Club Excellence Spotlight: Pleasanton Seahawks
By Emily Sampl//Correspondent
Head coach Steve Morsilli founded the Pleasanton Seahawks 35 years ago, and with the support of the city of Pleasanton, Calif., parents and long-time assistant coaches, he has built the program into a national powerhouse. The Seahawks finished 16th in this year’s Club Excellence standings, moving up one spot from their 17th place finish in 2013.
Pleasanton finished eighth in the combined team scores at the 2013 Speedo Junior National Championships last August, and has one swimmer, Celina Li, on the USA National Team. The team has topped out at around 340 swimmers after gaining about 100 new swimmers over the past year and continues to improve every year.
Morsilli explains some keys to the club’s success in this week’s Club Excellence spotlight:
1. Coach longevity. I’ve been there for 35 years; I actually started the club 35 years ago. [Pleasanton coaches] Todd Tucker and Joe Loftus have been with me for 20 years plus, and our third assistant, Jon Pallesen has been here for 15 years. Joe and John both swam for me when they were swimming. We have a great philosophical background, and all of our coaches are part time. I don’t have any full time coaches. Everyone on the staff does something else outside of coaching. You don’t need full-time coaches to build a great program.
2. Developing from within. We try to develop from within, for both our coaches and swimmers. We’re fortunate to have Greg Connell, who was a Swedish national team coach, as part of our family now. A lot of our national-level swimmers have been with us since they were 8 or 9 years old and have come up through the program.
3. Supportive parents. I’ve been fortunate to have a strong group of parent leaders and board presidents who have helped relieve some of my duties outside of coaching. Jerry Thorne has been instrumental in helping us get a 50-meter pool built in Pleasanton, and incidentally he’s now the mayor of Pleasanton. When he started he was just a parent of a swimmer on the team. The parent support has allowed the coaches to put their energy into the “wet side” stuff, and know that the “dry side” stuff is being taken care of.
4. City support. We use a city pool and have great support from the city of Pleasanton. We’re very fortunate to be able to use the pools that we have. The parks and rec commission recognizes our kids that go to Olympic Trials, and they are very supportive of the team.
5. Support from USA Swimming. I started doing club visits years ago and have visited with Dave Salo, Bill Rose and some great guys who have been willing to share and have allowed me to watch their practices and figure out what I can do better. Some of that is funded through USA Swimming and the money we receive for Club Excellence. The staff in Colorado Springs has been great in working with us as well.