Dad's Club Swim Team
Many Years of Achievements & Programs
There is a magic that begins with the hopes and dreams of parents and families. These visionaries worked together, taking a piece of land and creating a safe environment for the future that became an essential part of a supportive athletic community—and spawned a lifelong network of friends and opportunities for the athletes, parents, coaches, officials, and volunteers at the Dad's Club.
In the Beginning
The Dad's Club, before it became a YMCA, was a private enterprise and served as the community center for the Spring Branch-Memorial area. It was formed in 1946 as the Spring Branch Memorial Drive Dad's Club. Mr. Kiefner was the first president. Initially, teenage activities were held at the Dad's Club every other Saturday night and planning commenced for a Boy Scout House to be built on the grounds. By September of 1949, the recreation building was partially completed; and work on the grounds, tennis courts, and ball diamond were in progress.
Early in 1952, following the recommendations of Mr. Louis Cutrer, plans were started for a swimming pool and a kitchen for the youth center. The Lions Club supplied the funds for the kitchen project. The new pool was officially opened June 12, 1953. Bill Baker, father of five children, formed a committee of “Dads” who wanted a place for competition and fellowship for their kids. The “Dad's Club” was formed in the summer of 1954 with a small group of swimmers. Mr. Raymond L. Murphy, the Pool Director, and Mr. Jake Alexander aided in coaching that year. Through Mr. Baker's efforts and the swimmers' hard work, a good share of honors were won and a team was born.
The late spring of 1955 brought a new face to the Dad's Club, but an old one to swimmers of Houston and Texas – E. A. Snapp, Head Coach. The first record of the Dad's Club hosting a swim meet was July 8, 1955. The meet was a Junior-Midget Swim Meet with 17 organizations present, 200 contestants and 50 AAU officials. Later in the summer of 1956, when E.A. Snapp took the Dad's Club to Georgia for a swim meet, he encouraged all the swimmers to think on a much larger scale when he arranged for a private corporate plane to fly the team to the meet. It was at this point that the swimmers began perceiving the Dad's Club Swim Team on a national level. In 1956, at least 40 swimmers were in the finals of various meets in the Houston area with over 30 winning local Junior Olympic Awards and many winning national honors.
Melvin “Pat” and Jane Patterson were hired to coach the Dad's Club Swim Team in 1957. Pat, a former swimmer on the University of Texas Swim Team, with no previous competitive swimming experience, became the first Longhorn to break 50 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle. In 1956, Pat graduated from the University of Texas and was immediately hired as a football coach at Rogers, Texas, for one year. However, in May of 1957, he got a call from the Dad's Club and came to coach the Dad's Club Swim Team in June. He and his family were given the old Boy Scout House at the end of the Dad's Club property for their home as part of the contract. He was both the swimming and diving coach and also taught all kinds of activities at the Dad's Club when first hired.
The outdoor pool was the only swimming pool at the Dad's Club at that time, so arrangements were made for the swim team to practice at the downtown YMCA the first winter of 1957-58. In 1958, the outdoor pool was covered and the next four years proved to be outstanding in the growth of the team. Pat organized a swimming program for all elementary school students in the Spring Branch School District, and as a result the swim team membership grew exponentially.
In 1960, Joan Spillane, a Dad's Club swimmer training under Pat Patterson at the Dad's Club, earned a gold medal as a member of the United States 4x100-meter freestyle relay team in Rome, Italy, setting a world record. Richard Quick, a swimmer at Southern Methodist University, also trained during the summer of 1960 under Pat Patterson to prepare for the Olympic Trials in July. Olympic diver Kuni Schultz and her husband, Ike, immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1957. Beginning in 1964 and for the next 25-plus years, Kuni served as Executive Director and Diving Coach of the Dad's Club YMCA. In the early 1970s, she was one of the original promoters of national and international age group diving. In 1963, Bob and Janie Walker coached the Dad's Club Swim Team for one year while Pat and Jane Patterson took a sabbatical to work on their master's degrees.
