Passages: Mike Hastings, Coach of Summer Sanders, Passes Away

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Mike Hastings, a former swim coach for California Capital Aquatics, has passed away on Sunday, February 29.

Hastings was inducted into the American Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and mentored Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders.

Hastings founded California Capital Aquatics in 1983 “with a team philosophy to build character through excellence in swimming.” He helped bring an Olympic sized facility to the club to train as CCA moved to the Roseville Aquatics Complex in May 1995.

4 comments

  1. avatar
    John Naber

    Tribute to Mike Hastings:

    I found out last week that Mike Hastings, my club coach at the Ladera Oaks Aquatic Club from 1973-1977, passed away at his home in Oregon. He lived alone.

    Mike came from the Arden Hills program where Mark Spitz had been groomed for success. We were eager to meet the man, and were delighted to hear that he preferred to be called Mike rather than Coach Hastings. Mike became a major force in my swimming career. He taught me a lot about life and sport, but I will always remember how much he taught me about myself. Allow me to share a few quick examples:

    On his first day on the workout pool deck, as the team’s only American Record holder, I tried to make Mike feel welcome by loudly agreeing to every practice set he presented to the team. He’d quietly say something like, “8 x 500s on the six minutes,” and I’d helpfully chime in, “That’s a great idea, coach,” or, “Sounds good to me.” After three such shows of enthusiastic support, Mike pulled me aside and said, “John, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I don’t need your approval. I need your obedience.” I learned about authority, that day.

    A few months later, at the end of a grueling set of pulling 200s, Mike stopped the pace clock, and signaled for me to lean in. “John,” he pointed to the other swimmers, and whispered, “On this last one… show them what can be done.” He didn’t say, show them what you can do. He said show them what can be done. In that moment, I felt I could do something that had never been done before. With a tube around my ankles and buoy between my thighs, I pulled 200-yards freestyle almost as fast as I could swim it. On that day, I believed myself possible of world records for the first time. “Show them what can be done” was his pep-talk to me before every major race from then, on.

    In 1973, at the US Nationals that selected the first World Championship team ever, I was the top seed in the 100-meter backstroke. A win here would place me on the team and also on the USA medley relay. Sadly, after finishing first, an official called me out for not touching the wall on the turn (the rule at the time) but the head meet referee was not so sure. Mike was the one to tell me the news. He asked, “Do you want to argue the call?” I said, “No Mike, I didn’t touch the wall.” And right there, the discussion ended. Mike could have urged me to fight a fight we might have won, but with so much on the line, he took truth as the arbiter of the decision. I learned the joy of doing the right thing, even when it costs more than you’re willing to pay. It became the choice of which I am most proud.

    Mike was my coach on deck when I broke my first world record. He was the first man I hugged after winning my first Olympic medal. He was the first man I asked for advice, after I retired from the sport. He was my rock.

    I have lots more Mike stories: his sharp whistle, his ingratiating smile, his demand for respect. One time referring to him, I said, “Give that boy a prize.” He put on his serious face, and spoke slowly to me, “You can call me Roy, and you can call me Leroy, and you can call me cowboy, but don’t you ever call me Boy!” I called him Roy, the last three times I saw him.

    Mike was a bit of a loner, but he agreed to be my travelling companion when I was invited to compete in the 1978 ABC Superstars in the Bahamas. For the first time, he was not my coach, but my friend. He treated me as an equal, not a kid, and it was one of the greatest times of my life. I thanked him then and I thank him now.

    Mike, you helped make me become the man I am today, and I will be forever grateful.

  2. avatar
    Emad Elshafei

    Wonderful tributes from legend swimmers John Naber and Summer Sanders. I met coach Mike in 1983 as he coached the Egyptian National Team for a few months, and lead the team at the Mediterranean Games that year. I dropped 8 seconds in the 400 IM and 4 in the 200 IM in 4 months. One set I would never forget is the 3 x 800 IM (LC). Mike taught me how to swim the 400 IM and had significant impact on the entire team as many national records were broken that summer. While strict as a coach, Mike was a charming person. How can I forget his whistle while swimming breaststroke in the IM race? RIP Mike.