Mike Dickson, Proud of the Adults His Swimmers Become

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Mike Dickson (photo from Chaffey College)

 

Mike Dickson feels fortunate to have his career as a coach for almost 40 years on the same team. Not many coaches can claim that. Part of the reason for his longevity is his “emphasis on running a good program not just on winning.”

“It’s hard today for some coaches starting out,” Dickson said. “Many coaches today are part-time.”  As head coach at Chaffey College and Hillside Aquatics, he has enjoyed the stability of working for both the college and running a club program. “Several swimmers on the college team had parents who were on my team,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the kids grow up.”

According to Dickson, “College comes first and the college allows us to use the pool.” He runs a successful summer learn-to-swim program at the pool as well as the club team Hillside Aquatics. He attributes much of the team’s success to great assistant coaches. “While they’re finishing with schooling, swimmers will work as assistant coaches for me.”

He’s proud of his many swimmers and the great people they have become as adults. Many of his swimmers continued from Hillside Aquatics into Chaffey College to swim for him.  Many followed careers into public service including lifeguards, firemen, police, California Highway Patrol, nursing, plus an author. He played an important part in his young swimmers’ lives and they keep in touch with him throughout their lives.

“Industry Hills with John Ries, Mission Viejo with Mark Schubert were two of the powerhouse teams with Olympic swimmers, he recalled. Other important teams from the early days he mentioned were YMCA San Pedro, NOVA, Redlands, RAA with Sippy Woodhead and Mike Gautreau at Covina Aquatics Association.

Dickson was born in Spokane, WA and his family moved to Montclair when he was seven years old. As a diver, he competed at Montclair High School and graduated in 1967. He competed for Chaffey college as a diver, also.

One weekend each December, Dickson plays Santa Claus for the Palm Springs Air Museum’s annual “Santa Fly In and Winter Fun Land.” Santa Claus flies into the Air Museum and greets the line of kids waiting to see him. He sits for photographs and hands out gifts for each child.

As for his club swimmers, “Kids recognize their own talent. Parents all think their own kids are talented. Kids don’t like being beat and they sort out where they fit in.” Some kids pay attention to detail and are self-disciplined while some aren’t as focused, he added. He mentioned a young man in the college who was not that talented, but he enjoys it and puts in his best effort. “I love working with kids like that and I can train them to get better.”

As for parents, he likes someone “who doesn’t own a stopwatch.” He appreciates the “parents who bring their child to practice consistently, willing to make that sacrifice. During practice, some read, walk on the track and they offer body conditioning the same time as youngers’ practice.”

“We all lead busy lives, and when parents have other children, in multiple sports or activities and are willing to help our without expecting anything in return, it’s a pleasure. The best parents aren’t asking for something in return, like if their child is going to get into another group.”

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Mike Dickson as Santa (photo from the Palm Springs Air Museum)

Here’s a complete bio from the Chaffey College Swimming website:

 

Mike Dickson

Head Coach – Men’s Swimming & Diving

For over 38 years Mike Dickson has guided Chaffey College’s aquatics programs, coaching some top notch swimmers and water polo players. Dickson started at Chaffey College as the men’s and women’s swim coach along with the men’s water polo coach. During his nine seasons as Panther water polo, coach Dickson led them to a conference championship in 1980 along with entries into 2 Southern California Water Polo Championship tournaments.

Chaffey College has won swimming titles for men’s in 1984, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2007 and 2012. The women won conference championships in 1983, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1995.

“We need to have good high schools and a good, competitive facility,” said Dickson about running a successful swimming program. “We need to be able to draw in the club swimmers.”

Dickson has been blessed with more than his share of talented swimmers. In the past 38 years Panther swimmers have earned over 150 individual or relay All-American rankings.

When Dickson recruits swimmers he talks about the benefits of attending a community college. Another selling point is that Chaffey College as its own academic counselor for athletes and they receive priority registration for their first three semesters.

Born in Spokane, Washington,  Dickson and his family moved to Montclair when he was seven. He graduated Montclair High in 1967 and competed primarily as a diver.

In 1968 and 1973 Dickson dove for the Panthers swim team under the direction of Chaffey College Hall of Fame coach Howard Theurer. During the intermittent years, Dickson served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. He came back to Cal Poly Pomona, where he dove in 1974. Dickson coached various levels of swimming and diving for Montclair High between 1967 and 1978.

In addition to coaching local swimmers up to Olympic Trials, Mike was also a coach for the Indonesian National Team for several years. He has had the opportunity to coach with other international level coaches and work with swimmers who were competing on the international level. Many of his swimmers competed in the Southeast Asian Games and Pan-Pacific Games.

