Mike Dickson feels fortunate to have his career as a coach for almost 40 years on the same team. Not many coaches can claim that. Part of the reason for his longevity is his “emphasis on running a good program not just on winning.”
“It’s hard today for some coaches starting out,” Dickson said. “Many coaches today are part-time.” As head coach at Chaffey College and Hillside Aquatics, he has enjoyed the stability of working for both the college and running a club program. “Several swimmers on the college team had parents who were on my team,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the kids grow up.”
According to Dickson, “College comes first and the college allows us to use the pool.” He runs a successful summer learn-to-swim program at the pool as well as the club team Hillside Aquatics. He attributes much of the team’s success to great assistant coaches. “While they’re finishing with schooling, swimmers will work as assistant coaches for me.”
He’s proud of his many swimmers and the great people they have become as adults. Many of his swimmers continued from Hillside Aquatics into Chaffey College to swim for him. Many followed careers into public service including lifeguards, firemen, police, California Highway Patrol, nursing, plus an author. He played an important part in his young swimmers’ lives and they keep in touch with him throughout their lives.
“Industry Hills with John Ries, Mission Viejo with Mark Schubert were two of the powerhouse teams with Olympic swimmers, he recalled. Other important teams from the early days he mentioned were YMCA San Pedro, NOVA, Redlands, RAA with Sippy Woodhead and Mike Gautreau at Covina Aquatics Association.
Dickson was born in Spokane, WA and his family moved to Montclair when he was seven years old. As a diver, he competed at Montclair High School and graduated in 1967. He competed for Chaffey college as a diver, also.
One weekend each December, Dickson plays Santa Claus for the Palm Springs Air Museum’s annual “Santa Fly In and Winter Fun Land.” Santa Claus flies into the Air Museum and greets the line of kids waiting to see him. He sits for photographs and hands out gifts for each child.
As for his club swimmers, “Kids recognize their own talent. Parents all think their own kids are talented. Kids don’t like being beat and they sort out where they fit in.” Some kids pay attention to detail and are self-disciplined while some aren’t as focused, he added. He mentioned a young man in the college who was not that talented, but he enjoys it and puts in his best effort. “I love working with kids like that and I can train them to get better.”
As for parents, he likes someone “who doesn’t own a stopwatch.” He appreciates the “parents who bring their child to practice consistently, willing to make that sacrifice. During practice, some read, walk on the track and they offer body conditioning the same time as youngers’ practice.”
“We all lead busy lives, and when parents have other children, in multiple sports or activities and are willing to help our without expecting anything in return, it’s a pleasure. The best parents aren’t asking for something in return, like if their child is going to get into another group.”
Here’s a complete bio from the Chaffey College Swimming website:
Head Coach – Men’s Swimming & Diving
For over 38 years Mike Dickson has guided Chaffey College’s aquatics programs, coaching some top notch swimmers and water polo players. Dickson started at Chaffey College as the men’s and women’s swim coach along with the men’s water polo coach. During his nine seasons as Panther water polo, coach Dickson led them to a conference championship in 1980 along with entries into 2 Southern California Water Polo Championship tournaments.
Chaffey College has won swimming titles for men’s in 1984, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2007 and 2012. The women won conference championships in 1983, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1995.
“We need to have good high schools and a good, competitive facility,” said Dickson about running a successful swimming program. “We need to be able to draw in the club swimmers.”
Dickson has been blessed with more than his share of talented swimmers. In the past 38 years Panther swimmers have earned over 150 individual or relay All-American rankings.
When Dickson recruits swimmers he talks about the benefits of attending a community college. Another selling point is that Chaffey College as its own academic counselor for athletes and they receive priority registration for their first three semesters.
Born in Spokane, Washington, Dickson and his family moved to Montclair when he was seven. He graduated Montclair High in 1967 and competed primarily as a diver.
In 1968 and 1973 Dickson dove for the Panthers swim team under the direction of Chaffey College Hall of Fame coach Howard Theurer. During the intermittent years, Dickson served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. He came back to Cal Poly Pomona, where he dove in 1974. Dickson coached various levels of swimming and diving for Montclair High between 1967 and 1978.
In addition to coaching local swimmers up to Olympic Trials, Mike was also a coach for the Indonesian National Team for several years. He has had the opportunity to coach with other international level coaches and work with swimmers who were competing on the international level. Many of his swimmers competed in the Southeast Asian Games and Pan-Pacific Games.
Coach Dickson and his wife of 38 years Bonni, live in Rancho Cucamonga. They have two adult children who have given them several grandchildren to be with and spoil whenever possible.
In his spare time, Dickson likes to collect dust jackets from the late 1930s and early 1940s. He likes to travel as he’s hitchhiked across Europe and also thumbed his way from California to New York.