Shirley Babashoff: A Portrait of Olympic Courage and Inspiration

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Shirley Babashoff with her Olympic Medals at the SPMS Clinic.

Legendary Shirley Babashoff, elite Olympian, spoke at a recent Southern Pacific Masters Swimming coaches clinic in Mission Viejo. As the featured speaker, she talked about her experience at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the state-sponsored doping of the East German women. She was generous with her time answering questions, letting attendees try on her Olympic medals and snap selfies with her. Her sense of humor, outspoken and down-to-earth answers were refreshing.

Babashoff is recognized as one of the all-time great U.S. women swimmers. She won gold at the ’72 Munich Olympics, but unfortunately, she competed against the East German women’s team in Montreal in ’76. Babashoff went public with her story in her 2016 book, “Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program.”

At the clinic, she spoke about life after her Olympic career. When she was a swimmer, the Amateur Athletic Union kept everyone on amateur status. She said she had worked for Arena and made a cotton commercial since representing the United States at the Olympics. When she wanted to swim with US Masters she was told no.

She coached and taught swimming for 10 years including at Los Caballeros, Fountain Valley to triathletes and children. She said had a lot of fun, “but I needed a job with benefits like health insurance, so I took a job with the U.S. Post Office as a letter carrier. I’m in Southern California on the beach and I can hear the waves crash while I’m outside at work.” Her life focused on raising her son and centered around her role as a mom.

Babashoff was asked if she swam now, and she said she did, “But I don’t get my hair wet.”

THE EARLY YEARS:

“We moved from pool to pool and I swam on lots of teams.”

At age eight, she took lessons at Cerritos College, not far from their house in Norwalk before switching to the Norwalk High School pool for Red Cross lessons and her first race. At nine years old, she and her older brother Jack joined the Buena Park Splashers. At 11, Shirley joined a team with both brothers Jack and Bill in El Monte. Jill Sterkel was on the El Monte team and the coach was Don La Mont.

By age 13, they swam on a team at Golden West College in Huntington Beach called Phillips 66, sponsored by the oil company, and she swam with one of the two most influential coaches she’d have—Ralph “Flip” Darr.

“In California, where the sun shines almost all year long, we could find a meet practically anywhere. We went to meets in San Diego, Redlands, Los Angeles, Apple Valley, Lakewood Buena Park and many other cities.”

Babashoff said the weekends going to swim meets were her life. She has great memories of going out of town, playing cards and clackers with other swimmers in between races. She said she remembers going to Indio for a meet, and her family drove all the way there and back in one day because they couldn’t afford money to stay in a motel.

“I loved going to those swim meets. There were hundreds of kids at them. I saw my friends from my own team and made new friends from other teams. I got to see my competition from a wider group of girls—not just from my own club, but from other cubs that were the ones to beat.” (p. 31 “Making Waves”)

MISSION VIEJO NADADORES AND MARK SCHUBERT:

In 1971, her mom moved them to Fountain Valley which was next to Huntington Beach. Flip Darr retired and she had to find another team. She said there were only two choices that made sense at her level. She could train at the Belmont Plaza or “I could go with the new guy in Mission Viejo—Mark Schubert.”

She said, “I didn’t even know where Mission Viejo was, which was 30 miles away. But back then you could drive 30 miles in 30 minutes.

“We heard all these horror stories of Schubert’s workouts of 15,000 yards a day and more. I went with a couple friends from our team to try it out and it was 8,000 to 9,000 yards, similar to what we were used to doing. After a couple days, I told Mark that we’d decided to join the team. The next day practice was 15,000 yards.

“It was a way of life. Practice before school, classes, practice at the high school and then back to Mission Viejo. I had three practices a day.”

ENCOUNTERS WITH THE EAST GERMAN WOMEN:

Babashoff talked about her first big meet after joining the Mission Viejo Nadadores. “My first FINA World Championships I felt stronger, I was so excited and full of myself. We were in Belgrade, Yugoslavia at the pool to warm up and the doors were all locked. They said, ‘You can’t come in here.’ That was strange because all the nations warmed up together. But they wouldn’t let us in when East Germans were there. I knew then something was up. Super shocking to see the women. They were huge. I’d never heard of steroids, it was so foreign to me. I was very naive.”

She said that from ’72 to ’76, Mark (Schubert) had to deal with the East Germans saying, “new suits, high altitude training, etc. They never said, oh we’re taking steroids. We beat them sometimes. They did testing back then, but on testing-day, the East Germans didn’t show up (if they knew they wouldn’t pass) because they had a “runny nose.” She said one difference today is that there is random testing and the athlete’s whereabouts are known every day.

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The Belmont Pool, site of the 1976 Olympic Trials where Shirley Babashoff won six events.

Schubert asked her to describe the ’76 Olympic trials. He said she had “the best meet that had ever been swum.” In Belmont at the U.S. Olympic Trials, she won the 100, 200, 400, 800 free and the 200 and 400 IM. She won them all.

1976 MONTREAL OLYMPICS:

Babshoff said when she made the Olympic team, she wasn’t allowed to be with Mark as her coach. The U.S. Olympic team went to West Point to train and she didn’t swim the back, fly or breast once during practice and she was swimming the IM in Montreal. She wasn’t happy with the training but enjoyed the time with her teammates. Also, at Montreal, they took out the 200 IM from the program to save time.

