This is Home: Tom Phillips, Parkersburg Sharks Swim Coach

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 4:47 PM EST
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Tom Phillips has been a swim coach at many levels for over 50 years.

He first knew he wanted to coach swimmers when he was in graduate school, and after college he moved to the Mid-Ohio Valley to become a swim coach at the Marietta YMCA.

Since he lived in Vienna, they decided to move and create a team in Parkersburg for an easier commute, and thus, the Parkersburg Sharks were formed in 1969.

Having been a coach for as long as he has, Tom has learned many things. One piece of advice he took from previous coaches, is something he still uses with his swimmers today. That is to make sure you are always committed.

“If you want to aspire to the highest levels, you have to make a commitment to your endeavor,” said Phillips. “It does not matter what the sport is.”

Tom has been the coach of the Sharks for such a long time, that former swimmers he coached, are now coaching alongside him with the current Sharks team.

David Adams, one of those coaches, says that he would not be in the position he is today without Tom’s coaching.

“Having Tom as a coach was absolutely amazing,” David said. “He was a great motivator, he’s always looking to get the most out of everybody that he is coaching. And he made a really big difference in my life. I would not be here, as a coach, if I had not had him influencing me when I was younger.”

One swimmer that probably got the toughest coaching from Tom, was his son Tim Phillips.

Tim is an alum of Parkersburg High School, and he helped Team USA win the Gold Medal in the World Swimming Championships back in 2017.

Tom is proud of his son, and says that finding the balance between parent and coach was tough for him at times.

“It’s difficult coaching your own child,” Tom said. “Because you have the parent/coach relationship, ‘Okay, I am a parent up until practice starts, and I am a coach until practice is over and then I’m a parent again.’”

Tom is all about family when being a coach. He says that a family environment in and around the team with everyone involved, is what has made his tenure as the Sharks swim coach a very successful one.

“We want this to be a family,” he says. “And we have a great family on our team, we really do. We have a really good relationship with all of the kids and the parents.”

In his time as coach of the Parkersburg Sharks, the team has set national records, and seven kids have gone on to qualify for Olympic trials.

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