While most Americans were sitting on their couches this summer watching the London Olympics, Harvard men’s swimming coach Tim Murphy had a different perspective of the Games as the head coach of the United States open water swimming team.
In his 14 years at the helm of the Crimson, Murphy has a long list of accomplishments. He has led the Crimson to six league championships. He turned Harvard alum Alex Meyer ’10 from a struggling collegiate athlete into an Olympian.
A baseball and football star in high school, a three-time club boxing national champion in college, Murphy ultimately chose to pursue a career as a swimming coach, a decision that would take him from West Chester, Pa., to Harvard and ultimately to London.
A LATE START
Growing up in a household of seven kids in Willingboro, N.J., Murphy always needed an outlet for excess energy.
“I was a pretty hyper kid, so it was probably good for me to be [playing sports],” Murphy says.
Throughout his time at Holy Cross High School, Murphy played baseball and football, forgoing the dry-land sports only in the summer to swim at the neighborhood pool in the inter-park swimming league.
Because Holy Cross lacked a swim team, Murphy focused on his other sports—to this day, he still considers his former football and baseball coach Frank Paris one of his top mentors.
“[Murphy] was of course a well-liked and popular student-athlete…. He was an outstanding athlete in both [football and baseball],” Paris recalls. “I think the things that set him apart from others was that he was very aggressive and tough, physically and mentally, and I think those were the qualities, along with being disciplined, that allowed him to make the most of his abilities.”
Looking back at Murphy’s time at Holy Cross, Paris says that he is not surprised at Murphy’s current achievements.
“Most of what he’s accomplished is the direct result of the way he works and goes after his pursuits,” Paris says. “I saw it at the bat as a young man, so I’m sure that’s why he’s successful. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Since he only swam during his summers in high school, Murphy did not even consider going out for the swim team when he first enrolled at what was then West Chester State College.
However, after Murphy got cut from the West Chester baseball team, his summer league coach encouraged him to try out for the swim team. Murphy listened.
“I ended up swimming for all four years [of college], and while I was there, I was a re-introduced to the swimming world,” Murphy says. “There was a local national-caliber club, world-class coach there.”
Murphy dabbled in a medley of sports during college, trying out rugby, lacrosse, and boxing, winning three collegiate national titles at the club level. Thought he was not the fastest swimmer, Murphy stuck with the sport, eventually becoming the captain his senior year.