She recalled seeing President Gerald Ford for the second time in a couple months. They were in Pittsburg which was a staging area for the US athletes before they left for the Games. After he spoke at the Pittsburg Air Force Base where the athletes joined him on stage, he shook hands with all the athletes. Then he asked, “Where is Shirley Babashoff?” She said it was surreal to hear the President of the United ask for her.

“Shirley,” President Ford said, “It’s so good to see you again.” He asked her how many events she was going to swim and he said, “Ah, just like that guy Jack Spitz.”

It was on their first trip to the aquatics venue in Montreal when she first heard and saw the East Germans at the ’76 Olympics. She said they were changing in the locker room, and heard low masculine voices. They all screamed because they thought men were in the locker room. Later they saw them with their muscles, broad shoulders and thunder thighs bigger than ever before.

The backlash in the media against Babashoff began when she told the truth about what she was seeing. From her book (p. 137), she explained the scene on her way to the team bus with the media asking questions with lights flashing, and microphones in their faces:

“Shirley, Shirley! What do you think of the East German team?”

“What can you tell us about the East German team?”

The questions were all redundant and overlapping. But I stopped for a moment and said into one of the reporters’ microphones, “Well except for their deep voices and mustaches, I think they’ll probably do fine.”

I saw some eyes widen and a couple of jaws drop. The reporters then fired off a couple of follow-up questions, which I answered basically the same way. Then I got on the bus and went back to the village to have dinner with my teammates.

Jim Montrella said he wished that USA Swimming back in the 1970s had coached or better prepared their athletes for talking to the media. He apologized and said he felt they had let her down as her coaches of the Olympic Team. The backlash she received for speaking to the media was overwhelming.

Babashoff thanked Montrella but said she was proud of what she said. “It was the truth.” She said she has a sister 13 years younger and her sister said they watched a video on how to talk to the press and that they used Shirley as an example of how not to do it.

She said it was so obvious that the East German’s were doping and everyone ignored it. 
She worked so hard and lost because of cheating. “I’m still bitter about it now,” she said. The media called her “Surly Shirley” but her teammates supported her for being outspoken about the East German team. She was the only one who spoke out about it at the time.

She said she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I learned to swim at eight years old and seven years later, I was breaking World records and swimming in the Olympics. ‘Is that the same Olympics on TV?’ I remember asking my mom after making the U.S. Olympic team in 1972.”

VIDEO OF THE 4 x 100 FREE RELAY WHERE THE US WOMEN’S TEAM WON GOLD AT THE 1976 OLYMPICS:

At the ’76 Olympics, Babashoff won four silver medals and the relay team of  Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel and Babashoff won the gold.

“When I’m at work and tell my co-workers that I’ve been to Morocco, Japan, Yugoslavia, etc. they think I’m lying. I loved to compete. I loved to travel. Going on all the trips, even to go on an airplane was amazing. Our family didn’t have money and that wasn’t something we got to do.”

THE RECORD BOOKS:

Babashoff said she’d like to get the records corrected for the 1976 Olympics. “The East German women swimmers sued their own country. The doping has been proven, they’ve admitted it. They didn’t have swim coaches, they had scientists and doctors. They couldn’t swim breaststroke correctly, but they were big and strong.”

The Olympic Committee told her no because it had been longer than eight years. She said the Berlin Wall didn’t come down for 13 years later in 1989, so she didn’t think the eight-year rule should apply.

“A lot of women deserve medals,” she said. “There were women who got fifth or sixth who had two or three East Germans beat them. These women are someone’s grandmothers now, and wouldn’t it be nice for them to finally get the medals they earned and share this with their families?”

The same year her book was published, a documentary came out about the East German state-sponsored doping program called “The Last Gold.” “Weird how things happen,” Babashoff said. “I decided to work on a book 40 years later, it comes out along with a documentary about the East German’s, and then there’s controversy about Russian doping in the 2016 Olympics. It’s coincidental.”

Here’s a link to the documentary “The Last Gold.”

She was asked if her son who is now grown and married ever swam. She said she tried to teach him when he was young and he wasn’t interested and wouldn’t swim for her. She recalled the time she was with him at Mission Bay in San Diego. She watched him swim like Michael Phelps.

I asked him, “What are you doing?”
“Swimming,“ he answered.
“Yes, but you’re really swimming. I’ve never seen you swim like this before.”
He answered her, “I was afraid you’d put me on a swim team.”
“Like I’d drop him off with Schubert,” she said laughing.

Most of her mail customers don’t know who she is or that she’s an Olympic star. She did, however, have a connection with the co-author of her book Chris Epstein through her route. She heard his name and recalled having an Epstein on her mail route. She asked Mrs. Epstein if she knew Chris. Mrs. Epstein said, “That’s my baby.” Another coincidence, Babashoff explained, “It turns out that his mom, who was my customer, had been at the 1976 Olympics, too.”

Babashoff swam briefly at UCLA, but the weight trainer gave her flashbacks of the East Germans, she said. The trainer worked them out so hard their legs were jello before they got into the pool. It wasn’t how she wanted to train and Shirley said, “I just had enough.” That’s when she officially retired.

