Pearl Miller and the “Pride of Palm Springs”

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Pearl Miller is loved and remembered by former Piranhas.

Pearl Miller, an early coach for the Piranha Swim Team, had a major impact on the community and her athletes. She grew the team from a small rec team of 25 in Palm Springs to league champions and her swimmers became competitive throughout Southern California. The team which began in 1967 flourished to more than 135 athletes under Pearl’s leadership from 1969 to 1974.

I learned from several “original” Piranha swimmers that they remember her fondly. They said she was an excellent stroke coach and brought out the best in her young athletes. She held a contest to name the team and because of her, it’s now the Piranha Swim Team. One swimmer, Bill Corrigan, whose team records still stand from 1979 to 1981, swam with her in 1969 when he joined the team. He said he took private lessons and swam with her as a young child through Masters until the early 1990s. Another swimmer, Jane Taylor Wang, remembers being coached by her as a young Piranha and swam laps with her as an adult.

The Piranha Swim Team, first known as the Palm Springs Swim Club, got its start two years before Pearl became head coach. Two lifeguards who worked for the city’s leisure services started the team at the pool which was located at Palm Springs High School. According to Taylor Wang, who was with the team from its inception, Phil Poist and Doug McKell charged swimmers a quarter to swim with the team after hours. During the first two years, the team had five different coaches beginning with George Wenzel.

Many swimmers throughout the area were taking private lessons from Pearl in their backyard pools. She previously coached in Seattle and for a local Coachella Valley team called the Corvinas. She was approached to take over as head coach by Palm Springs Leisure Services and a volunteer group of parents who ran the team. According to Taylor Wang, she was the first real head coach of the Piranhas. Taylor Wang also said it was a very small town and everybody knew each other. Everybody who was anybody was on the team, from the head of Chamber of Commerce to business executives, business owners and her own father, the local director of the FBI. The parent volunteers gave a lot of support to Pearl and helped the team with fundraising for a new pool and equipment, which is the home base for Piranhas today.

From Pearl Miller’s Obituary in the Seattle Times, 1993: 

“The woman affectionately known as “coach” gave many infants and children swimming lessons. She taught Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grandson, Delano; Bing Crosby’s kids and Rod Taylor’s daughter, among others.”

Taylor Wang said Pearl called her swimmers “Dum Dums” and followed up by rewarding swimmers with lollipops by the same name. The accomplishments of the swimmers grew because the swimmers worked hard for Pearl.

From a Desert Sun article from the early 1970s, the term “Pride of Palm Springs” was used to describe her athletes:

The Southern California Metropolitan Athletic Federation finals in Bell Gardens were next. The SCMAF finals attract the best swimmers from each southern California city’s recreational team. All swimmers must qualify in regional meets prior to the finals. Twenty three Piranhas had qualified at Corona on August 8. Coach Pearl Millers’ swimmers were swimming against 800 top swimmers with up to four heats in some events.

The results make this outstanding group of young athletes the “pride of Palm Springs.”

Pearl loved swimming and flew each year to Hawaii to compete in a Senior Olympic meet for US Masters Swimming. An accomplished swimmer who began swimming competitively for Masters at age 72, Pearl had numerous top swims in her age groups until she was 92. As a result of her success, Pearl was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Below are some of her accomplishments from the USMS database:Screenshot 2018-07-10 08.35.35

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Following are articles and photos from Pearl’s legacy in Palm Springs:

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With Pearl as head coach of the Piranha Swim Team, the swimmers raised funds for the pool which is the home base for Piranhas today. In addition to Palm Springs, Piranhas practice in Palm Desert and Grand Terrace.