Pat and Jane returned to coach in 1964. In 1965, Pat accepted the offer to become the head coach at the University of Arkansas. Later he coached at Texas A&M for two years and at the University of Texas for nine years. In 1964, the swimming-oriented Dad's Club donated all of the Spring Valley land to the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). The Dad's Club Team, a group anchored by kid swimmers and divers and steered by a nine-member adult board, gave management responsibility to the YMCA. From 1964 through 1993, the Dad's Club was considered a YMCA team and able to compete in YMCA Nationals. In the summer of 1965, Richard Quick, now a graduate of SMU, was hired to coach the team along with his wife, Ann Quick. Richard worked with the top swimmers and Ann worked primarily with what became known as the bronze team and also taught private stroke lessons. By 1967, the Dad's Club was ranked sixth in the nation and the following year, seven swimmers qualified for the Olympic Trials.
In 1970, construction began on the present 50-meter outdoor facilities. Richard was the prime mover for the 50-meter pool, with he and Ann donating $1000 towards the construction. The Dad's Club Swim Team paid $35,000 and the YMCA paid $35,000 to provide funding for the pool. The 50-meter pool offered an opportunity to train for long-course swimming events and further enhanced the possibility of swimmers to compete on a national and international level year round. Keena Rothhammer, an Olympian in 1972, trained at the Dad's Club under Richard Quick and later went to Santa Clara, Calif., to train with George Haines. She won a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle in 1972 in Munich, Germany, while swimming for Santa Clara.
In 1972, Richard Quick moved on to start his collegiate coaching career with SMU and to eventually become a six-time Olympic coach (1984-2004). Al Crosby was hired to replace Richard Quick in 1972. Soon afterwards he left the Dad's Club to form the Tarpons Swim Club, and some Dad's Club swimmers followed. Skip Kenney, assistant to Don Gambril at Harvard University, was appointed to the position of head coach in 1972. Many of the swimmers who left with Al Crosby returned to the Dad's Club to swim with Skip Kenney, when Al accepted a job with the Dynamo's Swim Club in Atlanta. Skip coached at the Dad's Club from 1972-76. The 1974-75 season saw 23 swimmers attend Junior Nationals in Ithaca, New York, with five of those reaching finals. The year culminated with the selection of Buzz Stagg and Ralph Watson to the United States National Team traveling to the Soviet Union in the fall. Ted Knapp, an all-American swimmer in 1975, worked with Skip Kenney as an assistant coach at Stanford for several years, then became head coach in 2012 after Skip retired.
By 1976, the Dad's Club had won ten consecutive Texas Age Group Swimming (TAGS) Championships, and set seven National Age Group records. Laura Raymond, Erica Meyer and Renee Magee qualified for the Olympic Trials, with Renee becoming the first female swimmer in Texas to make an Olympic team in an individual event, swimming the 100-meter backstroke in Montreal in 1976. The excellence at the Dad's Club continued as the team broke two Junior National records. In this same year, Erica Meyer and Sarah Irwin represented the United States while competing in the Soviet Union. Two Dad's Club men, Bill O'Brien and Kyle Ditzler, won trips to France and Bulgaria, respectively. Pat Nitsch became the first Dad's Club athlete to be placed on the cover of Swimming World Magazine. Pat was also recognized in Sports Illustrated in the “Faces In the Crowd” section in the September 6, 1976, issue as follows: “At the Texas State championships, Patrick, 13, set National Freestyle records in his age group when he swam 50 Meters in 27 seconds, 100 Meters in 58.53, 200 Meters in 2:05.97 and 400 Meters in 4:24.70. He was ‘Texas' Outstanding Boy Swimmer’ the last two years.” In 1977, Rob Orr was hired as the Dad's Club head coach and remained at the Dad's Club until 1979, when he accepted the head coaching position at Princeton. Rob was followed at the Dad's Club by Head Coach Jay Fitzgerald.
In 1980, the Dad's Club team placed 18th overall at the Indoor Senior Nationals in Austin, Texas, and 13th overall at the Olympic Trials in Irvine, Calif. Unfortunately, 1980 was the year of the Olympic boycott. However, Ricky Bodor, Glynde Mangum, Larry Craft, Rick May, Michelle Merchant, Bill O'Brien, Dean Putterman, Chris Rives, Kelly Rives, Andy Schmidt, and Pat Nitsch represented the Dad's Club well at the trials.
