Ana Gabriela Sorragi Matthews, better known as “Coach Gabby” at the Gulliver Schools’ Marian C. Krutulis Campus in Coral Gables, is headed to her native country of Brazil to volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Matthews endured a lengthy volunteer application process to secure the spot as a training team member and is eager to make friends, network and represent Gulliver Schools.
Matthews currently is the assistant aquatics director and swim school supervisor at Gulliver Academy for elementary and middle school students. She initially started working as the assistant coach at Gulliver Preparatory for the high school and competitive club teams in 2010.
After working for three years in that position, she was promoted as the Gulliver Schools Swim School supervisor and began working at the Marian C. Krutulis Campus in 2013. She founded the Gulliver Swim School in June 2013 which initially started with 30 students and has grown to 300 students. The Gulliver Swim School is open from Monday to Saturday and teaches swimming lessons for all ages and skill levels, including babies, those with special needs and adults.
Matthews’ inspiration to become a swim coach came from her father, Coach Fernando Sorragi, who was the national swim school coach in Brazil. Sorragi started coaching in the 1970s and opened his own swim school, the Sorragi Swimming School, in the 1980s. He was a swimming coach in Brazil for 12 years.
Matthews began swimming at 6 months old, thanks to her father’s influence, and decided to follow in his footsteps to become a swim coach.
She grew up in a middle class home in Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil which is a town in the state of São Paulo. She said she liked growing up in Mogi das Cruzes and felt it was a safe environment and enjoyed having close friends.
Mathews started coaching at 13 years old. Her dad offered her an internship at his swim school where she definitely paid her dues, which included cleaning bathrooms, but she also got firsthand experience in learning what it takes to bring out the best in a swimmer.
“My dad is my hero,” she said. “He was a great coach and helped a lot of people.”
Matthews pursued a bachelor’s degree in physical education to enable her to become an international swim coach. She earned a full-ride scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii thanks to her swim coaching experience after she already started college in Brazil.
She attended the University of Hawaii for one semester where she got more swim coach training, becoming fluent in English. However, she returned to Brazil after one semester in Hawaii when she became ill and finished her bachelor’s degree at the University of Mogi das Cruzes in 2002.
Matthews arrived in the United States in 2003 in order to pursue her dream of becoming an international swim coach. She became the assistant volunteer coach at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Eventually, she became the head coach at Brenau University where she completed a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.
“Swimming opens a lot of doors. That’s what is great about the sport,” she said.
One of the doors that opened for Matthews included meeting her husband, Jarrod Matthews, when she was coaching at the University of Georgia.
Some 750,000 applicants applied to volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Matthews is one out of 50,000 people chosen in the world to participate as a volunteer. She will be a training team member at the Olympic Park Pool where she will provide care to swimming athletes which includes providing water, Gatorade and towels.
It was a long process to become a volunteer which had requirements like being proficient in Portuguese and English. Matthews also had to do multiple online interviews and waited for four months to hear if she made the cut. She finally found out she was selected as a volunteer on May 24.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “I want to be able to inspire other women to pursue their dreams.”
She is proud to represent the USA and Brazil, because she is a native Brazilian and now an American.
Matthews is the first Brazilian woman in history to teach collegiate swimming outside of Brazil.
She has been married for 10 years to Jarrod Matthews and they have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Athena Sorragi Matthews, who is named after the city where they fell in love and got married, Athens, GA.