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May 8, 1972 The Desert Sun

Piranhas: Number One And Working To Stay There
By JULIE BALMER Staff Writer

The Palm Springs Piranha Swim Team is working toward an enviable goal to remain in its place as Number One. The swim team, which has grown from a small team of 25 swimmers in 1968 to a membership of 135 is now practicing, five times a week in preparation for July 29. That’s when the Piranhas will defend their title of 1970-71 Valley Swim League Champion, competing against teams from Beaumont, Colton, Fontana, Bloomington, Yucaipa. San Jacinto-Hemet, and Grand Terrace. In addition, the team wants to make a good showing in dual swim meets which will be held each week beginning June 17. The group has decided this year to hold an International Swimming Hall of Fame Swim-A-Thon on June 10 in order to raise money for the transportation fund, it is hoped that the Piranhas will be able to rent buses for transportation to out-of-town meets. Part of the money raised will go to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, and to pay for sending American Swimmers abroad for international competition. Seventy per cent of the money raised will go to local programs. The team is sponsored by the Palm Springs Department of Leisure Services and supported by contributions from the Independent Poolmen’s Association, club dues and contributions from interested community citizens. Members, who range in age from six through 17, practice from 4 to 7 p.m. five days a week.

From September to April, they meet three times a week to practice and after that meet more often in an all-out effort to be ready for the summer swim meets. There are plenty of swimmers in the eight-and-under age groups to compete for team victories, but the Piranhas now need more swimmers in the 13-14-year-old category. In addition, the team would like to have black and Mexican swimmers, since the group is designed for all youths. The team swims all year, except in August, when it takes a one month break. Newcomers must be able to swim across the pool, but do not have to have strokes perfected because there are stroke coaches. Participants compete in the breast stroke, relays, butterfly stroke, free style, individual medleys and long-distance racing. The club coaches do not teach diving.

The team hopes that newcomers will join immediately because they will need as much time as possible to be taught strokes and to practice for the summer meets. About 50 more students are expected to join before the summer. Prior to the League Championship, the Palm Springs Piranhas will play every team in the league during dual meets. The swim team is coached by Pearl Miller, known for her leadership in competitive swimming and herself the 1970 and 1971 senior Olympics winner for persons 73 years and older. Mrs. Miller, well known for having developed swimmers throughout Southern California and the Northwest, came to the desert to retire from teaching and coaching. But once here, she became more active than ever. Along with Dick Whitmore, director of Coachella Valley recreation, she organized the Corvina Swim Club, producing many champions, some on the national level. When approached by the Palm Springs Club Council to help with this program, she agreed to help in stroke only. However, in time she consented to handle all the duties of coach, winning the League championship last year. Assistant coach is Tony Guimaraes. The group is guided by an adult advisory council which meets once a month to coordinate team activities. Council members are Ray Hutchison, president; Neil Williams, vice president: Marge Corrigan secretary; Emilie Warren, treasurer; Sally Givens, transportation; Gay Rosenberg, publicity; Tianna Sanders and Dr. A Milauskas, ways and means; Ken Gianotti, Leisure Services Department representative; and Dean Lively. The advisory council performs a number of tasks, including: Conducting surveys to determine community aquatic interests and needs. Arranging transportation for youth participating in swimmeets away from the community pool. Promoting publicity for community aquatic activities. Recruiting additional volunteers from within the community.Administering the Swim Club Trust Fund. Establishing a yearly financial plan related to the competitive swim program and special aquatic events. Planning fund-raising activities and events for community pool construction, swim scholarships and club supplies. Conducting in service training sessions for new members on how to effectively officiate at the swim meets. Officiating at the team swim meets. Developing and publishing a monthly newsletter. Planning and organizing a yearly awards banquet.

Swimmers are Kevin Ambler, leannie Brown, Yvette Batista, Clifford Bentsen, Nancy Bentsen, Mark Bescos, Bill Bobb, Steve Bramble, Matt Bramble, Bill Corringan Tom

On your mark, get set . . . they’re off and swimming in one of the practice sessions held by the Piranha Swim team at the high school pool. Students are planning dual meets with other league teams, a Swtm-A-Thon and the league championship. The hard work paid off last year, because the local swimmers won the league championship title.

