Jack Argue jumped into officiating during the early days of his daughter’s age group swimming career during the 1970s and 80s. “Swimming is the most boring sport in the world to watch, except when your child is swimming,” Jack said. “As they get better, you watch them less and less.” He said there wasn’t a cap on how long a meet could last back then and meets could go on for 10 to 12 hours “and you can only read a newspaper so many times.” He soon discovered that he liked to stay busy waiting to watch his daughter swim for a few minutes.
Herb Hall is the person who got Jack into officiating when his daughter was about seven years old—his daughter Jennifer is now 42. His long-time involvement with swimming started in Hemet, which wasn’t part of US Swimming at the time. He became president of Hemet while his daughter swam there. They switched teams to Palm Springs Piranhas and finally to Redlands Swim Team.
Jack was instrumental in the planning of new pools in Hemet. From 1972 – 78 he was president of the Eastern Section. During the 80s, he was president of the Palm Springs Piranhas when his daughter swam for Head Coach Bill Pullis, prior to Bill’s leaving for Reno. Chuck Riggs was his daughter’s coach in Redlands. Jack’s roles in swimming included being the Officials Chair and a Vice Chair for Southern California Swimming. During this time period, Ed Ruth was the Chairman of Southern California Swimming.
Jack smiled when he reminisced about his days with Herb Hall officiating at the Junior Olympics in Barstow. He said the entire town got behind the meet and the meet would be played on TVs in restaurants throughout the town. He said it was an incredible time and he enjoyed driving Herb around town.
Argue explained that Mary Jo Swalley was the first Executive Director when Southern California Swimming broke away from the AAU and became a US Swimming organization. One of the big things Mary Jo did was take over the travel fund, which has flourished through the years. Under the AAU, there were no funds to send kids to Junior and Senior Nationals in those days. Once the organization of Southern California Swimming was underway, fees were taken from meet fees and put in a rainy day fund for the LSC. He described other roles Mary Jo was responsible for including membership, verifying birth certificates, coaches training, certification, etc. Most people don’t realize that Mary Jo has been in charge of 25,000 athletes, in addition to at least 50,000 parents, 900 coaches and at one time 250 officials.
When asked how things have changed through the years, Jack said there wasn’t as much interaction between the committees as there is today. The sections were autonomous and it was normal to only attend meets in your area until your kids reached the Junior Olympic level. You didn’t have San Diego coming in for a meet, etc. It was pretty much the same swimmers at each meet. Eastern Section went from Palm Springs, Vegas to Walnut. When they had a meet in Vegas, you wouldn’t get a lot of swimmers besides Vegas. In Palm Springs, you’d get Hemet, and Redlands, but not further away. Now there is more interaction between sections.
“Some teams are so big, like Nova with 900 swimmers, that if they sent some of their kids to a meet, they wouldn’t all get in, and neither would any other teams. So they hold their own meets.” Jack said the four-hour rule was passed by the USA Swimming and by people in areas of the country who didn’t have all-day meets. “We had to get creative of how to hold a four-hour meet with 25,000 swimmers,” Jack said.
He recalled an interesting story when there was a push to not let Janet Evans swim high school. “She’s too good,” the high school parents said, “It’s not fair for her to swim, she’s a world record holder.”
Accessibility of facilities is what makes swimming so huge in Southern California Jack said. However, Jack said the East Coast pools are newer and better. He said there is now a push to have meets in pools with seven feet of water and a lot of our pools in Southern California will be absolute. Unless it’s a brand new pool, it won’t be seven feet deep.
When asked about changes to the sport, he said it used to be that parents didn’t have a clue and were on the sidelines and the kids had fun. Early on, there were very few professional coaches where that was their only job. Most coaches were teachers or had another profession. As clubs got bigger they could afford coaches, and that’s been better for the kids.
“A lot of the camaraderie with smaller teams is gone. Kids didn’t jump from club to club. They pretty much stayed close to home. That’s different now.” Jack sites the popularity of the Olympics, the press and exposure that has helped promote swimming dramatically. “The numbers in USA Swimming will go way up during an Olympic year and then drop down until the next Olympics.”
The Argues became a swim family, first because his wife was a former swimmer in Pennsylvania, and then his neighbors had kids on a summer league team and suggested their daughter try swimming, too. Jack Argue and his wife returned to their home in Pennsylvania full-time, but after three years, decided the snowy winters weren’t their cup tea. We now have Jack back in Southern California on the pool deck as an official. They’ll continue to spend their summers in Pennsylvania, stay to see the colors of the leaves change and then return to Southern California and swimming.
If you want to find out about the history of swimming in Southern California and how we became a powerhouse, go no further than Jim Montrella. A swim coach from the age of 17 at Lakewood Aquatics, to NCAA winning Ohio State Women’s Swimming and US Olympic coach, Montrella has a wealth of knowledge and love of the sport to share. Read more about his swimming accomplishment on his ASCA bio here.
I spoke with Jim for several hours, covering many topics from his early days as a coach, how USA Swimming began, his introduction and production of swim paddles, to the history behind several teams and the SCS Travel Fund.