Jay Fitzgerald served as head coach at the Dad's Club from 1979-81. In 1980, the Dad's Club won the YMCA National Men's, Women's, and Combined Team titles. In 1981, the Dad's Club won the YMCA National Men's Team title. Steve Cattolica followed Jay Fitzgerald as head coach at the Dad's Club beginning in August, 1981, through November, 1982. Steve came to Houston from California. Coach Cattolica's noted swimmers were Chris Rives, who set a national high school record for Memorial in the 100-yard butterfly his senior year, and Asa Lawrence, who was the junior national champion in the 50-yard freestyle in 1982. Asa set a junior national record time in that event that stood for eight years.
In 1983, Randy Julian was named head coach. This same year Ricky Bodor received a silver medal for the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, Canada. Randy Julian's boys won the 1985 YMCA National Title. His men's team placed 10th in short course at the Los Angeles Indoor Senior Nationals and placed 6th at Long Course USS Nationals that same year. The season of 1983 was one of transition and rebuilding. Scott Hemingway won three gold medals at the junior meet and Heather Hardy took the gold in the 100-meter backstroke. Two Dad's Club swimmers qualified for Senior Nationals: Ricky Bodor and Asa Lawrence. Asa earned 6th in the 50-meter freestyle and 12th in the 100-meter freestyle. Chris Rives qualified for the Pan Pacific Games and the World Student Games, both held in Japan that year. He was a gold medalist in the 200-meter individual medley at the Pan Pacific Games, finishing with the fourth fastest time in the world that year.
For both the Dad's Club and the Houston area in general, 1986 proved to be a difficult period. Hit by the hard economic times within the oil industry, many families left the Houston metropolitan area. The spring of 1986 brought tragedy to the club with the traffic death of Kirstin Torgerson, one of the club's strongest swimmers. The Dad's Club team, determined to overcome this adversity, sent a strong 14-member team to the Austin Junior Nationals.
The Olympic year of 1988 had great impact on the Dad's Club yet again! Mark Boerner was hired in 1988 and served as head coach for 21 years through 2009. Many good swimmers were developed during this period. The team had two United States Olympic Trials qualifiers in Eric Ruby and David Hansen. Russ White, a Dad's Club parent and a USA official, was the Men's official starter at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Doug Gjertsen trained with the Dad's Club while attending the University of Texas. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1988 as a member of the 800-meter freestyle relay in Seoul. He also won an Olympic bronze medal while training at UT in the 800-meter freestyle relay in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992.
The 1990-91 season saw the Dad's Club Swim Team improve at every level of competition. Dad's Club swimmers placed eighth overall at the 1991 YMCA Nationals in Orlando, with the women's team finishing third. U.S. Swimming sponsored a contest for swim teams to determine which teams provided the most services for its swimmers and parents as well as being run efficiently. The Dad's Club was one of three teams in the United States chosen by U.S. Swimming that met those qualifications, and awarded the Dad's Club Swim Team a $500 check as the winner in the 1991 competition. The Dad's Club 1992 season was exemplary in true Dad's Club tradition. U.S. Swimming, again, honored the Dad's Club for providing the most services for its swimmers and parents by awarding them $500. These were the only two years this competition was held, and the Dad's Club was chosen as the outstanding team in the United States both times.
The 1993 YMCA Nationals were also a bright spot for Dad's Club Swimmers, as the women placed first, the men second, and the team placed second overall. Coach Mark Boerner was voted the “YMCA Coach of the Year.” 1995-96 was highlighted by a very successful Junior National meet in Santa Clara, Calif. Shannon O'Neal, Ashley Messersmith, Kylie Williams and Allison Mahlstedt scored in all relays. Allison became the fastest freestyler in Dad's Club history. While swimming for Mark Boerner, Mark Van Akkeren maintained high national rankings in his age group as well as in the open category. At the Speedo Junior Championships hosted by Clovis Swim Club in central California, Mark earned a world number one Junior ranking in the 200-meter individual medley. In 1996, at the Spring Senior Nationals, Mark placed eighth in the 200-yard butterfly. Kylie Williams placed second at the UIL High School Swim Meet with a Senior National time.
