Getting to Know Coach Drew

You may know Drew as one of our Age Group coaches, or maybe from his role in keeping the aquatic center up and running. But, we bet you didn't know about the nickname he and Coach Mark share, how long he's been at NOVA, or his passion for a sport that's not swimming…


When did you first join NOVA?

I started my NOVA swimming career at age 11, after a frustrating Summer League Champs. I had done a little swimming the year before at the Tuckahoe YMCA, but the NOVA kids were way ahead of where I was that summer. I distinctly remember walking back to our family station wagon after the 2nd day of swimming at Champs and telling my dad that I wanted to swim at NOVA starting that fall. When I started, we swam at the Robbins Center and Crenshaw (now demolished) pools on the UR campus with less than 100 swimmers on the entire team!

How old were you when you made your first Junior cut? What event? How was Orlando?

Much like my initial start to NOVA, I was a little later to the party when it came to that elusive first Junior cut. After many, MANY tries at an endless parade of Zones meets, I made my first cut at age 17 in the 200 Backstroke at Short Course Zones. Diane was one of my coaches at that meet!

Orlando was AWESOME! A great environment for really fast swimming but even better was the bond with my teammates that strengthened on those trips.

What was the dumbest thing done by any swimmer on your trip(s) to Juniors?

A few of my buddies thought it would be a great idea to sneak into the hotel room of the wife of one of the NOVA coaches on the trip. She was there as a chaperone and came down to help the effort. Well, the edited version is that they took all of the personal items out of this chaperones suitcase and strung them up all around the room. Not good!

Another dumb thing was the summer before my senior year of high school, all the guys on the trip dyed our hair blonde. Really, really, blonde. That in and of itself isn’t dumb, but the week we returned to Richmond, I had my Senior picture taken with the new hairdo. I still shudder a little bit when I catch a glimpse of that picture.

NOVA swimmers, in your day as they do today, always looked forward to preparing for what is now the Tom Dolan meet. Anything special you used to do to get ready for Tom Dolan?

Before many of our Championship meets, we would have a big breakfast at one person’s house where Coach Geoff would screen “inspirational” movies. Many of them were pretty cool, but since this always took place after practice, about half of us would be asleep almost immediately.

Care to share that story of being hit in the head by a football at Steward School by Geoff?

Sure. Weights was a bit different back in my day. Steward did not have a big spacious weight room to share with NOVA, so we had our own equipment in a shared storage space on the second floor of their gym – which is no longer there. We did a lot of our dryland training in the gym itself and on this particular Saturday a group of my friends and I were huddled up having a good old time shooting the breeze (instead of whatever exercise we were supposed to be doing). Geoff was diagonally on the opposite side of the gym from our little pow-wow, and from my recollection, tried to break us up by tossing a football in our direction. I guess he misjudged his arm strength because the football hit me right on the side of the head (which I trust wasn’t his aim!). We quickly got back to work after that, but it makes a great story…

Best ultimate Frisbee at Steward memory? True or False – the worse the weather was, the more likely Geoff was to let the swimmers play?

Well as swimmers, very few of us would have been up for any ultimate Frisbee all-star team, so my best memories were any that involved me contributing to the effort in a productive – read competent – way. Thinking about it now, Geoff was always more willing to let us play in poor weather. Not sure why, but it did make for some fun games.

What older swimmer influenced you the most? How?

Tough question. There were a lot of great influences I looked to in my early years at NOVA. What is so great about the team now is that there are so many options for swimmers as they progress through the program, but in our smaller days, once you reached a certain age and level in the sport, the only option was to swim in the Senior Group. So I began my 4:30am mornings as a very impressionable 8th grader. There were some awesome seniors that year to look up to… Scott Harper, Emily Carrig, Julie Gehm, and Casey Hughes to name a few. They all did an incredible job setting the tone for practices and establishing camaraderie with all of us that is still strong today…and they did a great job of making a skinny, dweeby 8th grader feel part of their world, which was pretty cool!    

On a scale of 1-10, how much did you complain in practice? Ten is a lot.

No doubt – 10.

Do you have a favorite Coach Geoff story that doesn’t make him look too bad?

There are way TOO many stories that while never would make him look bad, would be lost on most of you reading this. There is definitely a bond all swimmers share that have had Geoff as a coach.