HOW USA SWIMMING BEGAN:
“Prior to 1980, a significant number of coaches in a number of sport disciplines were becoming disenchanted with the Amateur Athletic Union because a lot of money was going to track and field and not to the other sports. There were a lot of us that were interviewed in Washington DC by a couple of senators and their staffs. They asked what can we do to help you with your sport? That was early 1970s.
“An outgrowth of that became actually a breakup of the union into separate sports federations such as United States Volleyball Association, United States SwimmingUnited States Soccer, USA Soccer and USA Swimming.
“By the time we got to 1980, we never went to another AAU convention. Our sport became it’s own federation. Ray Essex became our first chief executive director.”
According to Wikipedia: “The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 was signed by President Jimmy Carter, established the United States Olympic Committee and provides for national governing bodies for each Olympic sport. The Act provides important legal protection for individual athletes.”
“From 1978 to 1980, the official responsibilities of governing the sport were transferred from the AAU Swimming Committee to the new United States Swimming. Bill Lippman, the last head of the Swimming Committee, and Ross Wales, the first president of United States Swimming, worked together to ease the transition. This process was made more interesting because the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics and, during this time, the leadership of the sport was in flux.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Early on, in the days of the AAU, the YMCAs were very powerful, Montrella said. He mentioned the YMCAs in the southern part of Los Angeles County, such as San Pedro and Long Beach.
“I really never got any experience until high school and started on a swim team in my junior year in high school. I was very late to the sport in today’s standards,” Montrella said. “About two years later, Lakewood YMCA, who I was associated with, built a pool and asked me to be the aquatics director. We started lessons and started up a swim team.
“There were some private swim schools back then and the Los Angeles Athletic Club and the Pacific Coast Club were very significant. From the swim schools that started teams, and the YMCA league in Southern California, which was very active, many more clubs started. The most significant club team and coach had to be Peter Daland at the LA Athletic Club. Peter came from Yale and was assistant coach back under Bob Kippeth. He came out from there to be coach at the LA Athletic Club. He was approached by USC to be the head men’s coach of the program. He coached there until the early 90s. He did a spectacular job.
“We got pretty strong at the Lakewood aquatics club. We actually won the Junior Olympics for 18 years—the local one. Through the efforts of Jerry LaBonte and myself and all our staff members, we were very involved we held the local long course JOs for the local swim committee. Back then it was called Southern Pacific Association Amateur Athletic Union and it was part of AAU. We held those at Lakewood Mayfair Park swimming pool for a couple years. Then Lakewood Aquatic Club ran the Southern Cal Junior Olympics at the Belmont Pool.
“One thing that they should have never done is they put in that diving well, and the water pressure because of the ocean was always playing havoc with the bottom of the Belmont pool. Putting an engineer against mother nature’s shallow table that close to the ocean was insanity. Even though you won’t read that, we all know it’s true.”
“The LSC goes as far north as San Luis Obispo and as far south as Camp Pendleton. And as far east as Las Vegas,” Montrella said.
He explained that San Diego always wanted to remain separate. “The Cleveland National Forest and Camp Pendleton separated it with geography. The San Diego people didn’t want to have to continue to drive 60 miles north all the time and that is just to get to Orange County. There were no programs those days in Carlsbad or Oceanside. It was literally the Coronado Navy Association with Mike Troy.”
THE TRAVEL FUND
“Jim Sterkel, the father of Jill Sterkel, Olympian, medal winner in the 1976 4×100 relay. Her father was treasurer for SCS, which was at that time still Southern Pacific Athletic Association. He contributed a huge amount. We made a donation to what we began to call the permanent travel fund. The permanent travel fund was perceived as an endowment. And as donations came into the permanent travel fund it grew. It was permanent because we never touched the principal. However, Jim through his efforts, established a 5 cent fee for each event, with the fee to go to the permanent travel fund. That 5 cents for every event, for every child for every meet, began to grow significantly. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view, Jim took all those 5 cent fees and swept it into the travel fund. The fund grew and grew under Jim’s leadership along with another person, Brett Borisoff. His sons were swimmers and he was chairman of swimming in Southern California for a number of years.
“Fifty percent of the interest went into the current fund, the other 50% plus the five cents went into the permanent fund. The current travel fund went to defray expenses to those kids who qualified to go to the national senior meets. Let’s say your daughter qualified for the senior national meet. As you know it costs a fortune for transportation, food, housing, and a lot of people couldn’t afford it. Some of the best swimmers from Southern California couldn’t go and couldn’t represent us at Nationals, which was a shame.
“It was kind of like the Olympics right now. We only can take two people in each event to represent us. But we have eight others that would have been in the consolation finals at least.
“As the current travel fund grew, we decided that we would split that fund between short course nationals and long course nationals. Then the kids got their share of the money divided by the number of kids of whatever money was available. As you might guess, the permanent fund grew, as did the current travel fund and over a period of years got more and more money to defray expenses. That helped a lot of clubs that didn’t have the money to help defray the expenses.