(Close, Jim Coulton, Stacy Dajuiels, Lori DeCoito, Alan DesIrnond, Andrea Durazo. Robyn Eastman, Brent Eastman, Lisa Eckstrom, Drew Fitzmorris, Wendy Friedman, Tim Givens, Kelly Golding, Walter Golding, Jackie Gill, Terrie Heathman, Lars Holm, i Kathy Hutchison, Bill Hutchison, Colleen Kellogg, Curtis Kellogg, Julie Krauss, Julio Lively, Bobbie Lively, Brett Mattison, Doug Magill, Carleen Mandolfo, Tony Mandolfo, John Mayer, Kevin Milauskas, Michael Milauskas, Scott Miller, Perry Martineau, Caley Rhodes, Jeff Riddick, Scott Riddick, Denise Rosenberg, David Reichle. Kim Sanders, Jim Schilling, Heidi Schilling, Tina Schilling,

Vincent Schradie, Carl; Schroeder, Joe Schroeder. Taryn Smith. Brad Spivack. Ginny Staab, Scott Staab, Jane Taylor, Cathloen Thompson, Karen Tima. Joanne Valarino, Gail Warren, Grant Warren. Mike Wlefels, Laura Wills, Lisa Wilson, Nina Williams, Debby Williams.

Gregg Mandinach, Mark Pellon, John Sparato, Steve Wilson, George Gowland, Steve Fitzmorris and Randy Givens. Others are Doug Benson, Nori Snyder, Ann Fragen, Alan Fragen and Andy Fragen, Mark Pelton, Gary Gattuso. Joyce Miller, Danny Stuard and Kurt DeCrinis.

Obituary from the Seattle Times, 1993

Pearl Miller, Longtime Seattle Resident, Set World Backstroke Record At Age 90

By Daryl Strickland

There were few things Pearl Miller enjoyed more than swimming and teaching others how to swim – even at the age of 90.

The longtime Seattle resident, who began swimming competitively at the age of 72 and holds the world’s record for backstroke for women in her age group, died Wednesday in Palm Desert, Calif., from osteoporosis and bone cancer. She was 95.

“She had a wonderful sense of humor,” said Linda Barnett, Mrs. Miller’s granddaughter. “Whenever people would ask why, at her age, she kept on swimming. she’d say it kept her healthy, wealthy and mentally alert – and besides, who wouldn’t want to jump in the water with young men first thing every morning?”

Mrs. Miller was born in McHenry, Miss., in 1897, and attended college in Spokane. She enjoyed a career as a purchasing agent for The Boeing Co., living in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood and swimming in Lake Washington. Later, she moved to Palm Springs, Calif.

Mrs. Miller was a devout Christian, whose faith in God gave her strength. And while God was her strength, swimming was her life.

“Pearl Miller equated godliness and health with swimming,” said Jack Wartes, her son-in-law, whom she taught to swim. “The sport made her feel alive and young. She was so very bright and alert.

“I’d say she had a determination, a drive to keep moving, keep her blood circulating through her body and mind. Even at 90 she swam 20 laps every day.” Then, she played a game of golf.

Mrs. Miller’s aquatic devotion led her to swim competitively. In 1988, at the age of 90, Mrs. Miller set a world record and three national records in the backstroke in the U.S. Masters Short Course Swim Meet.

Her time for the 50-meter backstroke was 1:42.97 seconds, which broke world and national records for the 90-to-94 age bracket. 

She also set national records for the 200-meter backstroke in 7:33:41 and 100-meter backstroke in 3:32. She also won gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle, 3:35:72, and 50-meter freestyle, 1:31:53, which she did while swimming on her back.

As a result, she was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. And she has been profiled in many magazines, including Time, Sports Illustrated and Modern Maturity.

The woman affectionately known as “coach” gave many infants and children swimming lessons. She taught Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grandson, Delano; Bing Crosby’s kids and Rod Taylor’s daughter, among others.

Mrs. Miller lived out every ounce of life she had. “She used to say she intended to die young at an old age,” Barnett said.

Mrs. Miller is survived by her children, Irene Graff of Seattle, Carolyn Taber of Pasco and Joseph Miller of Dana Point, Calif. She also had 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at University Presbyterian Church, 4540 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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Piranha Swim Team Coaches

Phil Poist and Doug McKell 1967

George Wenzel 1967

John Engelman 1968

Jim DiPaola       1968

Jeff Campbell   1968

Jim Dumphy      1969

Pearl Miller 1969 – 1974

Joe Wright 1975 – 1978

John Schauble 1978-79

Ron Buda 1980 – 1981

Joe Wright 1981 -1983

Bill Pullis 1983 – 1988

1988 – 1991 parents rotated as coaches

Tracey McFarlane 1991-92

Rob Mirande 1992 – 1995

Chris Duncan 1996 – 2000

John Cyganiewicz 2000 – 2003

Todd Lybeck 2003

Dwight Hernandez 2003 – 2008

Tim Hill 2008 – 2010

Adam Schmitt 2010 – 2012

Jeff Conwell 2012 – current CEO and Head Coach

 

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Special thanks to Jane Taylor Wang for providing news articles, photos and memories, and to June, John and Bill Corrigan for their information and memories.

