Mark Schubert’s Path of Success Led to So Cal Swimming

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Photos by permission of Mark Schubert

Mark Schubert, a former high school swimmer from Akron, OH, had a goal to become a high school coach. Schuberts dream came true. He became a high school coach in Cuyahoga Falls High in Ohio.

In 1972, during his second year coaching, he looked at swimming in Southern California and was impressed by the caliber of coaches. “I looked at the great coaches in So Cal including Don Gambril, Dick Jochums, Ron Ballatore, Jim Montrella and Peter Daland. I realized that I could be successful there.”

At the young age of 23, Schubert applied to head the team in Mission Viejo, which at the time was a summer-league team. He got the job and through the years, grew the team to more than 500 swimmers. He also coached at Mission Viejo High School, and they became CIF Champions in 1975.imgres

How did Schubert, a young, new coach have such early successes?

“Once a month, Id travel to other teams, and learn from them. It helped me out and it was a great way to learn. Coach Peter Daland was from Swarthmore, east coast guy, wore ties, very formal. He was impressive and his team had enthusiastic chemistry. I modeled Mission Viejo after Santa Clara and George Haines. We developed a culture of hard work and our swimmers swam fast. Shirley Babashoff got the ball rolling,” Schubert said. “Visiting other coaches on a monthly basis was better than any course I could attend. It worked for me.”

Some of the stand-out swimmers he coached at Mission Viejo:

Brian Goodell was 8 years old when Mark Schubert became head coach of the team. He first coached him when he was 13 years old. He earned 2 gold medals, 400m and 1500m free at Montreal 1976 Olympics.

Shirley Babashoff, 4 silver, I gold in Montreal, author of “Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program.”

Mary Meagher, earned 3 golds, 100 fly, 200 fly and 400 Medley Relay, 1984 Los Angeles Olympics training with Mission.

Dara Torres, earned 1 gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. She trained with Mission Viejo to prepare for the Olympics while in high school, from ’83-’84.

Michael OBrien, won 1 gold medal in the 1500 at the 1984 Olympics. His club team was Mission Viejo.

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Innovations in swimming:

“It was fun when everyone started to wear goggles. One of the main reasons for drops was practice went from 3 to 4,000 yards to 8,000. People improved a lot more. Before goggles, their eyes would get red and they couldn’t stay in the water for longer,” Schubert said.

“Also, suits became popular in the world in 1977. The East Germans wore speedo suits. Times continued to drop until the full body suits in 2008 when it peaked.”

During his years at USC, Schubert said he worked with many amazing swimmers including Olympians Janet Evans and Lenny Krazylburg,  Kristin Quance,  who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, and RoseBowl and USC coach Jeff Julian. “Mark Warkentin, Jeff Julian, Kristine Quance and Tyler Storie are coaches that I coached. Nice to have coaches that have done well. It’s very satisfying.”

981335_1468252828765rsz__dsc3156Schubert’s Career Comes Full Circle As He Returns to Mission Viejo

Mark Schubert

Associate Head Coach

Coach Mark Schubert is the Associate Head Coach of the Mission Viejo Nadadores.

He returned to the World Renowned program that developed from 1972-1985.

 He formerly was the Head Coach and CEO of the Golden West Swim Club in Huntington Beach, California; where he rebuilt one of Southern California’s best programs from the bottom up by instilling the values of hard work, commitment, dedication, fun, and a love of swimming. Coach Schubert was also the Head Coach of Gold West College. After nine years of the Rustlers not making it to the championship podium, Schubert leads both the Women’s and the Men’s teams to the California State Community College Championships Title in 2013 – in his second year! The Men’s team also won the State title in 2014 and 2015.

Schubert was named the USA Swimming National Team Head Coach and General Manager on March 21, 2006. Prior to joining USA Swimming, he was the head coach at the University of Southern California for 14 years.

Schubert has demonstrated coaching success at all levels – club, college, and international – matched by few coaches in the history of the sport. At the club level, Schubert found success on the national swimming scene as the head coach of the Mission Viejo Nadadores from 1972-85, where his teams won a record 44 U.S. National team titles during his tenure. Schubert also served as the head coach of Texas Aquatics for four years, leading the club, along with head coach Eddie Reese, to 10 national team titles.

At the collegiate level, Schubert coached at the University of Texas from 1989-92, leading the Longhorns to two NCAA team titles (1990 and 1991). At the University of Southern California, the Trojan women took home one NCAA team title under Schubert in 1997. His USC swimmers won 49 NCAA individual titles.

At the international level, Schubert has been a familiar face on the Olympic coaching scene, serving on every Olympic coaching staff since 1980 and placing 38 swimmers on U.S. Olympic teams. Schubert was Head Women’s Coach in 1992 and 2004. He was the Head Men’s Coach in 2000. He was a Women’s Assistant Coach in 1996, and an assistant for the combined Men’s and Women’s teams for 1980, 1984, and 1988.

In his first World Championships appearance as National Team head coach and general manager, Schubert led Team USA to its most dominant performance in history. The Americans ran away with the medal count, winning an incredible

36 medals, 20 of them gold, and setting 12 world records. Schubert is an eight-time World Championships coach, serving as the head men’s and women’s coach in 1982.