“What started out a $200 donation from Lakewood Aquatic Club, primarily under Jim Sterkel—I don’t think his daughter Jill even knows this—grew to well over $2 million. There shouldn’t be a child in Southern California that should be in need of defraying costs to go to the national senior championship.”
ABOUT MISSION VIEJO
The Mission Viejo pool
“Mission Viejo Company developed 32 square miles. Mission Viejo decided they had to relate to families so they set aside land for fields, tennis courts and swimming pools. They developed the pool and in its day it was second to none. It’s still a beautiful facility. But, unfortunately we will never host another national championship there unless we get two 50 meter pools. The Mission Viejo Co. realized that in order to sell homes, they made it very family oriented. They also developed the mall. It’s now the Shops at Mission Viejo. With the mall and auto row, hospital, etc. we have huge tax dollars which help. This allows a lot youth and senior programs. The city council was great at following the company’s mission. And it’s great for small business. There are a lot of small businesses in Mission.
COACHES AND COACH-OWNED TEAMS
“A lot of us left club coaching. We had brought it from a volunteer type of status, and we evolved it to more of a professional coaching status. Now there are a lot of professional club coaches.
“A lot of us went on to become college coaches. I went to Indian River and became athletic director of ten sports as well as coaching swimming. Then after two years, we went back to school I got my masters and my wife got her bachelors. We went to Ohio State and I became the head woman’s coach.
“There aren’t as many club programs owned by the coach, but there should be. There’s only been less than six parent run clubs ever win a national championship. I can only remember the Cincinnati Pepsi Marlins and it was only one time when there was a merger of three different teams in 1980. I don’t think there’s ever been another one.
“Coach owned teams are successful because there is a vested interest and because a professional is running the team.
“Parent run organizations can be very effective and they are very helpful, but to win a national title it’s near impossible because it takes too long to get things done.
“More club coaches come in from the bottom up. Nadadores is a parent run organization with the best bylaws of any organization. It encourages continuity and lack of turnover. Our board members read the bylaws before they run. They read the contracts before they run. They know their responsibilities because you’re going to be held accountable not just responsible.”
HAND PADDLES–MODERN SWIMMING CONCEPTS COMPANY
Jim Montrella’s “Modern Swimming Concepts” paddles
“Flip Darr was the first coach I saw use hand paddles including with Gary Hall. I liked the concept and I had some ideas. I asked Flip if he wanted to see them or go into a partnership. He said, ‘No, you go with it.’
“I developed some prototypes and I got some help with a gentleman name Ray Judkins, who is now deceased. He was in direct marketing sales. Ray Soft was a swim parent with two daughters who swam for me, and he had an injection molding business. I went to him and showed him the designs and prototypes. I came out with three sizes. This took about three years, from prototypes to production and I controlled everything. I bought the resins and the dyes, I contracted out to the molders, stamping, routing cuttings, packaging. There were about six guys I trusted in the country and they helped with distribution including John Gambrel and Mike Troy.
“I had originally asked Speedo a few years earlier and they said no. I got the product up and running and had international distribution.
“Speedo asked if I wanted to go into a joint venture. I licensed them to earn the right to exclusive distributorship. They licensed me to put their name on my product. I kept my paddles on the market and when they sold more in their geographical area than I did, I would stop selling in their geographical area. It took them 14 years to take over.
“The size of the paddle has nothing to do with the size of the child. A paddle should always be flat. It should always have a single attachment at the finger to the knuckle. The wrist band is only for a beginner, concave or convex are not teaching all that they can teach. You can use different paddles for different things.”
Here’s a great article on SwimSwam by Chuck Warner about Jim Montrella
Christine Martin on deck at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, while she was very active with SCS. (photo permission of Christine Martine)
Christine (Tina) Martin began her amazing swim officiating career as a typical mom. Like many Southern California swim moms, she signed her kids up for summer league and then onto year-round swimming. In 1973, when her youngest was five years old, she decided to get more involved. More involved is putting it lightly!
She became meet secretary from 1974 to 1984 and an official in 1982. She said during these years, there were few women referees and officials on deck.
Looking back on her career that includes officiating and leading So Cal Swimming, Southern California Aquatics Federation, Masters, NCAA and more, Martin said, “Our work on the Los Angles Olympics in 1984 was life altering.”
She and Mary Jo Swalley were two women in charge—at a time when few women were on deck.
“Mary Jo and I had a huge influence. We were known as Siamese twins. 1984 was a big highlight of our careers.” Martin said the Olympic Swimming Committee let the local committee run the show. She and Mary Jo planned, staffed, designed and managed the operating plans. “We were the ones who came up with and developed the concept. Our little group was able to put on the biggest show in town. No one gave us rules.”
In addition to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, their plans became the blueprint for future Olympic Games including 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. In 1996 in Atlanta, Martin was manager of on-deck media for swimming and she worked directly with NBC. In 2004, she contracted to design and direct the overall competition aspect of the USA Olympic Swimming Trials in Long Beach, CA. She also wrote operations for Korea and Barcelona.
