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article imageMeet Jon Urbanchek: Veteran Olympic and university swimming coach Special

By Markos Papadatos     Dec 16, 2019 in Sports
Veteran Olympic and university swimming coach Jon Urbanchek is a living legend in the pool deck. He chatted with Digital Journal about his new role as the national team technical advisor for USA Swimming.
Throughout his illustrious career as a coach, he has been fortunate to experience four decades of unprecedented success at the Olympic level. In 2017, he was presented with the coveted IOC Lifetime Achievement Award
In the summer of 2018, Urbanchek was hired by USA Swimming in the capacity of a national team technical advisor. "I retired from university coaching in Michigan in 2004. We had a very successful program there, but I wanted to do something different, so I gave up my head coaching position and I turned my job over to Bob Bowman. I always wanted to have Michael Phelps come to Michigan," he said.
"Bob Bowman immediately asked me to stay on since we had the Club Wolverine team. I stayed for another eight more years, and just before the London Olympics, I started a training camp in California to get the athletes ready for the London Games," he said. "Basically, I have been on the pool deck even though I retired in 2004."
Urbanchek shared that he is very excited about the 2020 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. "I am counting down the days. We have 157 days until Omaha, and 191 more days until we go to Tokyo," he revealed.
"With the position that I have now, I like to have a goal and I like to have a plan. A goal without a plan is only a dream," he explained.
For young and aspiring coaches, he said, "You need to invest in these people, and you need to build relationships with these kids." "At the beginning of my career, I started in the '50s, and I worked with a lot of young people to prepare them for college," he said, prior to noting that he thoroughly enjoyed working with young children.
Urbanchek acknowledged that there are many great young coaches in the United States, all of which have such essential qualities as passion, patience, relationships, connections and staying grounded. "I have had great relationships with my students and I engage with them and it doesn't matter if it's in the classroom or in the pool," he said.
Particularly impressive about Urbanchek is that he does not have a personal favorite stroke, and he considers them all of them important. "I don't have a favorite stroke, but if I had to pick one, my favorite would be the individual medley (IM). That's why I had a lot of success in the IM," he said.
"The children that were tutored by me learned how to do all four strokes," he said. "Two of the four or five world record holders that I had in my career, were world record holders and Olympic gold medalists in the individual medley, and that is because I started at an early age to teach them all four strokes."
On the title of the current chapter of his life, the pool deck king said, "The Sunset." "I am going from Olympics to Olympics. I am 83 years old, and the sun is going down, as it is nearing the end of my career," he said. "Once I finish this project in my life, I think I will definitely be enjoying Southern California living."
Regarding his definition of the word success, Urbanchek said, "I always loved teaching. Back in the day, I received a card at the end of the semester from one of the pleasant, younger female students as a 'thank you.' I opened it up and it said 'happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.' I had this beautiful butterfly picture and I would look at it on the wall of my office."
Urbanchek continued, "This young girl, God bless her, doesn't know how much it meant to me to have this beautiful butterfly and the writing on it, and that is the story of my life. That's my motto in life: patience. I let success come to us, and share it with the people that I am working with."
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