Coach Dickson and his wife of 38 years Bonni, live in Rancho Cucamonga. They have two adult children who have given them several grandchildren to be with and spoil whenever possible.

In his spare time, Dickson likes to collect dust jackets from the late 1930s and early 1940s. He likes to travel as he’s hitchhiked across Europe and also thumbed his way from California to New York.

John Ries Began His Illustrious Career in a Back Yard

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With a coaching career that started in a Southern California backyard in 1961, Coach John Ries has fascinating stories to tell. A native of So Cal, he played high school baseball, basketball and football at Pomona High School. He swam for one year in college at Cal Poly Pomona.

His father-in-law Herb Weightman ran a swim school and he asked John to help out with summer lessons. It was in June when John returned home from the service that he began coaching. With 60 kids in their program, they had to get creative on how to conduct their lessons. John explained that his father-in-law drilled holes every two feet around the pool and put in poles. A rope was attached to the poles with belts to go around the kids. They had 20 to 30 kids in the pool at once doing stationary freestyle. With this unorthodox method, they developed some good swimmers in the AAU.

Claremont had a team, but there was a tragedy with a female diver training for the Olympics. According to John, a young boy dove or jumped off the high dive onto the diver and paralyzed her. The swim team was canceled after that. People were obviously upset about the accident, but they were also up in arms that the whole team was canceled.

“Eventually, word got out about what Herb and I were doing in Pomona. We were asked to start up a team at El Robles Junior High in Claremont,” John said.

The team became the Claremont Crocodiles. John laughed when he recalled the gift the team gave him one year—a live crocodile. From 1962 to 1971, John coached the Crocs.

“Chaffey High school asked me if I could coach there. I went to Chaffey because they had a 50-meter pool. I worked there for 10 years until 1982 as head coach of the Chaffey Tiger Sharks. Dave Radcliffe, who competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, was a prior coach for the team.

“I went to Industry Hills and I was there for 10 years. I started as an assistant coach but took over for Don LaMont. Don went to USC. We had Olympians, national level swimmers. When I was at Industry Hills, it was beautiful. It had a first class hotel, a 50-meter pool, a 25-yard pool, lockers—it was state of the art and the best in the country at the time.”

John’s next step in his swim coaching career was retirement. He said, “I retired and then Stan Clark, who owned the Claremont Club, asked me if I would come start a swim team. He was building a 50-meter pool. He hired someone else and that coach had some weird ideas. They got rid of the other coach, so he approached me again. I’ve been here for more than 25 years.”

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The Claremont Club 50-meter pool.

Although John says he’s coached a number of great kids, a few of the swimmers who were standouts during his coaching career include:

Jeff Kostoff, Industry Hills, 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and 1988 Seoul Olympics. Distance swimmer and 400IM. He held the 500 free national high school record for 30 years and the 1650 Stanford record for 21 years. He’s an assistant coach at Stanford.

Jenna Johnson, Industry Hills, 2X gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, 400-free relay and 400-medley relay, plus silver medalist in the 100 fly.

Olympian Doug Northway, “Fourth at Olympics for distance in 1972 Munich Olympics. Rick DeMont, who is the coach for Arizona Wildcats, won first, but they stripped his medal because of his inhaler for asthma. They’ve been trying to reinstate his medal. But, the rest were bumped up and Northway got the bronze medal.” In the 1976 Quebec Olympics, Northway swam prelims for the gold medal winning relay team, but at that time they didn’t award medals for swimmers who swam only in prelims.

Noelle Tarazona, UCLA and NCAA competitor, 3X All-American, Assistant Coach at Pomona-Pitzer. “She has been all over the world with her swimming. Also, she’s been to Colorado Springs as a representative to talk to USA Swimming about what can be improved. Hardest working girl ever.”

Joe Dykstra, “Joey swam from six years old through high school with me. Swam at the University of Washington and is currently a PAC 12 head coach for the Utes. Fantastic kid. One of the top ten swimmers I’ve ever coached, and is wonderful as a person.”

John attributes the fun atmosphere, stability of staff and great families to his success in his coaching career. “Everyone gets along, the olders are good to youngers. We have a banquet and we don’t charge the swimmers. It’s a luau, beach party at Christmas. We try to keep it fun all the time. It’s important to have great athletics, but it has to be fun for the kids to work hard.”

He said, “It’s important to teach coaches how to teach strokes properly. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a program.”

John’s thoughts about his swim coaching career is best expressed by him:

“I’ve enjoyed great groups of kids. I love what I’m doing. I’m still doing it.”

photos from http://www.claremontclub.com/club/scripts/section/section.asp?NS=HOMEPAGE