“My role in Atlanta was in charge of deck media (NBC-TV, World feed and other exotic media). I was also the backup French Announcer … was 1st choice until they found out what I had done at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles (Co-Chair Competition Committee; FINA Liaison; Assistant to Chief Referee; Manager of FINA Complex and a member of the venue management team).”
Martin said she stayed on deck officiating for 20 years and trained many of the officials we have today. Other highlights of her years in Southern California include serving as General Chair of SoCal Swimming and the Review Committee. She spent years organizing meets, including in 1983, when she was meet director for Junior Nationals and Nationals.
She recalls 2004 in Long Beach as her swan song as the Competition Director, principal designer and Member of the Executive Board. According to Martin, there was a staff of 400 volunteers and that event is recognized as one of the most successful in USA Swimming history, with more than 106,000 in attendance and millions watching on NBC TV.
She left California in 2005 for North Carolina and continued officiating with NCAA for Raleigh College, Duke, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Davidson. She retired from the role of official in 2008. She said most of her time she was a starter more than referee and she and Mary Jo were two of the first women starters on deck for NCAA.
Her grandkids are continuing the swim tradition with SCS at Rose Bowl. She’s very impressed with Jeff Julian as a coach and how his program is flourishing. She believes that a lot of the success in Southern California can be attributed to strong coaches.
While in Southern California, she taught courses for California Lutheran University’s MBA program and undergraduate classes in ethics for Pepperdine University and California State University in Channel Islands. From 2005 to 2009, she taught virtual classes in executive coaching for the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management.
In 2011, she immigrated to Ontario Canada, where she works as a mentor coach and consultant for businesses, entrepreneurs, executives and other professionals.
Mark Schubert, a former high school swimmer from Akron, OH, had a goal to become a high school coach. Schubert’s dream came true. He became a high school coach in Cuyahoga Falls High in Ohio.
In 1972, during his second year coaching, he looked at swimming in Southern California and was impressed by the caliber of coaches. “I looked at the great coaches in So Cal including Don Gambril, Dick Jochums, Ron Ballatore, Jim Montrella and Peter Daland. I realized that I could be successful there.”
At the young age of 23, Schubert applied to head the team in Mission Viejo, which at the time was a summer-league team. He got the job and through the years, grew the team to more than 500 swimmers. He also coached at Mission Viejo High School, and they became CIF Champions in 1975.
How did Schubert, a young, new coach have such early successes?
“Once a month, I’d travel to other teams, and learn from them. It helped me out and it was a great way to learn. Coach Peter Daland was from Swarthmore, east coast guy, wore ties, very formal. He was impressive and his team had enthusiastic chemistry. I modeled Mission Viejo after Santa Clara and George Haines. We developed a culture of hard work and our swimmers swam fast. Shirley Babashoff got the ball rolling,” Schubert said. “Visiting other coaches on a monthly basis was better than any course I could attend. It worked for me.”
Some of the stand-out swimmers he coached at Mission Viejo:
Brian Goodell was 8 years old when Mark Schubert became head coach of the team. He first coached him when he was 13 years old. He earned 2 gold medals, 400m and 1500m free at Montreal 1976 Olympics.
Mary Meagher, earned 3 golds, 100 fly, 200 fly and 400 Medley Relay, 1984 Los Angeles Olympics training with Mission.
Dara Torres, earned 1 gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. She trained with Mission Viejo to prepare for the Olympics while in high school, from ’83-’84.
Michael O’Brien, won 1 gold medal in the 1500 at the 1984 Olympics. His club team was Mission Viejo.
Innovations in swimming:
“It was fun when everyone started to wear goggles. One of the main reasons for drops was practice went from 3 to 4,000 yards to 8,000. People improved a lot more. Before goggles, their eyes would get red and they couldn’t stay in the water for longer,” Schubert said.
“Also, suits became popular in the world in 1977. The East Germans wore speedo suits. Times continued to drop until the full body suits in 2008 when it peaked.”
During his years at USC, Schubert said he worked with many amazing swimmers including Olympians Janet Evans and Lenny Krazylburg, Kristin Quance, who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, and RoseBowl and USC coach Jeff Julian. “Mark Warkentin, Jeff Julian, Kristine Quance and Tyler Storie are coaches that I coached. Nice to have coaches that have done well. It’s very satisfying.”
Schubert’s Career Comes Full Circle As He Returns to Mission Viejo
Associate Head Coach
Coach Mark Schubert is the Associate Head Coach of the Mission Viejo Nadadores.
He returned to the World Renowned program that developed from 1972-1985.
He formerly was the Head Coach and CEO of the Golden West Swim Club in Huntington Beach, California; where he rebuilt one of Southern California’s best programs from the bottom up by instilling the values of hard work, commitment, dedication, fun, and a love of swimming. Coach Schubert was also the Head Coach of Gold West College. After nine years of the Rustlers not making it to the championship podium, Schubert leads both the Women’s and the Men’s teams to the California State Community College Championships Title in 2013 – in his second year! The Men’s team also won the State title in 2014 and 2015.