Today, she still loves to travel and has a motorhome and travels throughout the country. She’s been to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and enjoys the time outside on her own.

About the ’72 and ’76 Olympics: “Everyone knew East Germans were doping but back then there was no way to prove it.” Babashoff says if she had to do it over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.

If you haven’t read “Making  Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program” here’s a link to Amazon to purchase Shirley Babashoff’s courageous life story:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sippy Woodhead: From Swimming Legend to Swim Mom

 

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Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead, age 13, on her first national team trip, Leningrad, Russia. Photos courtesy of Sippy Woodhead.

Cynthia “Sippy” Woodhead’s phenomenal swim career includes seven world records beginning at age 14 at the 1978 World Championships in Berlin and a silver medal from the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, six years later. She holds numerous So Cal Swimming records and two National Age Group Records–the longest-standing records on the books for girls. She trained with Riverside Aquatics Association in a pool which is now named the Sippy Woodhead Pool. She remembers her dad driving her by the pool to show her its new name.

 

How did you get involved with swimming?

“I grew up in Riverside and it was 100 degrees and more in the summer. There was a swimming pool a block away from my house. I waited at the gates for the pool to open at 10 a.m. and it closed at 6 p.m. I spent the entire day there. We just played–everyone played sharks and minnows and we hunted for lizards around the deck.

“At the end of the day, we’d walk home. My brother and sister swam in summer league. I wasn’t old enough to swim but they’d let me get in once in a while. They’d humor me. I could barely swim a stroke properly. When I was old enough, I joined the team. I swam summers until I was 11 years old. That was the first year I swam year-round.”

She began her swimming career with Chuck Riggs and the Riverside Aquatics Association. “I saw Chuck for the first time in about 20 years at a meet a few weeks ago, at JAG,” she said. “It was fun to see him. I stayed at RAA until I was 16. Then I went to Mission Viejo for two years and swam with Mark Schubert and then at USC.

At USC, she swam for Don LaMont and Peter Daland. “I felt so lucky to be able to swim with Peter Daland. He had a way of delivering a set and that’s what you’re going to do. You didn’t question him. He’s there in his button-down shirt delivering a set and you didn’t disrespect him.” Sippy said she trained with Peter Daland for the 1984 Olympics, where she earned a silver medal in the 200 free.

Her many accomplishments in swimming are highlighted in the Riverside Sports Hall of Fame:

Cynthia Woodhead Brennan

Her success came so quickly, her rise in the sport so meteoric. “Sippy” began her swimming career as a youth in Riverside’s public pools, competing in a summer recreation league. She decided to focus on competitive swimming at age 12 for the Riverside Aquatics Association. The next year, 1978, she stunned the swimming world by winning three gold medals and two silver medals at the World Championships.

In 1979, she won five gold medals at the Pan American Games and four gold medals at the World Cup.

Though she was denied a chance to be a star of the 1980 Olympics by a political boycott, her place was secure as one of the finest swimmers ever.

As a 15-year-old in the 1980 Olympic Trials, held after the Moscow Games, she won the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events, finished second in the 400 and 800 and also qualified in two relays. For her career, she set seven world records and 18 American records. She retired from competitive swimming after winning a silver medal in the 200 freestyle in the 1984 Olympics. Her U.S. record in the 200-meter freestyle stood from 1978 until 1992.

Sippy—a nickname given to her as an infant from her 2-year-old sister—attended Poly High School for two years before transferring to Mission Viejo. She was the first four-time California high school swimmer of the year. She was a three-time All-America at USC and is a member of the USC Hall of Fame. She was a runner-up for the Sullivan Award, given to the country’s finest amateur athlete. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1994. Sippy Woodhead Pool, a public pool in Riverside was re-named in her honor.

She graduated from USC with a degree in journalism and later earned a master’s degree in marriage, family and child counseling. She was an assistant swim coach at USC from 1989-97 and has done television commentary.

How Has Swimming Changed?

As a swim parent, Sippy notices many changes through the years. She’s the mother of twins who started swimming at age nine and 11. They just turned 14 and will be entering the eighth grade.

“We did a lot more yardage, I swam with Chuck Riggs. We did a whole lot of swimming and not much race pace. That’s just the way it was back then. That’s what I see as the biggest change. But at the gym, my kids’ workout is about identical to what I did. They’ve gone back to circuit training very much like what I was doing.”

Tech suits weren’t around when Sippy was breaking world records and she told her kids they weren’t getting tech suits until they went to sectionals. “Now they both got their sectional cuts, so here we go. I felt like I had to draw the line somewhere. The kids need to know it’s not the suit—it’s the hard work and consistently showing up for practice that makes them fast. The suit is a bonus.

“It used to be a much more friendly environment for the kids,” she said about meets. “Now there’s officials and yellow tape blocking parent’s access. I think it’s necessary because I don’t think parents used to hover so much. But, I feel it’s not as user-friendly for the kids.”