Here are the first paragraphs from a story from Sports Illustrated The Vault, July 10, 1978 about the creation of the community of Mission Viejo, the Nadadores and Mark Schubert:

THEY’RE POOLING THEIR TALENT

“It is 7:02 a.m. and Mark Schubert is annoyed. “Shut up!” he snaps at two girls, still half-asleep but jabbering on the deck of the 50-meter pool. The girls fall silent. Within seconds they and their 60-odd teammates on the national team of the Mission Viejo swim club are in the water, swimming laps, but Schubert is still frowning. “Move it,” he yells to nobody—and everybody—in particular. Practice was supposed to start at 7 o’clock and two minutes have been lost forever. To socializing.

Schubert’s top swimmers spend five hours every day in the water and another hour lifting weights. They work out twice a day, six days a week, 11 months a year. During the school year the first workout begins at 5:30 a.m. at Mission Viejo High and swimmers can be seen slumped in their cars in the parking lot, catching a few last winks in the lifting darkness. Even now, summertime, when all workouts have shifted to the Mission Viejo International Swim Complex and morning sessions start at the more civilized hour of seven, the regimen guarantees a long day. Swimmers finish the first workout at 9:30, then return to the pool at 4 p.m. to lift weights before going into the water again at five. At 7:30, Schubert signals the end of the session by flipping vitamin tablets to his spent athletes. Still in the water, they lunge at the offerings with open mouths, like seals going after fish.

But these swimmers at the peak of the club’s pyramid are not the only ones expending energy in Mission Viejo, Calif., a planned community of 43,000 occupying a stretch of hilly Orange County 50 miles south of Los Angeles. The club has 550 members all told and the swimmers on the lower rungs walk, bicycle or are car-pooled to workouts at the high school and at the 25-yard pools in the Montanoso and Sierra recreation centers as well as in the main complex. There are novice groups, a bewildering array of age-group sessions—the 9-10s with the 11-12s, for example—and also senior “B” and “C” groups. And there are learn-to-swim classes for children as young as 4. What all these groups have in common is a no-nonsense approach decreed from on high by Schubert. “The stars have to toe the line and set an example for the younger kids,” he says. “The younger kids have to toe the line because they’re the future stars.”

Contrary to what some rivals say, Mission Viejo swimmers aren’t always drilled until they drop and they don’t automatically turn into champions as soon as they don their blue-and-gold sweat suits. It only seems that way.

The Mission Viejo Nadadores dominate most levels of swimming in the U.S., turning out age-group record holders and world-beaters alike. This was the home club of Shirley Babashoff, the now retired queen of American swimming. It remains the summer club of the sport’s reigning glamour boy, UCLA sophomore Brian Goodell, the 1976 Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the 400-and 1,500-meter freestyles. And of American record holders Jesse Vassallo (400-yard individual medley) and Alice Browne (800-meter freestyle). And AAU champions Dawn Rodighiero, Valerie Lee and Jennifer Hooker. Then there is Mission Viejo’s foreign contingent, which this summer includes Australian backstroker Mark Tonelli, a fourth-place finisher in Montreal (and an AAU champion), and Olympic bronze medalist Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands. In all, nine Olympians from four countries are training in Mission Viejo. As though that were not enough, the Nadadores also have a new diving team, whose impressive ranks include Jennifer Chandler, the 1976 gold medalist in the three-meter event, and Greg Louganis, the silver medalist in the tower.

Mission Viejo’s swimmers and divers keep the water roiling in six pools around town. The hub of this activity, the International Swim Complex, consists of a 50-meter pool, a 25-yard warmup pool, a diving well and a carpeted weight room. There, beneath a hillside bedecked with marigolds arranged in outsized letters spelling MISSION VIEJO, Goodell & Company can be seen swimming laps while Chandler & Company arch gracefully through the air. The site is also used for major meets, including the annual Mission Viejo Invitational, national Masters and age-group championships and last year’s AAU long-course nationals.

Obviously, there is something special happening below Mission Viejo’s marigolds. The U.S. has long been the world’s leading swimming power, thanks in large part to go-getting community swim clubs that compete strongly with the baseball and football coaches for the good young athletes. These clubs are typically put together by upper-middle-class swim parents, who bicker with the coaches but who also pay dues, sponsor bake sales and wrangle enough dollars from local tire dealers and soft-drink distributors to keep the clubs going. Mission Viejo is different. The Nadadores are formally co-sponsored by a boosters club consisting mainly of parents. But the other sponsor—and the club’s founder—is the Mission Viejo Company, the high-powered land-development firm that built the town. Now a $150-million-a-year subsidiary of Philip Morris Inc., the Mission Viejo Company remains a commanding presence in the unincorporated community. Leaving police and fire protection to Orange County, it builds and runs recreational facilities and parcels out new housing developments. And it gets involved in zoning, landscaping and other civic matters.”

Four-time Olympian Jill Sterkel’s Career Began as a So Cal Age Group Swimmer

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Photos courtesy of Jill Sterkel.