Schubert was named the USA Swimming National Team Head Coach and General Manager on March 21, 2006. Prior to joining USA Swimming, he was the head coach at the University of Southern California for 14 years.
Schubert has demonstrated coaching success at all levels – club, college, and international – matched by few coaches in the history of the sport. At the club level, Schubert found success on the national swimming scene as the head coach of the Mission Viejo Nadadores from 1972-85, where his teams won a record 44 U.S. National team titles during his tenure. Schubert also served as the head coach of Texas Aquatics for four years, leading the club, along with head coach Eddie Reese, to 10 national team titles.
At the collegiate level, Schubert coached at the University of Texas from 1989-92, leading the Longhorns to two NCAA team titles (1990 and 1991). At the University of Southern California, the Trojan women took home one NCAA team title under Schubert in 1997. His USC swimmers won 49 NCAA individual titles.
At the international level, Schubert has been a familiar face on the Olympic coaching scene, serving on every Olympic coaching staff since 1980 and placing 38 swimmers on U.S. Olympic teams. Schubert was Head Women’s Coach in 1992 and 2004. He was the Head Men’s Coach in 2000. He was a Women’s Assistant Coach in 1996, and an assistant for the combined Men’s and Women’s teams for 1980, 1984, and 1988.
In his first World Championships appearance as National Team head coach and general manager, Schubert led Team USA to its most dominant performance in history. The Americans ran away with the medal count, winning an incredible
36 medals, 20 of them gold, and setting 12 world records. Schubert is an eight-time World Championships coach, serving as the head men’s and women’s coach in 1982.
Here are the first paragraphs from a story from Sports Illustrated The Vault, July 10, 1978 about the creation of the community of Mission Viejo, the Nadadores and Mark Schubert:
“It is 7:02 a.m. and Mark Schubert is annoyed. “Shut up!” he snaps at two girls, still half-asleep but jabbering on the deck of the 50-meter pool. The girls fall silent. Within seconds they and their 60-odd teammates on the national team of the Mission Viejo swim club are in the water, swimming laps, but Schubert is still frowning. “Move it,” he yells to nobody—and everybody—in particular. Practice was supposed to start at 7 o’clock and two minutes have been lost forever. To socializing.
Schubert’s top swimmers spend five hours every day in the water and another hour lifting weights. They work out twice a day, six days a week, 11 months a year. During the school year the first workout begins at 5:30 a.m. at Mission Viejo High and swimmers can be seen slumped in their cars in the parking lot, catching a few last winks in the lifting darkness. Even now, summertime, when all workouts have shifted to the Mission Viejo International Swim Complex and morning sessions start at the more civilized hour of seven, the regimen guarantees a long day. Swimmers finish the first workout at 9:30, then return to the pool at 4 p.m. to lift weights before going into the water again at five. At 7:30, Schubert signals the end of the session by flipping vitamin tablets to his spent athletes. Still in the water, they lunge at the offerings with open mouths, like seals going after fish.
But these swimmers at the peak of the club’s pyramid are not the only ones expending energy in Mission Viejo, Calif., a planned community of 43,000 occupying a stretch of hilly Orange County 50 miles south of Los Angeles. The club has 550 members all told and the swimmers on the lower rungs walk, bicycle or are car-pooled to workouts at the high school and at the 25-yard pools in the Montanoso and Sierra recreation centers as well as in the main complex. There are novice groups, a bewildering array of age-group sessions—the 9-10s with the 11-12s, for example—and also senior “B” and “C” groups. And there are learn-to-swim classes for children as young as 4. What all these groups have in common is a no-nonsense approach decreed from on high by Schubert. “The stars have to toe the line and set an example for the younger kids,” he says. “The younger kids have to toe the line because they’re the future stars.”
Contrary to what some rivals say, Mission Viejo swimmers aren’t always drilled until they drop and they don’t automatically turn into champions as soon as they don their blue-and-gold sweat suits. It only seems that way.
The Mission Viejo Nadadores dominate most levels of swimming in the U.S., turning out age-group record holders and world-beaters alike. This was the home club of Shirley Babashoff, the now retired queen of American swimming. It remains the summer club of the sport’s reigning glamour boy, UCLA sophomore Brian Goodell, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the 400-and 1,500-meter freestyles. And of American record holders Jesse Vassallo (400-yard individual medley) and Alice Browne (800-meter freestyle). And AAU champions Dawn Rodighiero, Valerie Lee and Jennifer Hooker. Then there is Mission Viejo’s foreign contingent, which this summer includes Australian backstroker Mark Tonelli, a fourth-place finisher in Montreal (and an AAU champion), and Olympic bronze medalist Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands. In all, nine Olympians from four countries are training in Mission Viejo. As though that were not enough, the Nadadores also have a new diving team, whose impressive ranks include Jennifer Chandler, the 1976 gold medalist in the three-meter event, and Greg Louganis, the silver medalist in the tower.
