Nanette Zack, affectionately known by generations of swimmers as "Coach Nan," has been teaching synchronized swimming at the Lattof YMCA for more than 40 years. She has guided athletes to the finals at the U.S. Open, Age Group Nationals, Junior Nationals, Junior Olympic Nationals and the U.S. Masters Championships.
Synchronized swimming is a team sport that combines swimming, dance, gymnastics and acrobatics and is performed to music. Nan’s family became members of the Y in 1966 because of the diversity of its program offerings, which included synchronized swimming.
Along with her sister Jeannine, Nan was a standout synchronized swimmer in high school. She continued her swimming career at Northern Illinois University and went on to win more than 50 medals and receive the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame Mae McEwan Memorial Award, the USA Swimming Hall of Fame Paragon Award, and the Women's Sports Foundation's Coach of the Year.
Nan created the YMCA’s Aqua Sprites synchronized swimming team in 1972, which her daughter and granddaughters later joined. Her fondest moments are when students come back to tell her how much they miss being part of the team.
"Coach Nan is one of the pioneers of synchronized swimming," says Liz Miro, an Aqua Sprites assistant coach. "She’s always been my coach, so it’s really cool to get to work alongside her now." Liz also competes on the Aqua Sprites masters team.
The synchronized swimming program is currently offered at the Lattof YMCA and the High Ridge YMCA and accepts swimmers as young as 6 years old as long as they can swim the length of the pool. Nan and her assistant coaches are aiming to increase the number of younger swimmers on the team and retain them through high school.
"You become really close with your team and learn to function as one unit. It builds wonderful friendships."