A story I will never forget is when during my 17 year-old short course Senior Champs, I just missed that previously mentioned elusive Junior cut again for what seemed like an excruciating and crushing number of times. All of my buddies were getting ready for a fun-filled trip to Orlando, and I was faced with yet another Zones meet. Geoff wanted to make sure I was ok and changed his travel plans around to ride back to Richmond with me and my mom. I will never forget that.

Geoff’s favorite Drew story happened during a meet delay. Care to relate what happened from your perspective?

I fell into the pool while the entire crowd was sitting around twiddling their thumbs for a timing system delay. That’s as far as I go into that one.

You are the nexus of contacts with NOVA alumni. With how many folks do you stay in regular contact?

That is tough to say. So many NOVA alum have moved away from Richmond, but around the holidays, there is a core group that tries to get together every year.

Best NOVA wedding and why?

Well, I haven’t been to them all, but I probably had the most fun at Mary Rose Campbell’s. The crowd was big and boisterous and anyone who went can tell you, the Campbells know how to throw a party!

You and Coach Mark are in charge of keeping the aquatic center going (in other words, “the building guys”) – give us some fun or weird building facts.

The weirdest fact might be that there is an abandoned coal mine underneath the new pool. There are a bunch of old mines around Lauderdale Drive and this one happens to have a pool right on top. When the construction crews found it, a line of cement trucks was backed into the shell of the building and started to pour until it was filled up.

Best garbage dump trip with Mark?

Easily when we took a load from the “backyard” of NOVA, and Mark, before I could object, told the lady working in the gatehouse that we had a commercial load. Before we knew what was happening, we were ankle deep in mud, unloading his Ford Ranger and trailer smack dab in the middle of the real garbage trucks in the real dump itself. Makes a good joke today, but Mark was NOT happy at the time (especially when I couldn’t stop laughing as he was grumbling under his breath).

What is it about you and being up on the roof of NOVA?

It started out as the natural order of things. Mark isn’t the fondest of heights so I just took on those high up tasks. I guess it has turned into a chance to let my inner daredevil out! 

What is in that storage shed out back anyway?

Well, Mark and I do have the nickname of Sanford and Son, so there is a little bit of everything in there. I wouldn’t want the camera crews from “Hoarders” to step foot in there.

Favorite restaurant?

Buckhead’s – best steak in Richmond.

How’s that driving thing going? Still the adventure it once was?


Tell us something Planet NOVA would be surprised to discover about you.

I have been to 15 different Major League Baseball stadiums across the country. It is a list I hope to continue to add to, but my favorites are Petco Park in San Diego, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Wrigley Field in Chicago, PNC Field in Pittsburgh and Fenway Park in Boston. I would be remiss if I left out my Indian’s Progressive Field in Cleveland as well.

Two brothers, no sisters – do you think a girl would have worked out well in your family?


What was your favorite cartoon as a child?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My parents thought it was the weirdest thing ever created, but my brothers and I loved it!

Most embarrassing band you can’t believe you followed, now that time has passed?

Boyz II Men

Your mom passed away far too young. She served on the NOVA Board, was instrumental in the building of the pool, and raised you and your brothers while running a preschool. What part of her do you bring to NOVA?

Wow – that is a question I haven’t ever really thought about. I would like to think I have a little of her ability to get the most out of kids and be able to help them realize they are capable of things they never thought possible. She had an uncanny ability to hold high expectations for her students – she also was an English teacher at Freeman High School – while at the same time being able to relate to them on an incredibly personal level. She was very much loved by her students in the few years she taught, and I hope I have a fraction of the impact on the lives of the kids I coach as she did on her kids.

Many of your former NOVA teammates express surprise that you have pursued a coaching vocation. Fair enough, but what has surprised you about this career path?

My last answer leads to this one. I am always surprised by the impact we, as coaches, can have in kids’ lives and what that impact can mean to people in positive and tangible ways long after the swimming part of life is over. I started coaching summer league at age 16, and the first kids I came across are now adults. When I see them today, they still tell stories of my antics. Having that long of an impact still surprises me today!

IF you had two weeks off and the NOVA Aquatic Center was self-monitoring, cleaning and correcting, where would you go? Would you take Diane’s dog?

 Somewhere in the South Pacific and NO WAY!!!