Mission Viejo’s swimmers and divers keep the water roiling in six pools around town. The hub of this activity, the International Swim Complex, consists of a 50-meter pool, a 25-yard warmup pool, a diving well and a carpeted weight room. There, beneath a hillside bedecked with marigolds arranged in outsized letters spelling MISSION VIEJO, Goodell & Company can be seen swimming laps while Chandler & Company arch gracefully through the air. The site is also used for major meets, including the annual Mission Viejo Invitational, national Masters and age-group championships and last year’s AAU long-course nationals.
Obviously, there is something special happening below Mission Viejo’s marigolds. The U.S. has long been the world’s leading swimming power, thanks in large part to go-getting community swim clubs that compete strongly with the baseball and football coaches for the good young athletes. These clubs are typically put together by upper-middle-class swim parents, who bicker with the coaches but who also pay dues, sponsor bake sales and wrangle enough dollars from local tire dealers and soft-drink distributors to keep the clubs going. Mission Viejo is different. The Nadadores are formally co-sponsored by a boosters club consisting mainly of parents. But the other sponsor—and the club’s founder—is the Mission Viejo Company, the high-powered land-development firm that built the town. Now a $150-million-a-year subsidiary of Philip Morris Inc., the Mission Viejo Company remains a commanding presence in the unincorporated community. Leaving police and fire protection to Orange County, it builds and runs recreational facilities and parcels out new housing developments. And it gets involved in zoning, landscaping and other civic matters.”
A conversation with Ed Duncan, Former General Counsel and Board Member of SCS and The Voice of USC and the PAC 12
In warm and sunny Southern California, our weather is perfect for swimming year-round, outdoors. That’s one reason why So Cal became a hotbed of swimming.
According to Ed Duncan, the voice of USC Trojan swimming and PAC -12 Championships since the early 1990s and former general counsel of SCS, “demographics are key to the success of swimming in our area.”
Speaking about swimming in the 1970s, Duncan said, “It was tougher for poor families to participate in swimming due to the expense and the heavy parental involvement. In addition, there was a lack of facilities in poorer neighborhoods. On the other hand, kids who grow up in the wealthiest households,wouldn’t put in the hours of hard work that were necessary to be successful in swimming,” he said. “That why swimming in Southern California was a middle-class sport.”
Duncan described the post-World War II boom which brought changes to Southern California’s economy. “Industries such as aerospace, hydrocarbon, and other industries provided high-paying, middle-class jobs. Areas such as San Fernando Valley and Mission Viejo thrived and had many middle-class families and good facilities supported by tax dollars.”
Parks and Rec departments were subsided by taxpayers, so Southern California became a hotbed of swimming. There were many great communities with facilities, schools, and park districts. In the 1970s, there was plenty of public support, which people don’t appreciate today.
Duncan and his wife Kathie became involved with SCS after moving to Southern California. Their kids joined a swim club in the Ventura area. Because of their swim backgrounds (Ed swam for Cal and Kathie for Cal Poly Pomona), they jumped in and got involved. Kathie, who Ed calls a “very capable stroke coach” most recently coached with CLASS Aquatics and once headed her own team, Maverick Swimming.
In his numerous roles with SCS, Ed became a part of the transition of the LSC from the AAU office in North Hollywood along with Mary Jo Swalley and Christine (Tina) Martin. Also, he was in charge of programs for the Coastal committee. He was integral in the restructuring of the professional board, which began as a volunteer organization, which hired its first executive director. He said the paperwork was significant. As the first general counsel, he attempted to attend meetings of each committee and put many miles on his car.
He discussed the development of travel funds for SCS. His daughter made a national cut, but the club couldn’t send the coach so he paid for the travel funds out of his own pocket. The board started a fund to offset travel fees for coaches from a portion of entry fees. The funds were allowed to grow in the market. The funds can be used to help offset travel expenses for swimmers or coaches, and clubs have a say in how they use their funds. According to Duncan, SCS pays out $200k to 300k per year.
In programs, Duncan said the board felt a need to balance age group with senior meets. So, they came up with the Zone meet, created for age group swimmers.
“Then Northern California backed out because they kept getting beat. The North American Challenge Cup (NACC) was created as an alternative,” Duncan said. At NACC, SCS athletes ages 11 – 18 compete against swimmers from areas including Canada, Mexico, Pacific Northwest and Central and Northern California and the Gulf.
Talking about the great facilities in Southern California, Duncan mentioned Industry Hills, which was state of the art in its day. Today, it’s a distant memory. Another great facility was built by Phillip Morris, who owned Mission Viejo. They understood that building infrastructure sold homes. More than a half century ago, they designed their community around sports and recreation to attract young families to buy homes. The Marguerite Aquatics Center, which opened in 1972, featured an eight-lane 50-meter pool, a 25-meter pool with a 10-meter dive tower and a shallow training pool for children. Home to the Nadadores, the facility currently has a $7 million-plus plan for renovations.
“One of the main problems facing swimming today,” Duncan said, “is the financial aspect of maintaining public entities. State legislatures don’t give money back to the cities. There are many shortfalls.”