She remembered the time she was late for an event and how it was handled so differently than at meets today. “I went to a B meet in Mont Clair because I had to get times for an A meet. I literally walked through the gates and I’d never seen a 50-meter pool before in my life and they called my name. I was in my sweats and I took my clothes off behind the blocks and they waited for me. I got on the blocks and swam. I didn’t even know how many laps were in a 200 free in a long course pool. I ended up being way ahead of everybody. I thought I’d look up and I knew if the timers were standing up with their stop watches, it would be the end of my race. That was my first experience of being late. I ended up breaking the world record in the 200 free, the event I almost missed, literally three years later.”

In contrast to her experience, her son missed an event at the second meet of his life. She said he was already nervous about having to swim in the afternoon session with the older kids. “He was new to swimming, but he’s is tall and looks older, and he was in a fast heat so the official probably assumed he’d been swimming a while.” She said her son felt awful and was embarrassed.

“I don’t remember the parents being so wrapped around their kids,” Sippy said. “I honestly don’t remember seeing my parents at a meet. I know they were there, but I don’t think I ever communicated with them. It was more like a playdate. I don’t see that anymore. I see a lot more hovering and parents carrying towels, getting kids their heats and lanes. It didn’t use to be that way.”

Sippy said their team traveled to meets in Palm Springs, East LA, Mission Viejo and Long Beach. She said that Southern California Swimming had one Junior Olympics, not three like we have today. “We didn’t have all the meets or the swimmers.” The big teams and coaches she remembers were Dick Jochums in Long Beach,  Jon Urbanchek in Anaheim, Jim Montrella at Lakewood and El Monte Aquatics where Jill Sterkel swam with Don LaMont “Dick Jochums had a bunch of guys swimming for him like Tim Shaw. He had a great group of guys down there.”

The swimmers all knew each other and they knew the officials. “One official would come up to me after I swam and say ‘Sippy, you’re getting a little close on that back to breast turn.’ He’d give me a warning like ‘I’m getting ready to call you on it just so you know.’ It was so helpful, I’d practice it so it wasn’t questionable.”

She said the starters used guns that shot blanks. Also, they had a person hand out cards with their heats and lanes. “You’d pick up your card and hand it to the timer behind the blocks. It was like a feeding frenzy when the person came out with the cards. Maybe that’s why parents weren’t involved, kids were doing everything.”

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Sippy’s first world record at the World Championships in Berlin at age 14 in 1978.

What Advice Do You Have for Swim Parents?

“I treat my kids the way I was treated. Swimming was my thing and I want this to be their thing. I don’t want them to think I’m taking credit. I don’t want to hover and I don’t want them to think that their swimming is because of me or something I did.

“I give them their food bags and put $20 in them. I leave them with the team. I check on their water bottles and refill them because I want to make sure they’re drinking, but they don’t notice that I was even there. If I run into them on the deck I’ll say something like, ‘good job.’ But I don’t hunt them down, I want them to be free. The most fun I had at meets was hanging out with my friends. You felt like your parents weren’t there. It was fun to be at meets, it wasn’t stressful. I want them to have that same experience.

“When they were younger and practices were an hour, I would wait and watch practice. I was happy to sit by the pool and listen to the water. I love the sound of kids swimming, the splashing.”

Sippy offers advice to newer swim parents: “Leave your kids alone. Let swimming be their thing as much as possible. You’re there to provide equipment and food and get out of the way. Swimmers put so much pressure on themselves. It’s so much easier to be a parent than the swimmer. I don’t mind going to these meets, there’s no pressure on me. I go sit in my Tommy Bahama chair all day.”

One of the things Sippy enjoys about swim meets is seeing the kids of other swimmers, who are her friends. “I was timing and saw Janet Evans across the pool watching her daughter, who was in my lane. Her daughter got out so upset with her swim and I stood up and gave her a hug and told her it was going to be okay, that she’d get that girl the next time.” Sippy said there are kids running around on the deck with famous swim parents, but because their last names are different, they’re under the radar of most people. She thinks it’s better for them to be unknown and have less pressure.

Sippy Woodhead held many records including age group records in Southern California. Her following records are still on the books:

11-12 girls:

200 yard free   1:52.01   1977
500 yard free   4:49.51   1977
400 meter free 4:22.86   1976

13-14 girls:

200 yard free  1:46.40   1978
500 yard free  4:39.94   1978
200 meter free 1:58.53  1978 NAG Record
400 meter free 4:07.15  1978 NAG Record
800 meter free 8:29.35  1978

15-16 girls:

200 yard free  1:44.10 1979
200 meter free 1:58.23 1979

 

Bill Pullis Grew the Piranhas From 14 to More Than 200 Swimmers

 

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Bill Pullis, Head Coach of the Piranhas in the 1980s. photo from The Desert Sun

The first time I met Bill Pullis was in 1985 and I was working in PR for a real estate developer. There was a young executive in our office who was married to Bill. She told us, “Bill coaches the Piranhas and we always have a ton of kids over.”

I was dumbfounded. A swim coach? That was a career?

We would watch through the office windows as he buzzed off to work in his red Porsche, late in the afternoons. What kind of a job is a swim coach? I wondered again. No, I wasn’t a swimmer or a swim mom at the time. I didn’t get it.