 

Jeff Julian: Love of Life, Swimming and TEAM

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Jeff Julian with wife Kristine Quance-Julian and son Trenton at her 2015 USC Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Throughout his years as a swimmer and a coach in Southern California, Jeff Julian believes it’s all about the team. On the Rose Bowl Aquatics website, you can read his philosophy about the importance of the TEAM:

 “TEAM – First and foremost, ever since I began my coaching career, I have believed that swimming is not an individual sport at all. In order to succeed to one’s potential; they must believe in the TEAM approach and learn to be supportive of their teammates.”

SWIMMER

Julian was born in Weiss Baden, Germany, to a military family when his dad was near the end of his career. The Julian family returned to Southern California when Jeff was six months old. His brother and sister, ages nine and 11, swam with El Monte Aquatics which became Industry Hills and then La Mirada. He said he “literally grew up on the pool deck.”

Jeff’s love of swimming came from his mom who was an early open water swimmer and swam Lake Michigan twice. His aunt was fourth in the 100 fly with a photo finish at Olympic trials when they took three swimmers.

“I consider my mom an ideal swim mom although she liked to talk to me about swimming more than was ideal. She knew times, she was fully involved, but wouldn’t get involved with my swimming. She loved the sport overall, loved to support everyone, but she stayed away from the gossip.”

As a young swimmer growing up in Southern California, he swam with the Arcadia Riptides until age 12. “I feel very lucky with my coaches growing up and how they managed training philosophy. The teams that I was on, whether it was Arcadia Riptides under Ray Peterson and Ron Milich, or later Industry Hills, had unbelievable coaches. They taught me that you can really enjoy the sport and still work hard and reach for more.”

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Jeff Julian with sister Jaimi Julian.

After age 12, Julian swam with Industry Hills with coaches Don Garman, Ed Spencer and Mike Gautreau. He said Gautreau, who now coaches at Covina Aquatics Association, “especially brought us together as a team. The group we had makes me want that for everyone—the experiences and the memories of all of us together. There was hard work and fast swimming, but there was so much more.”

As a high school swimmer, Julian was an eight-time CIF champion, All-American in multiple events and he achieved countless other accolades.

Julian was recruited by the University of Southern California, where he continued to excel. His many accomplishments included: U.S. national team, silver medalist at the World University Games, Pac-10 champion, NCAA silver medalist, eight-time All-American and Olympic trials finalist and Trojan Team Captain.

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USC victory photo from Feb. 1997 dual meet win over Stanford.

According to Julian, “At USC with Mark Schubert as a leader and the experience with the swimmers, it put the emphasis on the team above all else for me. When I started coaching, my number one goal and drive was team development. That was clearly from my experience at USC with my classmates and fellow swimmers. I believe the team aspect is not just an ideal, but crucial to get the most out of swimmers.”

After his many accomplishments in high school and at USC, Jeff had no intention of becoming a swim coach. He wanted to work in physical therapy but he “had one professor in anatomy or physiology that turned me off completely.” By the time he graduated, he was ready to try something away from the pool.

For about two years each, he worked as a financial advisor for Dean Witter, and although he loved the educational aspect of the job and learning, it wasn’t a good fit for him. He enjoyed working for a start-up tech company, but the company relocated to New York. With one-year-old Trenton and wife Kristine Quance, fellow Trojan and gold-medalist from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, who was still training, he didn’t want to move the family. His next job was as a medical device salesperson. He said it was a good job, but he wasn’t passionate about it. He was responsible for a territory of 12 states and away from home most of the time. During these years away from the pool deck, he spent two years as Mr. Mom and he believes those years are partly responsible for the deep bond he shares with Trenton.

