Peter Daland – A Coach to Model a Life After

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Commentary by Chuck Warner

Peter Daland passed away today at the age of 93, and commentaries soon zipped around the world. In the blink of an eye, technology allowed many of us to share emotions and stories upon the passing of one of the great figures in the history of the world of swimming, and even one of the founders of Swimming World’s properties.

As a teenager, Peter Daland rebelled against his parents, like many of us. And, thank goodness he did. As a third generation Harvard man, the idea of coaching swimming didn’t sit well with his dad Elliott. But, the gift of a stopwatch by his mother (Katherine) and father, when he was eight years old provided him a calling that he could not ignore.

He began coaching swimming in the summers near Philadelphia, and eventually founded the Suburban Swim Club. He made a major decision to serve an apprenticeship when he became ‘the eyes’ man for Yale coaches Bob Kiphuth and his assistant Phil Moriarty. Long before the days of goggles, he listened and learned from these two Hall of Fame coaches while he helped rinse the chlorine from their swimmers’ eyes.

After Yale, he foresaw a great change in the future of swimming when he sought to move to California to coach. Fifty California clubs and institutions reportedly rejected young Daland’s applications. But, he found a way to California anyway, and began his head coaching position at the University of Southern California for a $300 annual salary.

So much of the rest, is what we shall say is history:

  • Founder Junior Swimmer Newsletter
  • Co-founder Swimming World Magazine
  • Founder Coaching Clinics (now known as Eastern States, etc)
  • 17 Pac-10 Titles
  • 17 National AAU Championships
  • 9 NCAA Team Titles
  • USA Head Women’s Olympic Coach 1964
  • USA Head Men’s Olympic Coach 1972

But that coaching success is just a small part of the man’s contribution and significance to the sport all of us have learned to love.

Today, recent past President of USAS and USA Swimming, Jim Wood, called Coach Daland, “his second father.” American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) Executive Director John Leonard has stated that view for many years, and so has World Swim Coaches Association (WSCA) President George Block.

How does a man make such an impact on such important leaders in the sport?

People who have been blessed to know Coach Daland must each have their personal experience to share, and I’ll guess it’s a bit like mine—some of which I once voiced in front of Coach Daland and was told he greatly appreciated it….I hope he feels the same way today.

My parents came out from Connecticut to California for my college graduation. During their stay, they watched my club team compete in a senior meet at Belmont Plaza in Long Beach. Coach Daland was also present with his swimmers.

After the meet was over my father, looking at my long hair, my casual dress, and perhaps my behavior, asked me, “Who do you want to be, one of your swimmers or Peter Daland?”

Because of Coach Daland’s education, dignity, his honorable way of interacting with others in the sport, and because he was willing to defy what his father wanted for his life, Peter Daland allowed my father to respect my career choice—that is, as long as I could work within it, like Coach Daland.

I believe that is also true for hundreds, if not thousands of others.

Coach Daland participated in the governance of the sport by–at one time or another–serving on virtually every Board of Directors, and committee there was. He served his athletes by not only helping them swim fast, but by navigating their future. He knew their college majors, and regularly quizzed them on their forthcoming career plans.

But for those of us that have coached, his legacy might be that he showed us how to act like a gentleman, while being engaged in assisting a young person prepare for the rest of their life.

And in the process, help us better live our own.

Chuck Warner is a contributor for Swimming World Magazine and author of Four Champions: One Gold Medal. Chuck’s latest book titled And Then They Won Gold, is now available for purchase.

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Jeff Float
8 years ago

Coach Daland was the walking history book of and for the sport of swimming with his encyclopedic knowledge and abilities to inspire and motivate his athletes to achieve above and beyond. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be a swimmer under his tutelage at USC during the ’80 Olympic boycott as well as a beneficiary of all his behind the scenes efforts in bringing the ’84 LA Olympic Games and swimming venue to the campus of USC. He made my Olympic gold medal dream to come true in our home pool! Thank you Coach Daland, your memories will be cherished in my heart forever. God Bless Peter Daland!
Jeff Float