The 2000-2010 decade proved to be a difficult one for the Dad’s Club. The team experienced challenges, including hard economic times and the downsizing of the property due to the I-10 freeway expansion. These and other factors greatly affected team growth. Loyalty from the few swimmers and parents who remained with the team played a big part in building positively for the future. Although the team was small, the group’s vision and goals never wavered. Two swimmers represented the Dad’s Club at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials held in Indianapolis. Peter Fry, who was also a University of Nebraska swimmer, and Jada Sanders, a Rice University swimmer, competed in the 200-meter freestyle and 200-meter butterfly, respectively.
During the early 2000s, the team continued to produce many up-and-coming age group swimmers. At the 2002 Short Course Texas Age Group Swimming Championships (TAGS), the younger swimmers continued to excel. The 11-12-year-old boys won the High Point Award and helped identify the team as a "Top 8 Finish." During this time, the team also qualified multiple swimmers for All Star and Zone Gulf Select teams. Starting with Rachel McLaurin in the summer of 2000, the Dad’s Club produced a long list of Junior National Qualifiers. Keri Hyde, one of the most decorated age group swimmers during the first part of the decade, met multiple Junior National qualifying standards in distance freestyle and butterfly events. Others who achieved qualifying times for the Junior National level include: Stephanie Ward 2002, Katie Schlesinger 2003, Regina Aguilar 2004, Hunter Bayley 2006, Shelby Bottoms 2008, Catherine Wagner 2009, and Harrison Robinson 2009.
In April of 2009, Head Coach Mark Boerner accepted a job as head coach of the Texas Terrapins, located in northwest Houston. Rey Aguilar, the head age group coach at the time, became the Interim head coach during May through July and was named the new head coach in August of 2009. Beginning early in the 2000s, Danielle Yoon showed continuous improvement, setting 50 new team records. In the 2009 season, Yoon became the first Senior National Qualifier from the Dad’s Club in nine years. Shortly after Yoon became a National Qualifier, Lilly Marrow also recorded a National qualifying time during the 2009 short course season, and was followed by Hannah Cooper and Alex Pujol, both of whom made National Qualifying times in 2010.
The Dad’s Club experienced huge growth from 2010 to 2014. Well-established swim lessons created a great feeder program for the competitive swim team, and the Dad’s Club became a learning and training facility for all ages, from infants to adults. The momentum created in the latter part of the 2000s continued into the next decade.
Swimmers like Michael Miller, Jaimie Miller, and Alexandra Buscher added their names to the long list of All-Time National Qualifiers and placed at many Junior National meets. The team had over 25 Junior National Qualifiers (NCSA & Speedo) in four years, and Dad’s Club swimmers recorded 95 new team records.
In 2013, Michael Miller and Alexandra Buscher became the first Dad’s Club swimmers to win an individual UIL State Championship title since 2001. At the 2014 Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Championship Meet, junior Annie Miller continued the Miller dominance in the 50-yard freestyle for the fifth year in a row. Annie’s sister, Jaimie Miller, remained undefeated in the same event from 2010-13.
The Dad's Club Diving Team
The Dad's Club Diving Team was formed in May 1964. The first coach was Kuni Schultz. The team consisted of five divers—three boys and two girls. All three of those boys received scholarships to college: two to Texas Tech and one to the University of Texas. In those days, diving was simply an event within a swimming meet.
The two strongest swimming teams in Texas at that time were the Shamrock Hilton Swim Team and the Dad's Club Swim Team. The Shamrock Hilton team continually beat the Dad's Club because they had diving entries. The points earned by their divers who placed "tipped the scales" for total winning points in their favor. So the Dad's Club decided to have divers as part of their swimming team. Recruitment was through classes taught at the Dad's Club by the coach, and also through clinics and shows at neighborhood pools.
In 1969, Olympian Win Young joined the coaching staff. By 1970, the team had grown to 20 divers. Spring Branch Independent School District did not have a diving team; high school students who wanted to dive were referred to the Dad's Club. When the Spring Branch High School divers competed with their high school swim team, the Dad's Club diving coach accompanied them to the meets.