Pullis accomplished through “being the hardest working coach ever” to grow the Piranha Swim Team from 14 swimmers in the Palm Springs pool to more than 200 swimmers and expanding the program to Indio High School, College of the Desert, Desert Hot Springs and the Boys and Girls Club in Sunrise Park, adjacent to the Palm Springs Aquatic Center.

“We had a swim parent, Mr. Jewell, who repaired and replastered the COD pool for us. That’s how we got use of it,” Pullis recalled.

JO team 1 His top swimmers included Silver Medalist from the 1988 Seoul Olympics breaststroker Tracey McFarlane and Ricky Gill, who was a potential qualifier for the 1980 Olympics, which the US boycotted. Other standouts included Bill Summers, Bill Corrigan and Daniel Spires, who with Gill had the number one medley relay in the country. That relay team still holds Piranha records. Among his top women athletes were an exchange student from Finland Tuija Kyrulainen, plus Laura Ambrosius, Lisa Dean, Kathleen Burns, Tina Case, Kali Christensen as well as official Jack Argue’s daughter, who commuted from Hemet.

 

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Piranha Junior Nationals Team in Austin.

 

 

 

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National JO team.

“Harvey Wheeler was my high school coach in Maine,” Pullis explained. “He had an amazing way of motivating kids. We wanted to work so hard for him.” Wheeler was his inspiration to coach and he often incorporated his ideas into his workouts.

A native of Maine, Pullis said he was “a good, not great swimmer.” He swam in high school and at Bowdoin College. He coached the Sea Coast Swim Club for four years in Maine and realized that if he wanted to make a living as a coach, he had to come to the epicenter of swimming—Southern California. As a level 5 ASCA Coach, he said he interviewed with the Garden Grove Gators and Palm Springs Piranhas in October. Standing on the deck of the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with the 50-meter pool and the breathtaking view of Mt. San Jacinto made it an easy choice. At that time, he had no idea about the summer heat.

Other accomplishments Pullis mentioned included a contract with Arena for team gear and having Arena use the Palm Springs pool for their catalogs. Famous models and swimmers such as Matt Biondi would give the Piranha kids clinics while on location. He introduced the “splash points” method of awarding swim meets to the Eastern Section. “The process was arbitrary before that,” he said. He also got the city to cancel the annual fishing tournament in the pool! While he was head coach, the blocks and lane lines were expanded into the deep end of the pool.

 

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Parade and celebration for Tracey McFarlane on her return home from the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

He said his favorite thing about coaching was the kids. He has many great memories of travel trips, with the tradition of the swimmers camping out in his house the night before big meets. He said he was very dedicated and although they did pretty big yardage, his goal was to not burn them out. With all their hard work, they also had lots of fun.

Pullis recalled one of his coach friends who was in Des Moines came out to swim in Palm Springs for Christmas break. The Piranha families hosted Des Moines Swim Federation kids. Then, in the summer, the Piranhas went to Des Moines for a week.

His success with his swimmers was evident with placing 10th at National JOs. Also, at Junior Nationals he had relay teams and nine swimmers. Many of his swimmers went onto the next level of swimming at major universities including University of California, Berkeley and swimming for Richard Quick at Texas and Jim Montrella at Ohio State.

Several coaches he mentioned from those ’80s days included Mark Schubert, Mission Viejo, Pat Tope, formerly with Riverside Aquatics Association and now Heartland, and Ed Spencer, Industry Hills, Reno Aquatics, Dynamo and a USA Swimming Master Coach Consultant.

He was offered the position of head coach for the Reno Aquatic Club and coached there for several years before returning to Maine to spend time with his father who was ill. He now lives in Palm Springs full-time and works at his property management company, Community Management Associates.JO team 10JO team 14

 

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Flyer from the City of Palm Springs to welcome home Tracey McFarlane.

 

Chris Duncan, Destined to Coach

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Chris Duncan during “signing day” 2013 with (from left) Devin Newton, Rachel Thompson, Breanne Tran, Michael Schiffer,  Maddie Meisel and Linsey Engel. (photo credit JCC Waves)

As the son of a swim coach, Chris Duncan said his mom was teaching her whole life. “It’s in me and I love doing it, too. I felt destined.”  

He grew up in Redwood City where his mother was a YMCA swim instructor. He went to the pool with his mom every day and started swimming around age six. His mom switched to teaching gymnastics, but Chris kept swimming with a club in Half Moon Bay. By high school, he had moved to Costa Mesa High school in Southern California and played water polo and swam. Following high school, he attended Orange Coast College.

Chris then went off to Chico State and swam backstroke and IM. Chris, who is soft spoken and humble, said he didn’t have any major accomplishments as a swimmer, but that his team won Senior Nationals, and they took 3rd and 2nd in NCAA’s Division 2  while he was part of the team.

His coaching career began while he was in high school at the Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa during summers. He gave swim lessons at Saddle Back Valley Aquatics and then became an age group coach and eventually head age group coach. Unfortunately, Chris said the “team dried up and disappeared.” He coached at Irvine Novaquatics for two years prior to becoming the head coach for the Piranha Swim Team in Palm Springs from 1996 to 2000.