It was after a successful first interview with the FBI when he was offered a job with Rose Bowl Aquatics. He knew he needed to do something he was passionate about.

COACHING CAREERrbac

”Rose Bowl Swim Team is led by a philosophy that hard work is needed, good sportsmanship is essential & in order for great things to happen, swimmers, coaches & families must work & bond together as a TEAM.”

At Rose Bowl, he started at a combination job of age group and masters coach. He was marketing director and worked in the administrative side of the center as well as coaching. Within a year, he was launched into the position of head coach and continued with the marketing technology role for several more years. Fourteen years later, he is the head coach at Rose Bowl and an assistant coach at USC.

According to Julian, “the Rose Bowl team came after the center was redeveloped due to funds from LA84 Foundation, which is still a strong organization and was started from seed money from the 1984 Olympics.” The Rose Bowl Aquatic Center was built from 1984 to 1990. In 27 years, the team has grown and there have been only four head coaches: Brian Murphy, Terry Stoddard, Gary Anderson and Jeff Julian.

About his coaching philosophy, Julian said, “If I’m not trying to be a better coach than last year, then I’m not doing my job.” He said he’s always “trying to learn and improve and continually tweak what I do. What I do revolves around process–what my swimmers do on a daily basis. The experience and life lessons are more valuable than times. None of that takes away from my competitiveness. I’m competitive by nature, but I believe that being fully committed and competitive in swimming will teach you life lessons on a whole different scale.”

 MENTORS

“I didn’t have a direct line of mentor coaches because I was at Rose Bowl for only one year and then head coach. But I have learned from a lot of individuals. I’ve learned more from my peer group. We have our group with Jeff Conwell from Canyons and now Piranhas, Ron Aitken, Sandpipers, and Joe Benjamin from Rancho San Dieguito in San Diego. We were young and upcoming coaches and we shared information and learned a lot from each other. That’s the biggest way I’ve learned through the years.”

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Jeff Julian in the water. (all photos courtersy of Jeff Julian)

OUTSTANDING SWIMMERS

According to Julian, he’s had a lot of amazing swimmers and a few who stand out to him are Emily Adamczyk, Jason Lezak, Mickey Mowry and his son Trenton.

“Early on, my first Olympic Trial qualifier was Emily Adamczyk, who later went on to win a DII NCAA Championship title.

“Coaching Jason Lezak was a privilege. He trained on his own and he represented our team for five years when he was a professional. He’d come out each month while he represented Rose Bowl, from 2007 to 2012 for those two Olympics, including his relay.  It was fun to see and work with someone at that level who was open to feedback on his races.

“One of my great stories is Mickey Mowry. He started on our team in our pre-competitive group. His mom signed him up because he was a little overweight. She wanted him to work out and be fit. He is ‘start to finish’ Rose Bowl, ended up fourth at Junior Nationals in 100 fly and went on to swim for UC Santa Barbara. Those are stories I love—coming in and starting at the bottom and working all the way up.

“My son Trenton has been a lot of fun. People always ask me how can I coach my son. When your son is the hardest working, most focused and driven person you have in the water, it’s kind of fun to coach your son. He’s having a lot of success and will be swimming at Cal next year.”

 INNOVATIONS IN SWIMMING

Julian said there have been huge innovations in swimming since he was a swimmer. He said it’s more than the things that exist now that didn’t before–like the suits. “After going to NCAAs this year, my first time in 20 years (as a coach with USC) it was unbelievable on the men’s side with records being broken right and left. It dawned on me that I have to forget about what times used to mean. The times are so fast now, they are at a whole different level. It’s just where we are now. If a bunch of swimmers are going these times, then we need to coach kids to get there. It’s a mindset.”

He believes the process of swimming and knowledge has improved through the years.
“I think the process idea isn’t individual to me, but it’s a big piece that is more involved than when I was a swimmer. Back then, we’d touch on sports psychology, we’d touch on nutrition. But the main thing we did was swim, swim, swim. Now, in the college environment, and I try to take it to the public environment as well, there are services like sports psychology available to everyone. You have strength training that’s truly supplemental to swimming. Today strength training isn’t about beating up kids in the gym and pool. It’s driven to help them swim fast not just get stronger. There is a focus on nutrition, healthier foods, rest, sleep and taking care of yourself.

