Former Ranger, 24, heading up synchronized swimming programs on Carribean island
Jamaica is once again in the spotlight as the track and field portion of the Olympics takes center stage. If the island country of nearly 3 million ever matches in the pool its prowess on the track, it will have a Forest Lake native to thank.
Alissa Moberg bought a one-way ticket to the Caribbean island in June to start work as the head coach of one of the country’s two synchronized swimming clubs and as acting coach of the Jamaican national program.
“I’m the face of synchro in Jamaica,” the 24-year-old said last week while back stateside.
Calling her Back
Kingston, Jamaica might as well have been Timbuktu to Moberg at this time last year. She had earned a degree in communications from the University of Minnesota in 2011. After years of being intimately tied to synchronized swimming, she scaled back her involvement and took a corporate job with Target.
It did not take long for the sport to call her back.
“I really just missed it and missed being involved,” she said. “I missed being in that capacity of coaching and being involved in that sport with the athletes.”
Fortunately, circles are tight in the synchronized swimming community. With a few well-placed calls and some good fortune, Moberg quickly came across the opportunity to lead Synchro Stars Jamaica – the sister club of a top club from St. Paul – and also coach the national team in international tournaments.
The 2007 Forest Lake High School grad accepted the job in May and left the United States on June 15. Moberg since has found work at a pool much more agreeable than at an office.
“I’m all synchro all the time,” she said.
Duties for the club include competitions on the island and in the U.S., as well as awareness initiatives such as performances at local resorts. Moberg will travel the globe with the national team and said she looks forward to choosing where to take the squad.
It’s not all fun and games, though. The sport is not nearly as developed in Moberg’s new country as in her native land.
“The group of girls I’m with have less than five years of experience,” she said. “They’re at the point where they’re competitive in the Caribbean, but once they’re on the world stage at U.S. meets they’re the little fish, so we’re working on bringing them up to speed.”
Poised for Success
Moberg has the background to be successful in the former English colony. A background in traditional swimming led her to join Forest Lake’s school team as an eighth-grader.
“I hung up my softball gear and tried synchro and loved it from the very first day,” she said.
She went on to a decorated, five-year varsity career. Moberg was among 13 senior Rangers in 2007 and helped the team break out with a fourth-place performance at state.
“It was really cool to be able to see how this big group of girls all progressed together,” she said. “Being able to leave that legacy was cool.”
Moberg went on to swim for the U of M’s club team for two years until a knee injury ended her career. Unbeknownst to Moberg at first, it is expected of club swimmers to work in some degree with local high school programs. Before she knew it, the college freshman ended up holding pool keys as head coach of the Bloomington high school team.
“It was a big stressor but something I would never change…It felt really natural to go into that coaching capacity,” said Moberg, whose father, Ron, was a longtime head football coach at North Branch High School.
Under the watch of Moberg and assistant coach Carrie (Peterson) Erickson (who were synchro duet partners at FLHS) the Bloomington Aquettes grew from a team of eight to about 25 this spring, when they placed fifth in state. Moberg handed the whistle to Erickson following the 2011 season but helped out in a lesser capacity in 2012.
“We’ve had some really great success with the girls,” Moberg said.
Life in Paradise
That prep coaching position that Moberg walked into ended up being her ticket out of the corporate jungle.
Not that she needed much convincing. It’s not every day that job offers ride in on a warm breeze from the West Indies.
“It’s kind of crazy,” she admitted. “It’s probably one of the most adventurous things I’ve done.”
She lives in Kingston, the capital located on a harbor on the southeastern coast. The city has nearly a million inhabitants, but Moberg said it feels much smaller than the Twin Cities and she is often recognized as the “Minnesotan who does synchro.”
Life in paradise has its complications, she said. There are the constant stares for being blue-eyed and blonde, rare traits in Jamaica. Plus, time commitments are such that it is hard to squeeze in an afternoon at the beach.
“Being a fair-skinned person, this is the darkest I’ll ever be in my life,” she said. “It’s fun living in a tropical location. But I don’t necessarily [notice it] until I see a parrot nearby or a mango falls off a tree.”
Perhaps in a few months Moberg will notice the lack of snow. In the meantime, she is taking it day-by-day in an adventure that seems sure to be full of bright days ahead.
“The sky’s the limit,” she said. “I have no idea where this is going to lead.”