Steve Quan: A Public Service Kind of Guy With a Public Service Ethic

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Steve Quan on deck at the Palm Springs Memorial Weekend meet.

Steve Quan has been a fixture at meets in Southern California Swimming for close to three decades quietly working behind the scenes. His entry into the world of swimming was as a swim parent. He grew up in Southern California and earned an athletic scholarship for tennis at UC Irvine. He said his wife was the swimmer and she swam at Cal State Fullerton and Golden West. Her swim experience included coaching for Mike Dickson from Chaffey College and Hillside. Quan and his wife moved their young family to Steamboat Springs, CO where he worked with the local police department. The reason for the move was to be a ski family—not a swim family.

After several years, they returned to Mission Viejo where their adventure in swimming began on a Nadadores satellite summer league team 27 years ago. 

“You have to time,” his wife told him at their first summer league meet. “I have to what?” he asked. He said his wife had to show him how to use a stop watch. He said his first years as a swim parent “were chained to the grill for 12 hours a day. I never got to see my kids swim.” Once the parent in charge of the timing system moved on, he jumped at the chance. Fast forward 23 years, and that’s what where you’ll find him. He said when they joined the Nadadores, it was around the same time that Bill Rose took over as Head Coach.

He volunteered at every single meet the Nadadores held and volunteered at Olympic Trials in Long Beach as deck security. The team told him he couldn’t volunteer anymore after his kids had grown moved on from the swim program. From then on, he was paid to run the timing operation and maintain the equipment.

Quan owns his own timing system with touch pads and is hired by teams to help at their swim meets. He has worked at Sectional meets, the Janet Evans Invitational and age group meets, working at 75 meets per year. “Some meets are more fun to watch than others,” he said.  “People forget that meets are meets. It’s fun to watch kids as they develop through their swimming careers.” You can find him at meets throughout California and Nevada including at Mission Viejo, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Pam Springs, and Santa Maria.

THOUGHTS ABOUT SWIMMING

“Kids want to quit when they reach high school, if they don’t feel like there’s a place for them. Teams that coach to the swimmer’s ability and goals are the most successful,” Quan said. “It’s hard to let kids know that swimming is a journey. Until you take the entire journey, you won’t know where it will take you. There’s aways a place to swim, even though at the time it may not seem to go well. And when you’re done, there’s Masters–and Masters means so much to many people.”

Looking back at 27 years he’s been involved with swimming, Quan said, “Swimming hasn’t changed that much. Coaching hasn’t changed.” What he sees as the biggest change is dryland and core muscle development. “It has to begin after puberty. Late high school and college is the time to develop.”

According to Quan, “parents don’t realize that there is no correlation between age group and what they do as adults.” His advice to newer swim parents: “Let children develop to whatever they aspire to be.” He mentioned that in his years as an age group swim dad, he never knew his kids time and that made him popular with the coaches.

Quan has never aspired to serve on the board of his team, but instead said, “I’m a public service kind of guy with a public service ethic.”

Quan retired in 2008 as a sergeant with the UC Irvine Police Department after a 32-year career. He foresees working on deck for many more years.