Chris mentioned that Olympic Silver medalist Tracy MacFarlane was the coach for Piranhas before him. She married Rob Mirande and they both coached Piranhas before moving to Buenaventura Swim Club where they coached together.

Chris moved from the desert to become head coach for SOCAL Aquatics Association and Santa Ana Junior College. He took the job as Aquatics Director and Head Coach for JCC Waves nine years ago and is “in charge of everything.” His wife Gina coaches with him and he appreciates that they’re on the same schedule. “Thankfully, I met Gina when she was a swim lesson instructor during a summer home from college.  We have three girls. They love swimming, too.”

Words of wisdom from Coach Duncan: “The main thing to remind swimmers and parents is that this is a long-term sport. Be patient, work towards your goals. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get there. Kids put a lot of pressure on themselves. They need to know that goals take time.”

One his coaching philosophy, Chris said, “I really coach each individual. Some coaches coach for their own egos and have the biggest team possible. My pride is getting to know and connect with each swimmer. I believe it produces results.” He said that if some teams are known as sprint or distance teams, “My team is an IM team. I give IM-based sets every day for everyone. I stress technique.”imgres

“Coaches that I look up to include Richard Quick from Stanford. I never swam for him, but I appreciate his talks and clinics,” Chris said. Other coaches he admired and learned from include “ Ken Gray, who coaches at Woodlands in TX, but was a coach at Mission Viejo, NOVA, Buenaventura and Simi, as well as Dave Salo, Ken LaMont and Jim Montrella.”

“I learned a lot from other coaches. We used to go to coaches homes and play poker–30 or 40 of us. We were friends and hung out. Coaches from Orange County to San Clemente. It’s not like that now. That was in the mid-’90s,” Chris said.

“Our coach gave me a great experience. We had a fun and exciting time, and our goal is to share that experience with kids today whether it’s water polo, club or high school swimming. My coaches were happy with what they were doing and I was shaped by these coaches.”

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Chris and Gina Duncan

Bio from the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County, JCC Waves:

Chris Duncan, The Merage JCC Aquatics Director, is a career swim coach with an outstanding background training Olympic Trial and Junior National qualifiers. Chris has extensive professional experience directing swim programs including country clubs, ISL, swim schools, masters swim teams and USA clubs for all age groups from preschool through adults.  His swimmers excel in a small group environment where they can individualize the workouts to suit the swimmers talents and work ethic.  He works with each swimmer to effectively strengthen their skills and sharpen their weaknesses.  As the JCC OC Waves head coach he keeps watch for the next great talent in the younger groups and fosters the talent all the way to his group and training.  Chris is a lifetime member of the America Swim Coaches Association attending 15 of its World Coaching Conventions. 

Phil Scott, The Father of Circle Swimming

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Phil Scott with his medal-winning swimmers. Photo courtesy of Phil and Doris Scott.

Phil Scott, July 29, 1931 – July 16, 2015, from the San Pedro YMCA was called “the father of the circle pattern” by Peter Daland, Head Coach of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and USC.

Phil’s idea was built of necessity, swimming with more than 20 swimmers in the old YMCA pool in San Pedro in 1952. Phil called the 20-foot pool a “bathtub” and he had to figure out a way to “keep all the kids moving and swimming fast.”

“I think a few other people were coming up with circle swimming at the same time,” Phil said, “but I wrote an article about it for Swimming World. It got a lot of attention and coaches from all over the country wrote to me about my drills and circle pattern.”

He said to make it work he put kids in fast to slow lanes, and each swimmer was placed in order of their speed. “You had to be quick or someone would flip turn on you,” he said.

Phil’s San Pedro YMCA teams won 230 trophies and set 92 national records in every age division throughout his years as coach.

THE EARLY YEARS

Phil graduated high school and wanted to become an artist. But, after surviving the Great Depression he said, “I grew up in poverty, so I didn’t want more of it.” He applied to be a lifeguard at the Gaffey public pool and was told he was too young at 17. Instead, they asked if he knew how to teach swim lessons. “I said yes, even though I’d never taught swimming,” Phil said. “I caught on. I discovered I really enjoyed teaching—it was my bag. I was better than the other instructors because I was well organized and I kept them moving.” Teaching swim lessons led him to a teaching career of more than 30 years. He taught mathematics, art, health and physical education at Richard Henry Dana Junior High School in San Pedro.

“In 1951, I got the job at YMCA.The other coaches I knew at the time were Jim Montrella and Jerry LaBonte from the north Long Beach area YMCA. We became rival coaches. Jim Montrella was one of Jerry’s former swimmers. Jerry and I put in our 16 or 17 years and retired from coaching and we were also teachers. When Jerry retired, Jim took over his YMCA and club team. Jim went on and coached Ohio State University for many years and became head of the organization for all NCAA swimming coaches. Jim was a very successful coach. I remember a hall of fame ceremony for Peter Daland and Jim was emcee. I was best man at Jerry’s wedding, that’s my connection to both Jerry and Jim,” Phil said. Phil was the aquatics director at the San Pedro YMCA until 1968, taking two years off in 1954 to serve in the Army.

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Phil Scott in his Army uniform

According to Phil, Southern California Swimming got its start from several active parents of the Brentwood Swim Club. These parents were instrumental in local swim teams becoming part of the AAU, which then led to the LSC under USA Swimming.