Jill Sterkel, four-time Olympian, grew up in Hacienda Heights, graduated from Glen A. Wilson High School and remembers the “healthy family lifestyle” of swimming. Her mom was a swimmer, and the three Sterkel kids, Jill, her older brother and younger sister, jumped into the pool together.fullsizerender

Sterkel was part of the 4 x 100 relay that beat the  East Germans in 1976 for Olympic gold (video here). Following a near sweep of gold–except for that one relay, a doping scandal followed the East German women, which is still in the headlines today. Sterkel was a world-record holder in the 50 meter free, an NCAA champion for Texas Longhorns, and qualified for three more Olympics: 1980, 1984 and 1988.  She won four medals in three Olympic Games spanning twelve years. (USA boycotted the 1980 Olympics, which were held in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.) Sterkel was the women’s head coach of the Texas Longhorns swimming and diving team at the University of Texas at Austin from 1992 to 2007.

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When did you start swimming?

“My grandparents had a pool and they wanted us to be water safe. It was a thing for the whole family to do. We started with swim lessons, and the same place had a summer league team. One thing led to another.

“My first team was Hacienda Heights Aquatic Club. At age 10, the coach who was good friends with our family, suggested we might go to a year-round program, a little bigger than the program we were with.”

The coach suggested the Sterkel kids join El Monte Aquatics. Sterkel remembers there were several coaches on the year-round team and at age 10 she was the youngest to be in Don Lamont’s group.

“Hacienda Heights was a good club team, but it wasn’t the same caliber as El Monte. El Monte had people who were going to nationals. Very much an established AAU or USA club. When I look back on it, our coach wasn’t very selfish to tell us to go to a bigger team. That is pretty amazing.

“We all swam. Not everything revolved around swimming, but a lot did. All three of us were part of the team and active swimmers. In age group swimming, we were going to swim meets every other weekend. It sort of becomes your social life as well. It’s awesome that it’s so much fun.”img_3677

Early on, what was one of your most exciting swim experiences? What stands out the most?

“In all honesty, from my very earliest memories which would have been on my Hacienda Heights Club team, The thing I remember the coach would do, it sounds silly. We would do ‘king of the mountain’ swimming. The coach made a lot of the harder things fun. I hated kicking, but when we did kicking sets, we’d do 25s and the little kids would go, which would be me. Then the bigger kids would wait 10 seconds and try to catch. Stuff like that stands out, it’s a lasting memory I have.

“What I remember most, what stands out, of course I obviously remember winning the gold medal in ’76 and that stands out, but I remember Nationals–going as a team.

As a 15-year-old at the 1976 Summer Olympics, she won a gold medal as a member of the winning U.S. team in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay, together with her teammates Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli and Shirley Babashoff. After the U.S. women’s team had been outshone in nearly every event by their East German rivals, Peyton, Boglioli, Sterkel and Babashoff achieved a moral victory by not only winning the relay gold medal, but also by breaking the East Germans’ world record in the event final. — Wikipedia

“Flying was a big deal, we’d get the same outfits. Different songs would go with different Nationals. There’d be shaving cream fights and shaving parties. All of those things that make up the process, not just going to certain meets. We’d always go to Santa Clara and Mission Viejo. The people. We had such a great group of people. We had a lot of amazing people involved in swimming.”

Sterkel shares more memories of what it was like to be a So Cal Age Group Swimmer:

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“I remember going up to Lemoore, I couldn’t tell you where it was. Everyone camped. We had a little RV. The meet lasted from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. I don’t remember swimming at all, but I do remember the things we did–like killing the time before your next event. It was pretty much a fabric of our life growing up.

“We would go to an age group meet, we’d all stay at the same hotel, so after the meet it would be like a whole reunion party. The kids would be in the pool, the parents would be sitting around, very much a healthy family friendly atmosphere.

“The weird thing was when I was really young I went to JOs, but I started going to Nationals at a pretty young age, so I didn’t do a lot of age group meets.”

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How did you get into coaching?

“In college I began to pay attention. Probably in all honesty, not that I didn’t care about swimming and wanted to do well, because I did. But, it wasn’t until college that I sort of learned certain things. I was taught certain things by my coach that I didn’t know before. Part of it was the times. I had never been taught breathing patterns or race strategy. I think in those years, that a lot of it didn’t come along until later. And it got more scientific after that.

“It opened the door to me having conversations like ‘why would you do that?’ Or ‘why would that work?’ It was intriguing. It had a huge impact on my performance and the one thing that was really nice was the coaches. I had Paul Bergen and Richard Quick. It wasn’t taboo to ask. Obviously, it’s how you do the ask as well. They were very open to explaining things. That got me along thinking along that path.

“When I first came into college, I wanted to take the concept of biology and put it into physical education. So, it wasn’t just like recess, but actually maybe physical things and learning the science behind it.  That was my vision for the future. I was way ahead of my time as far as personal trainer, and I was going to put it into the high school setting like the teaching element of it. I always had an affinity for learning that stuff. It was something that I liked to talk about, think about it.”

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Today, Jill Sterkel has a son in age group swimming and works for the University of Texas. #SoCalSwimHistory