Duncan talked about a little-known fact that the by-laws of SCS allow for athlete representatives. The provision is that athletes need to be a junior or senior in high school. “There is no specified amount of time, so they can rotate in kids. It’s an accomplishment, serving on board, and it will make you stand out on your college application.”
Another note of interest to parents of swimmers: Duncan said that swimming can be helpful for admissions into college. “Most colleges flag applications. All athletic departments flag, the music department has the ability. Most academic departments can also flag applications.” He noted that it’s very tough today for many middle-class kids to get accepted into the college of their dreams.“It’s up to parents to make inquiries.”
Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center, Federal Way, WA, home of PAC-12 championship meets.
Ed and Kathie Duncan moved from Southern California in 2015 and are greatly missed. Our swim community is what it is today because of the generous time and commitment of the Duncans.
January 2015 from USC Swimming: “Friday will also be the final meet for long-time announcer Ed Duncan, a retiring attorney and a former captain of the California swim team who graduated from Berkeley in 1966. He has been a volunteer announcer for USC swimming for the past 23 years.”
One name comes up repeatedly as the most influential person by many of Southern California’s premier coaches. That man is Peter Daland. He brought a professionalism to the sport and was giving and willing to share his knowledge and love for the sport with his swimmers and other coaches. If anyone deserves the title as the father of swimming in Southern California, it’s Peter Daland.
According to Mark Schubert, “Coach Peter Daland was from Swarthmore, very east coast. He was very formal, impressive, and had enthusiastic team chemistry.”
“The most significant coach and club team had to be Peter Daland at the LA Athletic Club,” Jim Montrella said. “Peter came from Yale and was assistant coach back under Bob Kippeth. He came out to coach at the LA Athletic Club. After a year or two, he was approached by USC to be the head men’s coach of the program. He coached there until the early 90s. Spectacular job.
From the bio from his book, “The History Of Olympic Swimming, Vol. 1 1896-1936″ are some of his accomplishments:
“One of the greatest coaches in the history of swimming, Peter Daland has also had a profound influence on the development of the sport of swimming beyond the confines of the pool deck. He founded Swimming World magazine in 1951 while working at Yale University. In addition, he created a quarterly called Junior Swimmer in 1952. He served as the president of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) and the World Swimming Coaches Association (WSCA), was Swimming Chairman of the World University Games from 1982 to 2007, and was Swimming Competition Director at the 1984 Olympic Games.
As a college coach, Daland was nothing less than masterful in 35 seasons at the University of Southern California. There he led the Trojans to 19 undefeated seasons and nine NCAA team titles, and finished runner-up 11 times as his teams compiled a phenomenal 318-31-1 won-loss record for a .917 winning percentage.
Daland, the only coach to have won all three major U.S.National team championships—9 NCAA, 14 National AAU Men’s, and two National AAU Women’s—served as the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team Head Coach in 1964 and as the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team Head Coach eight years later.”
“He was born in New York City. His coaching career spanned over 40 years. Daland attended Harvard University before enlisting in the United States Army for World War II. After the war, he graduated from Swarthmore College in 1948 and got his first coaching job at Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, where he won 8 straight Suburban League titles (1947–55). He founded and was first coach of the Suburban Swim Club in Newtown Square, Pa and served as an assistant to Bob Kiphuth at Yale University before deciding to take Horace Greeley’s advice and head west in 1956 as coach at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Athletic Club. In 1958, he returned to Yale with 5 USC Freshmen and won the National AAU Team Title from the New Haven Swim Club.
For 35 years (1957–1992), Daland was the swimming coach for the USC Trojans, where he led the Trojans to 9 NCAA Championships. He also led teams to 14 AAU Men’s National titles, and 2 AAU Women’s National titles. He is the only coach to have won all three major national team championships — 8 NCAA, 14 National AAU Men’s, and 2 National AAU Women’s (LAAC). Specializing in family dynasties, Daland had the good fortune of championships wins from the brothers Devine, Bottoms, Furniss, Orr, and the House brother and sister act. His Trojan teams won more than 160 dual meets with more than 100 individual titles. As of 1974, Daland’s record boasted 183 individual national champions.
Daland also coached the U.S. women’s swim team at the 1964 Olympics, where his swimmers won 15 of the 24 medals awarded in women’s swim events. He then coached the US men’s team at the 1972 Olympics, where his men swimmers won 26 of 45 medals awarded in men’s events. In those Olympics, Mark Spitz of the United States had a spectacular run, lining up for seven events, winning seven Olympic titles and setting seven world records.
Daland was also active in the swimming community via his roles/positions with FISU, the International University Sports Federation, and ASCA, the American Swimming Coaches Association. He was one of the founders of ASCA, and was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977. The pool of USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center bears his name.
Daland was married to former German top-class swimmer Ingrid Feuerstack. On October 20, 2014, he died in Thousand Oaks, California at the age of 93.”