THE WORKOUTS AND TEAM

About his workouts, he explained, “I never let my swimmers go slow. You can’t swim fast if you practice slow. They always practiced fast. They practiced at full capacity. With only three workouts a week, they could do it. I used a clock. If you weren’t on your time, you were on the bench. If you weren’t interested, I wasn’t either and you could sit it out.”

The other two things Phil incorporated into his practice were medicine balls and push-ups out of the pool.

“We had 45 minutes before workouts, so we did medicine balls, I had too many kids to do weights. I also had the kids pulling themselves out of the pool during sets. That uses the same muscles that you use swimming. They’d be so tired.”

Coach Phil Scott showed me photos from the ‘50s and ‘60s and recalled names of his swimmers and their personal stories. He was involved in his swimmers’ lives and said he was demanding and strict, but never mean. “High ideals and morals were as important to teach as swimming,” he said.

“We had top age group swimmers, we set the national 9-10 age group records in ’59. We set records in the 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 age groups all through the years, with the same kids.” Phil explained that it wasn’t until the early ‘60s that age group swimming included kids over 16. “Kids who were 17 years old couldn’t compete, yet they weren’t in college yet.”

Phil recalled his 1965 team as one of the highlights of his coaching career. “We went to the YMCA 1965 state championship in Tuscon, Arizona and won. Then on Sunday, we drove to the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills for AAU relays. We stopped in El Centro at 1 a.m. and got back in the car after a couple hours sleep. I told the swimmers that maybe we wanted to skip the meet since we only got two hours of sleep. No, they wanted to go. We pulled in at 8 a.m. and they set three national records, the 200 medley, 400 medley and 400 free. They set Southern California records as well as National Age Group records.”

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Phil met his wife Doris (Lee) through teaching and was married for 55 years. They had four children, which led Phil to retire from coaching. “I loved coaching, but it was family first. I couldn’t be away for 48 weekends a year.”

You can read more about Phil Scott’s life from the San Pedro Daily Breeze obituary.

The San Pedro Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library named a meeting room in memory of Phil Scott. He and his wife volunteered weekly for more than 20 years with the Friends of the Library.

Bonnie Adair, So Cal Swimmer and Coach, Held 35 National Age Group Records

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SCAQ Masters at Loyola Marymount University

The Early Days

Bonnie Adair, head coach of Loyola Marymount University’s women’s swimming team, described her early days of swimming as just plain fun. Her family’s involvement began at the Beverly Hilton when her mom attended a show of little kids going off the diving boards. The coach was Nick Rodionoff, and her sister, Jerrie Sue, who was two and a half years older, joined the team. Bonnie was five years old and too young. She said that after a month of watching practice, Rodionoff allowed her in the water, too.

Bonnie’s swim career began in 1958 and she retired in 1972. During those years she accumulated 35 age group records and her 50m freestyle record she broke as an 8-year-old stood for 29 years.

She’s noticed many changes to the sport from the years when she swam with “the Puddle Jumpers” coached by Rodionoff, who is the head coach at Pepperdine. They didn’t have permanent water and her coach packed his 15 swimmers and divers into his camper and they swam at various pools. “He’d drive us one day to the LA Athletic Club, or we’d go to the Holiday Athletic Club. Eventually, one of the swim dad’s who was a developer got a pool built in the Encino, Van Nuys area. We became the San Fernando Valley Athletic Club,” she said.

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LMU Women’s Swimming Head Coach Bonnie Adair

Bonnie described her age group team as a “little homegrown team which became her parents’ social life. All my parents’ good friends were swim families. Everyone knew each other. My dad started as a timer and my mom worked at the desk where everything was done manually off little slips of paper before we had timing systems.” Her dad became meet manager and eventually became president of the Southern Pacific Association of the AAU, which was the predecessor to Southern California Swimming.

She remembered coaches association meetings in her living room in Woodland Hills. She said all the iconic coaches were there including Peter Daland, Don Gambril and Jim Montrella, who would have been around 19 years old. “I remember being afraid of Jim Montrella because he had this big booming voice, and then years later, I swam for him,” Bonnie said.

While she was on Radionoff’s team she said they’d surf if the surf was up, or go to Yosemite and ski. Swim meets were big family trips, and her entire team would caravan to Las Vegas or Phoenix. The parents were social and the kids ran in and out of everyone’s hotel rooms. “It was a social environment, a small intimate group of people. By the time I came along, Southern California was producing Olympians,” Bonnie said. “We were the top swim area of the country along with NorCal, Florida and a big team in Philadelphia.”

She said her practices were short and every lap was a race. She was a sprinter and it worked well for her. “I was a diver until 13,” Bonnie said. “Everyone was a diver and a swimmer, unlike today.”

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Bonnie and her sister in bottom right photo, Junior Swimmer and Swimming World, October 1962.

The Adair family moved to the Long Beach area and Bonnie joined Lakewood Aquatics where Jim Montrella was the head coach. She said after she started driving, her parents’ involvement was less. According to Bonnie, “The 1968 Olympic Trials men were in the Belmont Pool, which was new. The women swam in the Swim Stadium in the ghetto. My dad put on the women’s Olympic trials and that was his last big involvement.”

