so we want the rest of the girls to see what they’re doing and how hard they work,” Alaimo said. “And it’s only been a few days, but you can already see the improvement by all the girls. You can see them building up strength and running the workouts without me having to tell them what to do next.”
One way Alaimo has the team building up strength is by using bodyboards during practice and making the girls kick their way across the pool.
“Kicking is like 50 percent of swimming,” Alaimo said. “Kicking uses a lot of oxygen and can tire you out quickly. Plus, kicking is a really great way to get in shape.”
In addition to strength, Alaimo was looking for the team to build up camaraderie when they went upstate to Camp Watson for four days.
“It’s our big training trip before the school year begins,” Alaimo said. “It’s a team building trip.”
Assistant coach Gail Loeffler is in her third year with the team and thinks the team can improve from its recent middle-of-the-pack status.
“There’s a lot of depth on the team,” she said. “The girls just need to take those fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place spots and rack up the points. If they work hard, I think they can do it.”
Pearl River will open its season 4:15 p.m. today at North Rockland, then takes on Clarkstown 4:15 p.m. Thursday at Felix Festa.