Jill Sterkel, four-time Olympian, grew up in Hacienda Heights, graduated from Glen A. Wilson High School and remembers the “healthy family lifestyle” of swimming. Her mom was a swimmer, and the three Sterkel kids, Jill, her older brother and younger sister, jumped into the pool together.
Sterkel was part of the 4 x 100 relay that beat the East Germans in 1976 for Olympic gold (video here). Following a near sweep of gold–except for that one relay, a doping scandal followed the East German women, which is still in the headlines today. Sterkel was a world-record holder in the 50 meter free, an NCAA champion for Texas Longhorns, and qualified for three more Olympics: 1980, 1984 and 1988.She won four medals in three Olympic Games spanning twelve years. (USA boycotted the 1980 Olympics, which were held in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.) Sterkel was the women’s head coach of the Texas Longhorns swimming and diving team at the University of Texas at Austin from 1992 to 2007.
When did you start swimming?
“My grandparents had a pool and they wanted us to be water safe. It was a thing for the whole family to do. We started with swim lessons, and the same place had a summer league team. One thing led to another.
“My first team was Hacienda Heights Aquatic Club. At age 10, the coach who was good friends with our family, suggested we might go to a year-round program, a little bigger than the program we were with.”
The coach suggested the Sterkel kids join El Monte Aquatics. Sterkel remembers there were several coaches on the year-round team and at age 10 she was the youngest to be in Don Lamont’s group.
“Hacienda Heights was a good club team, but it wasn’t the same caliber as El Monte. El Monte had people who were going to nationals. Very much an established AAU or USA club. When I look back on it, our coach wasn’t very selfish to tell us to go to a bigger team. That is pretty amazing.
“We all swam. Not everything revolved around swimming, but a lot did. All three of us were part of the team and active swimmers. In age group swimming, we were going to swim meets every other weekend. It sort of becomes your social life as well. It’s awesome that it’s so much fun.”
Early on, what was one of your most exciting swim experiences? What stands out the most?
“In all honesty, from my very earliest memories which would have been on my Hacienda Heights Club team, The thing I remember the coach would do, it sounds silly. We would do ‘king of the mountain’ swimming. The coach made a lot of the harder things fun. I hated kicking, but when we did kicking sets, we’d do 25s and the little kids would go, which would be me. Then the bigger kids would wait 10 seconds and try to catch. Stuff like that stands out, it’s a lasting memory I have.
“What I remember most, what stands out, of course I obviously remember winning the gold medal in ’76 and that stands out, but I remember Nationals–going as a team.
As a 15-year-old at the 1976 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal as a member of the winning U.S. team in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay, together with her teammates Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli and Shirley Babashoff. After the U.S. women’s team had been outshone in nearly every event by their East German rivals, Peyton, Boglioli, Sterkel and Babashoff achieved a moral victory by not only winning the relay gold medal, but also by breaking the East Germans’ world record in the event final. — Wikipedia
“Flying was a big deal, we’d get the same outfits. Different songs would go with different Nationals. There’d be shaving cream fights and shaving parties. All of those things that make up the process, not just going to certain meets. We’d always go to Santa Clara and Mission Viejo. The people. We had such a great group of people. We had a lot of amazing people involved in swimming.”
Sterkel shares more memories of what it was like to be a So Cal Age Group Swimmer:
“I remember going up to Lemoore, I couldn’t tell you where it was. Everyone camped. We had a little RV. The meet lasted from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. I don’t remember swimming at all, but I do remember the things we did–like killing the time before your next event. It was pretty much a fabric of our life growing up.
“We would go to an age group meet, we’d all stay at the same hotel, so after the meet it would be like a whole reunion party. The kids would be in the pool, the parents would be sitting around, very much a healthy family friendly atmosphere.
“The weird thing was when I was really young I went to JOs, but I started going to Nationals at a pretty young age, so I didn’t do a lot of age group meets.”
How did you get into coaching?
“In college I began to pay attention. Probably in all honesty, not that I didn’t care about swimming and wanted to do well, because I did. But, it wasn’t until college that I sort of learned certain things. I was taught certain things by my coach that I didn’t know before. Part of it was the times. I had never been taught breathing patterns or race strategy. I think in those years, that a lot of it didn’t come along until later. And it got more scientific after that.
“It opened the door to me having conversations like ‘why would you do that?’ Or ‘why would that work?’ It was intriguing. It had a huge impact on my performance and the one thing that was really nice was the coaches. I had Paul Bergen and Richard Quick. It wasn’t taboo to ask. Obviously, it’s how you do the ask as well. They were very open to explaining things. That got me along thinking along that path.
“When I first came into college, I wanted to take the concept of biology and put it into physical education. So, it wasn’t just like recess, but actually maybe physical things and learning the science behind it.That was my vision for the future. I was way ahead of my time as far as personal trainer, and I was going to put it into the high school setting like the teaching element of it. I always had an affinity for learning that stuff. It was something that I liked to talk about, think about it.”
Today, Jill Sterkel has a son in age group swimming and works for the University of Texas. #SoCalSwimHistory
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