In the fall of 1972 Mrs. Schultz's workload was such that she could no longer continue as the diving coach. The first salaried Dad's Club diving coach was Joe Suriano, the aquatic director. He coached for the Dad's Club for three years and resigned to become the first diving coach at Vanderbilt University. The second Dad's Club diving coach, Bob Rydze, also the aquatic director, coached for three years and left for a coaching job at Iowa State. In 1978, Dave Moreau, the third diving coach, came from the University of Ohio. Ed Hooker, who followed Dave Moreau as diving coach, had dual coaching responsibilities for both the Dad's Club and Spring Branch Independent School District.
During her years at the Dad's Club as executive director, Mrs. Schultz coached the divers along with the head coach – as a volunteer and consultant. Therefore, the divers benefited from having two high-caliber coaches for the price of one. The Dad's Club developed a reputation throughout the United States diving community as a training ground for college-caliber diving coaches. It was difficult for the Dad's Club to retain diving coaches because they were prime targets for college recruitment. Over the years Dad's Club divers won medals in city, state, national and international competition.
Through connections in the diving community, every effort was made to expose the divers to college coaches on the national scene. Fifteen of the divers entered college on diving scholarships and seven of the divers have been high school all-Americans. Four received honorary mention as all-Americans. One special education student from the Dad's Club won first place in the National Special Olympics. After 1970 the Dad's Club Diving Team traveled twice to Europe and once to Mexico. Many of the divers were part of the Texas All-State Diving Team and as such traveled at home and abroad.
In 1973 diving became a sport on its own, separate and apart from swimming. The diving team outgrew the facilities and could no longer hold diving meets for anyone over the age of 12 because of the depth of the pool. A groundbreaking ceremony occurred in 2013 for the new outdoor pool, which will have seven swimming lanes and an 11-foot-deep area at one end for diving. "With the diving area, hopefully, the Dad's Club can go back to its history of spring board diving, as it was in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, when spring board diving was taught," said Georgia Marrow, the group’s operations director.
The Dad's Club Booster Club
The Dad's Club Booster Club started shortly after the team. In 1959, Pat Patterson felt that national competition was critical to developing Joan Spillane's talents further towards the goal of making the 1960 Olympic Team. There was no funding, but a few team dads decided to support this effort and raised enough money to fly Pat and Joan to the Nationals in California. The Booster Club was created! This support helped to prepare Joan for the Olympic Trials, and she made the 1960 Olympic Team.
Over the years, moms and dads continued in the endeavor to assist the swimmers, divers, and the coaches in any way they could. They were the on-deck officials, the timers, the starters, the judges, and the scorekeepers; all helping to run both the diving meets and the swimming meets. They became experts in organizing meets and were known throughout the swimming and diving world as friendly and encouraging, but standing firm and fair.
The booster club continued over the years, raising funds to assist with various needs and programs, by sponsoring many annual garage sales and other activities. They planned the banquets, organized the yearbooks, and took care of a thousand other loose ends; and, in the early years, did all this without cell phones or accessing the internet – wonder of wonders!
The Dad's Club Parents
How appropriate it is that through all the decades described above, the team is still known as the “Dad's Club.” In the beginning, it was the dads in the community who were determined to provide a safe place for their children to learn a life-saving skill and have fun and fellowship with other young people in the area. The combined efforts of all of the swimmers’ and divers’ dads and moms at the Dad's Club were extraordinary and beyond belief.
Parents—your swimmers and divers learned, as they got older, to appreciate and not take for granted everything you did: the early mornings, the late afternoons, the rush to get dinner, the tired kids, the carpools to and from practice, the out-of-town trips, the endless stream of washing and drying wet towels, and the missing warm-ups and practice equipment lost in the house. Oh, yes, you remember it well!
All the swimmers and divers, former and current, want to thank you for your time and dedication to our growth, and development, not only as swimmers, but as strong, independent, honest, persistent, individuals, competitors and teammates. You gave us the strength to overcome hardships in our lives by encouraging us never to quit whether we won or lost. You made us aware that NOT winning is NOT losing.
These qualities you helped instill in us not only assisted us in our swimming, but will be treasured throughout the rest of our lives. You helped us enjoy our swimming and diving to the extent of our talents and beyond our dreams. To all the parents of the Dad's Club Swimming and Diving Teams over the years, we are thankful you were along for the ride, we couldn't have done it without you!