Allyson Briano: Swim, Success, Scotland


Spencer Beair

Head Coach of Aquatics, Allyson Briano

World traveler, collegiate swimmer, mother, and Giant, are all titles that head Aquatics coach Allyson Briano has had through her time growing up here in the valley, and in her worldly travels.

The trials and tribulations that she has experienced in her life thus far serve not only to show what kind of person she is, but also how the lives of others have been improved through her involvement. Even though the story of her life isn’t even half-finished, what she has done so far makes for a tale that is well worth telling.

Born here in Visalia on January 24, 1978, Briano went through her schooling years without the interest in swimming that has influenced her life so much today. When she was growing up she dedicated her time doing flips in the air, not in the water, as a gymnast.

After she sustained a neck injury during her 8th-grade year, she was going to be unable to be a gymnast for a time and wasn’t willing to sustain another injury like that when she got healthy.

As a consequence of her injury, a fractured cervical vertebra, her doctor had recommended swimming to her as a means of physical therapy.
“The doctor had prescribed for me to swim for rehab on my neck, so I started swimming as a freshman at Mount Whitney with an understanding with the coach that I wasn’t going to compete and I wasn’t allowed to dive in the pool,” Briano said. “But by the time the spring swim season rolled around, I really started to enjoy the sport and feel like I was getting faster, which led to me competing in my first meet.”

It wasn’t just the speed and her own improvement that kept her going. The connections and friends that she made during the fall when she was rehabbing had an impact on her decision to start competing,

“I think swimming, when you’re together in a co-ed environment, and your teammates are counting on you, you form your best friendships with those people on your team. So I think it was the friendships that kept me in the sport, but also the success I experienced was a bit addicting.”

Briano would add, “I didn’t want to stop because I kept doing well, and of course, it feels good to do well at something and it makes you think ‘I guess I really like this.’”
After the success that Ally (as she is known by her swimmers) had in high school, she was given the opportunity to swim at USC, alongside Olympic caliber athletes who, according to her, changed her perspective on her own athleticism.

As any person would, she had seen those other swimmers as on a pedestal of ability that was out of her reach, almost as if those people were not necessarily real. When you get to a level where you are swimming alongside them, like high-level collegiate athletics, it changed the way she saw herself and the sport of swimming.

“When I get to swim with [other swimmers at USC] and consider them peers, being friends with those people showed me that this level of success is attainable,” Briano said.

As Briano swam, she not only learned about what makes a swimmer great at their job, but how to teach others to be good as well. In her freshman year at USC, coach Mike Bottom (who would go on to be an Olympic swim coach) had taught her how to train her body type and trained the sprinters differently than the rest of the team.
Due to sprinters needing less long-distance training and more intense agility training, Coach Bottom had the sprinters swimming less yardage while using asymmetrical training methods that helped swimmers improve.
“With him, I started to see way bigger increases in my time drops,” stated Briano. “That was really when I started realizing the versatility of training different types of swimmers, and that not everybody is the same thing.”
Learning about how her body needed specific training to experience her full potential also came with knowing how to give each swimmer in a program the tools and preparation to succeed, which is something that is continued even to this day.

Even though swimming was an important part of her college experience, it wasn’t everything. After completing her four years at USC in 2000, Allyson had completed her English and Creative writing degree and proceeded to work as a personal assistant to a film director, named Doug Wick.

Working as his office manager in every sense of the term, she would do the scheduling for events and meetings, welcome his guests, etc., and in doing this had left the world of sports behind altogether.

However, after a few years of working for him, she realized that the life that she wanted just was not compatible with that of the average Hollywood employee, and felt that she wanted a career where she could feel as if she was contributing.

In search of her dream occupation, Briano moved to Scotland. It was here that she accepted her passion for helping people in any way she can.

In the city of Aberdeen, she participated in a Church community project to help build a skatepark. After the completion of the project, Allyson started a tutoring program at the skatepark for Scottish kids where she and others would help kids with their homework.

It was here, finally, when she found her passion for teaching others, and how good it felt to help people learn.

After her money ran out in Scotland though, she had to move back home and come to terms with what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

“After I moved home, I had a coming to Jesus moment when I talked to my dad in a Starbucks where he asked me, ‘What are you doing with your life?’ and I just said ‘I don’t know.’ The only thing that makes sense to me at this time was helping people and being around younger people than me and helping them come up through either a system of school or sports,” said Briano.

The next step in her life saw her move once again, this time to Santa Barbara, where she would get her teaching credential and her first coaching job at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara. Serving as an assistant coach there, she met her husband and moved with him to Los Angeles due to his job working at the Staples Center.

When they got engaged, they decided to move home and settle down in the area where both her and his family were from, back here to Visalia (her husband’s family was from Hanford, but that’s beside the point). After coming here, she was able to get a job at El Diamante as both an English teacher and the head swim coach, her first time holding that position.

Due in part to the strenuous time restraints that befalls a coach/teacher combo, she decided to take a year break after working at El Diamante to help take care of her newborn son and the rest of her growing family.

After this year-long break, she came to COS for a part-time teaching position as an English instructor for four years, before accepting the head coach job and coming to where she is today.

“This is a dream job for me. It allows me a perfect life balance and to express a passion of my own which is athletics, swimming, and being around younger people, and I would not feel like myself if I wasn’t doing something like this,” Briano said. “I really haven’t imagined any part of my career that doesn’t involve COS moving forward.”

After doing so much and living through so many different life experiences, Briano is determined to stay with the COS program and achieve success here.

Not only is her goal to have every record in the books be from one of her swimmers, but her love for the program she has helped form has her convinced that she wouldn’t leave COS for a four-year college.

While this isn’t the end of her story here at COS, this is the end of this story of Allyson Briano and the path she has taken to get where she is today.
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