Alyson Fletcher, Class of 2007

I have grown up swimming. I was engaged with the sport since the age of four. I spent my adolescent years hanging at the pool between time spent swimming on two different teams. And into young adulthood, swimming focused my academic efforts, taught me the importance of hard work, and cultivated my sense of self. Swimming at the College of William & Mary cemented the purpose of all of this, providing a capstone career experience to a high school existence that typically looked like 30 hours of swim training and 60 hours of school and studying.

I grew up in Hampton Roads. I swam for Coast Guard Blue Dolphins in Yorktown and Newport News. I travelled all up and down the mid-Atlantic for meets with one backpack full of books and one full of swim gear and towels. In the winters, I swam for my high school team in local, regional, and state meets. In the summers, I also competed with Glendale Gators, the winningest summer league team in Tidewater history.

Going to William & Mary kept me tied locally in the community in which I grew up. During my college years I coached for both CGBD and for Glendale. I planted the seed for other swimmers to consider W&M as a possibility. Swimming at William & Mary kept an overachiever like me (and like just about any W&M students is prone to be) from drowning in the endless work our curriculum can require – it kept my head above water through challenging college years. As in college and through the years since, the sport of swimming has helped me tap into the depths of my capabilities, keep balance through all life throws one’s way, and it has ignited my passion in all areas of my life. It continues to give me community, not only with my college alumni but with swimmers across the nation.

Swimming with William & Mary not only gave me a community, it also taught me physical health and well-being skills. It taught me about strength training and injury prevention across the lifecycle. I picked up nutrition know-how and became passionate about public health issues. After being exposed to cross training with the team, I became a certified instructor in the FitRec center teaching yoga and pilates, a platform for sharing the gifts of wellness with others. The branches extended to people I met lifeguarding the lap swim hours, running in the summers with the cross country and track teams, learning to cycle with the club team, and eventually picking up triathlon my senior year, where I competed around the state with other William & Mary athletes across disciplines, placing top three in every race I did that year.

Swimming is core to my feelings of pride and attachment to William & Mary as my alma mater because like we are in our academics, swimmers are storied high achievers inside and outside the pool, through and through. They have rigor, they have endurance, they have perspective, they create structure and rhythm, and they can go by feel while also paying attention to details. And they know how to be individually driven while also playing to the goals and roles of a team. I see these needs play out in my job on a regular basis.

Contrary to the stereotypes of “what do you do with a liberal arts degree?”, I had a job in D.C. right out of college and have been fully employed ever since, even though graduating into the tides of the 2008 depression. I went on to work as an architect in Boston, I managed a non-profit on the side, and I volunteered on committees providing design services across the city. After a tenure there, I picked up two masters degrees at Cornell (where I swam every day with a faculty lunch workout group), and moved back to Boston to become a transportation planner at one of the best consulting firms in the country on the subject. I continue to swim with a U.S. Masters Swimming team and I have been promoted every year in the past seven I’ve been at my job. I lead a team of eight people currently and I am soon to become our national sector leader in the practice of Active Transportation. While consulting for communities across the country that need our guidance, I take swimming on the road with me while travelling for my job. In 2019 alone, while delivering work in 17 different states, I swam in 12 different states and dropping in for a practice with 7 different U.S. Masters teams. Swimming unwinds my body from travel and clears my head to serve communities with presence.

I also don’t know of a sport that has as much potential and track record for post-college engagement as does swimming. U.S. Masters Swimming has 70,000 members across the country engaged in swimming and competing at all ages. The team based at Harvard University to which I have belonged since 2008 has over 300 members alone. Before the pandemic hit, I was planning to compete in the annual New England Regional qualified and registered to swim in two National meets for Masters swimming this year and I was planning to travel to compete in Worlds in Japan in 2021.

With all of this momentum, I became tied even deeper to our alumni community. I keep meeting Tribe Swimming alumni on my team and at meets as the years go on. And this year, through our alumni chapter page, I became connected to Club Tribe Masters Swimming and, to my surprise, it was coached by my age group coach from the Tidewater area – a fellow alumni I had not seen or talked with in 20 years. The Club Tribe team has over 100 members, organizes fundraising to benefit William & Mary swimming, and organizes a club invitational hosted by the William & Mary swim team – which unbeknownst to me would be the last time I competed in a pool this year. All spring, as all our planned reunions and competitions were cancelled and while pools across the nation were shut, we had virtual training summits and “dryland meets” on zooms. After gearing up to be a proud representative of this team, I did not expect our annual meet for alumni at the William & Mary pool could become no more and, further, that the prospect of a continued succession of alumni rising into this program was at threat. Our program has had a high return of alumni engagement to the institution based on what has been a cost-nimble operation.

The types of individuals one finds within William & Mary Swimming are the type of spirited and well-rounded individuals I want to have on my team. And this here has been a testimonial about the swimming-yoked potential of just one of them.

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