“Volume is down in yardage, it’s more about quality. It goes beyond how far you swim, it goes to how well you swim and how well your stroke technique is. If each one of these things is one percent better, combine it all and you see people swimming faster and faster.

“Part of the hardest job of coaching is the group mentality, someone swims fast and everyone thinks they can swim that time right away. There are no major barriers in swimming anymore. It’s an amazing time in swimming. Records used to stand for a while, now we see them broken in a day and it’s pretty good if a record lasts a year. It’s a whole different era. I credit this to coaches and swimmers who are more focused and know so much more than in my day as a swimmer. And it wasn’t that long ago.”

#TEAMjeff

Olympians for teamjeff

From USC NEWS: “Swimmers pool their resources to help a friend in need. Olympians rally around one time Trojan swim standout Jeff Julian as he fights stage 4 cancer.
To have the biggest fundraising impact, Lezak decided to throw an “Olympians for #TEAMJeff” event. The 10 on deck: Lezak (four gold medals, two silver medals, two bronze medals), Lenny Krayzelburg ’99 (four gold), Rebecca Soni ’09 (three gold, three silver), Haley Anderson ’13 (one silver), John Naber ’77 (four gold, one silver), Kristine Quance-Julian ’97 (one gold), Ariana Kukors, Jessica Hardy (one gold, one bronze), Kim Vandenberg (one bronze) and Betsy Mitchell (two silver).”

In 2015, Julian faced his biggest challenge. A healthy young man who had never smoked, Julian was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. The swim community rallied around him and throughout the country, swimmers have been wearing #TEAMjeff shirts.

“There wasn’t a big ‘Aha moment’ of needing to change,” Julian said. “It was much more of the opposite. I love my life and I need to remember to enjoy it more, even the coaching, professional side. I had a lot of people close to me, their first reaction was to tell me to relax and take time off and do something I’ve always wanted to do. That’s not me. I don’t want to sit around. I like what I’m doing. I love coaching. I enjoy it.”

“There will always be ups and downs, there will always be struggles. But if you can remember what life really means to you, then it’s much easier to get through the day-to-day stuff.”

“It was an interesting time for me when I evaluated how I was feeling prior to my diagnosis. Before I was diagnosed in January 2015, six months before, I started to get pain in my back and neck. I was much more on edge. I think it’s a symptom of cancer and I’ve talked to a number of people who agree. I was testy. I don’t like to yell at my swimmers, so when I’m frustrated, I walk around the pool deck. I found myself walking around more and more during a practice. So again, not knowing anything was wrong, I was putting too much stress on myself and on my swimmers. I was no longer coaching the way I wanted to.”

Julian said that as a coach he’s pretty laid back, similar to how he fathers. “I’m there to help the swimmers, it’s not life and death. It needs to be fun along the way if I’m asking them to work as hard as I ask them to.”

He said there was a realization that he wasn’t having fun and he needed “to get back to how I used to coach, which is how we got to this level. I purposefully tried to keep the demeanor I normally had.”

Then came the diagnosis in January 2015. “I needed to take a step back. Yes, I am going to have to push my swimmers and I need to get on them from time to time. But I need to enjoy this. This is not something I’m just going to do. Like I tell our coaches, this is a job of passion. If this becomes just a job then it’s going to be too difficult to do it well.”

The biggest lesson for me,” Julian said, “was keeping that reminder to enjoy life and the little things along the way. There will always be ups and downs, there will always be struggles. But if you can remember what life really means to you, then it’s much easier to get through the day-to-day stuff.”

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 “On March 7, 2015, three generations of Jeff’s club swim team Industry Hills Aquatics (IHAC) traveled from around the US to join Jeff in a #TEAMjeff IHAC workout and 22-year reunion! They also raised funds for Jeff with the IHAC #TEAMjeff shirt with his mantra on the back. Way to go IHAC! #IHACforever #TEAMjeff #”

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You can read more from Jeff Julian on his blog: TEAMjeff–Hope, Optimism and Process.

Jeff Julian’s “Best of Club Swimming: Butterfly Foundations DVD” was released last week. To read more about this project, click on the link from Championship Productions.

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