Back in those days, Bonnie said big meets were held at Santa Monica City College outside, or El Segundo Junior College in an indoor pool and the National level meets were held at the Swim Stadium, home of the 1932 Olympics. Orange County and the great pools there today, didn’t exist. She said Lakewood held the Junior Olympics in their pool every year. Eventually, all the big meets were moved to Belmont.

In the valley, she said there wasn’t land to build 50-meter pools and be able to train Olympic caliber athletes. So, in the Los Angeles area, small teams didn’t have the room to grow. The growth took place in Orange Country with the abundance of cheaper land and 50-meter pools.

She mentioned that Don Gambril’s Rosemead team merged with Daland’s group. They took over Belmont Pool and the team was called Phillips 66. Top swimmers included Gary Hall, Tim Shaw, and the Furniss boys. Mission Viejo came into being in the 1970s. Everyone flocked there. Mark Schubert, was a young guy who was hired. A couple of teams disbanded and swimmers like Shirley Babashoff went to Schubert.

Her freshman year of college was pre-Title IX, and there were limited opportunities and college programs for women. She was training with Montrella for the ’72 Olympic Trials and didn’t want to change up her training regime, so her freshman year she was a commuter at UC Irvine and lived at home with her parents. She said during those days she swam 11 practices a week and lifted weights. 

She said her sister, who was a diver, was able to compete on the Men’s team at UCLA with their former coach Rodionoff. “It was because she could score points as a diver, but as a swimmer, I couldn’t compete with the men and didn’t have that same opportunity.” She said looking back it was unfair that the women stayed at home and didn’t get to experience college life. “All of a sudden when school began, there would be all girls in our training group. The fast guys went off to swim at UCLA and USC. We were freshmen and sophomores in college, and we stayed with our club team to train. We lost that experience of being a freshman away at college.”

Title IX changed women’s swimming in college dramatically, with more programs and scholarships. “It’s sad for our guys and the Olympic sports. Without Title IX, we wouldn’t have women’s sports today, but it’s at a cost of the men’s programs.”

Another aspect that has changed are the swimsuits, she said. “Everything was Jantzen and they were heavy, sometimes wool and like a different species. Then Speedo came out with a triple stitched suit and it was so amazing. We only had a choice of black or navy back then.”

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Speedo ad from Junior Swimmer and Swimming World, October 1962

Bonnie attended UCLA her sophomore year and said she was burned out from swimming. Eventually, she found her way back on deck as an assistant coach, while earning her degree.

“I went to UCLA, I could work as a dry cleaner for $1.80 an hour, or I could teach a swim lesson for $20. Coaching is a niche where we have a skill that nobody else has. It paid more and was a whole more fun. It started out as a job, not a career choice. Once I became a lawyer, I realized I didn’t enjoy it as much as coaching. My close friends were the ones I met through masters swimming, not my lawyer peers.”

Bonnie said she “came out of retirement at 35, swam for five years broke a couple world and national records. I hung up my suit at 40. It’s too much to get up on the blocks and race. I like to swim for fitness.”

Along with coaching at LMU, she began a Masters team with Olympian Clay Evans, Santa Monica Masters Swim Team, which later became SCAQ – now the largest Masters program in the United States with over 900 active members.

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Bonnie Adair and Clay Evans, founders of SCAQ Masters.

From Bonnie Adair’s bio on the LMU website:

“During her own 13-year swimming career, Adair set 35 National Age Group records including a 50m freestyle record that stood for 29 years.

Competing in 12 National Championships (her first at age 13) and two Olympic Trials, Adair became a National finalist in the 100 free and 100 fly and a member of a 400-meter medley relay that established four American records.

She attended UCLA as an undergraduate and then Loyola Law School. During law school, Adair was the assistant coach of the UCLA women’s swim team and also coached the Team Santa Monica age group team.

In 1979, Adair created the Santa Monica Masters Swim Team, which later became SCAQ – now the largest Masters program in the United States with over 900 active members.

In her 30-plus years coaching, it is estimated that Adair has coached or instructed more than 20,000 Los Angeles-area swimmers.

Between 1985 and 1994, Adair came out of swimming retirement to compete in several Masters National Championships and World Games and set national and world records in the freestyle sprint events and 100 and 200 IMs. She has contributed swimming articles to SWIM Magazine and Fitness Swimmer Magazine and was honored as the United States Masters Coach of the Year in 1997.

From 1996-1999, Adair was the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming teams at Santa Monica College, where she earned the Western State Conference Women’s Coach of the Year award in 1997. In 1998, her women’s team tied for the conference title and placed sixth in the state. Her men’s team also earned a sixth place finish.

Adair currently resides in West Los Angeles.”

Jim Montrella — A Southern California Swimming Legend and Innovator

montrellajim01-resizedIf 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

“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

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

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

THE FATHER OF SWIMMING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

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Peter Daland, April 12, 1921 – October 20, 2014

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.img_3929

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.”

From Wikipedia:

“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.”

Here are quotes from the swimming community on the news of his passing from SwimSwam and from Swimming World, which he co-founded.