Swimming : Mission Viejo Coach Is Tough--and No. 1

Mark Schubert is only 36 years old, but he has been coaching Mission Viejo, the country’s most dominant club program, for 13 years. His Nadadores have won the national team title every year since 1974.

Schubert thrives on being No. 1, and while he may not win a lot of popularity contests, he’s gotten results. His swimmers in the Olympics last summer included gold medalists Tiffany Cohen and Mike O’Brien. Swimmers from the Mission Viejo club took seven gold and two silver medals.

Getting to the top and staying there is the ultimate achievement in any sport. And Schubert didn’t do it by sweet-talking his athletes. Swimming hundreds of laps a day is not fun, and sometimes a special kind of motivation is required to get a swimmer’s attention.

The pool deck at the Mission Viejo International Swim Complex is closed to visitors during workouts. A few years ago, before the area was off-limits, a protective parent lost control and pushed Schubert into the pool.


There are days when Schubert makes Bobby Knight look like Ozzie Nelson.

Paul Asmuth, the five-time defending world marathon swimming champion, has trained with Schubert for more than 11 years, and he still remembers the first week.

“We had just finished doing an 11,500-meter workout,” Asmuth said. “I was 16 years old and it was the longest I’d ever gone. I’d never been that tired. Mark came over to me and another swimmer, Ed Ryder, and said, ‘I want 10 75’s (75-meter sprints) in under 45 seconds and we’re staying here until you do them.

“Ed made nine of 10 the first time. I made four, then five. I’ll never forget that day. I was exhausted and Mark was screaming, ‘You’re not going home until you do it.’ I finally made them, too.


“That’s the thing about Mark. He gets you to do things you didn’t think you could. Four years later, he told me from that day on, he knew I’d be good.”

Asmuth thinks Schubert has mellowed a bit since then. Jens-Peter Berndt, the East German defector now at the University of Alabama, who is training with the Nadadores this summer, isn’t so sure.

“We do 400 sit-ups as a warm-up before both workouts each day,” Berndt said, his eyes wide in disbelief. “And sometimes you wonder how such a small person can make so much noise.”

Berndt is 6-6 and Schubert is only 5-7, but it wasn’t long before Berndt discovered who had the upper hand. He had been in Mission Viejo about a week when Schubert had the team doing a set that required the swimmers to swim the first 25 meters underwater. Berndt, admittedly not in the best of shape after a prolonged vacation, popped up gasping for air after about 20 meters.


When he got to the end of the pool, Schubert had him get out and do 50 push-ups.

“My arms were shaking,” Berndt said. “I think I did about 30.”

Berndt admitted his feelings were hurt, but quickly added, “I came to Mission Viejo because I wanted the toughest training in America.”

You asked for it, you got it, Peter.


Asmuth was one of the first top amateur swimmers to join the professional world marathon swimming circuit and compete in the open-water races of between 15 and 28 miles at spots ranging from Manhattan Island to the Nile to Magog, Quebec and drawing crowds up to 50,000. He is also by far the most successful, winning about $20,000 a year.

Now, Asmuth plans to take a shot at the world record for crossing the English Channel. He will leave Shakespeare Beach in England sometime in mid-August (depending on the conditions) and try to swim the 22 miles to Cap Gris Nez, France, in less than Penny Dean’s time of 7 hours 40 minutes.

Asmuth will tune up for his record attempt--and start his bid for world championship No. 6--July 11-14 at Atlantic City in the second leg of the world marathon series.

Swimming Notes Steve Lundquist, who won two gold medals and set a world record in the 100-meter breaststroke last summer, has been traveling across the country playing in celebrity tennis and golf tournaments. “That’s how I make my living now,” he said, admitting he was only half kidding. World-class swimmers don’t have a lot of time for other sports and Lundquist, who retired after the Olympics, had been swimming competitively for most of his life. How’s his tennis? “Getting better,” he said, smiling. How’s the golf game? “We don’t even want to talk about that.” . . . Pepperdine Coach Rick Rowland must wonder why other coaches make such a big deal about recruiting. Rowland landed Denmark’s Peter Rohde for the cost of an air-mail stamp and the energy it took to address the envelope. Rohde, who set a Danish national record in winning the 100-meter freestyle at the Speedo Swim Meet of Champions, chose Pepperdine because “they sent me a catalogue and it had a picture of an ocean view on the cover.” That was enough to convince Rohde to leave Copenhagen and go to school in Malibu. He’d never met or talked to Rowland--or anyone who had ever even seen Pepperdine, for that matter. His only regret now is that swimming and schoolwork cuts into his beach time.