PHOENIX, Ariz. May 3.
Recently, Mark Schubert shocked the American swimming community when it was announced he would be leaving the University of Southern California, where he has been coaching successfully for 14 years, to take the newly-redefined position of USA Swimming’s National Team Head Coach and General Manager. We sat down with Coach Schubert to ask about his plans and expectations in his new post. Here’s what he had to say.
Swimming WorldMagazine.com: Coach Schubert, why did you decide to leave USC and take this new position – especially when both your men’s and women’s team were on the upswing?
Coach Mark Schubert: I didn’t really decide to leave SC. Rather, my decision was to accept the challenge of being the national team coach. In the past, it was something I disdained, but now it intrigues me. Then there was the matter of timing. I knew that if I didn’t accept the position, someone else would…and that he or she would likely remain in that position for another 10 or 15 years. So I realized that this was my last chance – that I’d never have the opportunity again. Something within me told me to go for the challenge.
Then there’s the opportunity to work with Lindsay (Benko) Mintenko. How many times do you have the opportunity to select someone as outstanding as she is to work with? And how many times do you get to direct the US National Team for two Olympics?
It’s very hard to leave USC, to leave the great athletes with whom I work. I know I’m going to miss the day-to-day fun we’ve had.
As for leaving when the team is on the upswing: That’s the way to leave it – better than I found it. I am proud that Mike Garrett (the USC Athletic Director) selected Dave Salo to replace me. He was clearly the best choice, and the athletes are excited too.
SW: How will you define your new job?
Schubert: As I see it, I’ll be the National Team “Facilitator.” We are fortunate to be blessed in this country with so many superb coaches. They are the ones who are developing the swimmers. My job, as I see it, will be to go to these coaches and ask, ‘What can we do to help you succeed?’ And then to give them whatever they need.
SW: Do you plan to make any structural changes in your department at USA Swimming?
Schubert: Any time management changes in an organization, there is a review of the structure, services and personnel. My intention is to review everything and interview everyone.
SW: Do you anticipate any changes in emphasis for the National Team?
Schubert: Our priorities have been, and will remain: Pan Pacs in Canada in 2006, the World Championships in Melbourne in 2007, and the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. The Nationals this summer in Irvine will select the Pan Pac and World Championship teams as well as a few others. That makes it a huge meet!
This past weekend, the Steering Committee reinstated the World University Games into our quadrennial plan. There were several other changes as well: Grand Prix meets will be held in the winter as well as the summer. There will be a major short course yards meet in southern California on Martin Luther King weekend in January, replacing the Q meet that has been held at that time.
SW: And all of these meets will be short course?
Schubert: Yes, the culture of our sport in winter is short course. In fact, instead of the US Open in the first week of December, we plan to hold a national championship in short course yards, except during an Olympic year, which for 2008, we’ll define as running from September 2007 through Beijing.
As far as long and short course go, the principle is: the short course season needs to be short and the long course season needs to be long.
SW: You mentioned Lindsay earlier. What will her role be?
Schubert: Lindsay’s main responsibility will be directing the national team staff. While I’ll be working out of my home in California, Lindsay will be (at the USA Swimming headquarters) in Colorado Springs. She’s moving there May 15.
SW: What do you see as the toughest challenges to USA Swimming’s continued dominance of our sport?
Schubert: The challenges these days are universal, not just from the traditional swimming powers. There are great swimmers coming from everywhere: Poland, Tunisia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, even New Guinea! Then you have a number of countries that are making great strides: England, France, Canada, Italy and so on.
But, of course, our major competition will come from China and Australia. Right now, the Australian women are looking awfully tough, and the Chinese will have the home court advantage, which always produces extra medals.
I think the most fun comes from our rivalry with Australia. I love competing against the Aussies. I have tremendous respect for their skills and speed and always enjoy their terrific enthusiasm.
SW: Well, we wish you all the best in your new position, Mark. When do you take the reins?
Schubert: Thank you for the good wishes. The big day is May 15. I can’t wait!