THE 1987 PAN AMERICAN GAMES : Water Polo : A Team That Stays Together . . .

Times Staff Writer

To have his body immortalized in bronze, standing for the ideal, universal Olympic athlete at the gateway to the Coliseum in Los Angeles was an honor. (And so embarrassing he almost passed out at the unveiling.) But that statue has no head, and Terry Schroeder does.

He's very much a total person.

The captain of the U.S. water polo team since 1983 may be known as one of the stars of the water polo pin-up poster and calendar. But he's also a magna cum laude graduate of Pepperdine University and a cum laude graduate of the Palmer College of Chiropractic; Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at Pepperdine and coach of the school's water polo team.

He's also serving as honorary national aquatics coach for the Special Olympics through 1988.

So he's a pretty busy guy on top of the hours it takes to stay in training for the national team.

That pace is going to continue through the Olympic Games at Seoul in 1988.

"We still want that Olympic gold medal," Schroeder said. "Most of the guys on the team are older players. We're married. We have jobs. It takes a lot of personal sacrifice for everyone. But nobody's walking away from it now."

Schroeder is 28, about average on the veteran national team competing here in the Pan Am Games. Schroeder, Kevin Robertson, Doug Burke and Jody Campbell are holdovers from the team that would have played in the '80 Olympics if not for the boycott. They played on the '84 team, along with current team members Jeff Campbell and Craig Wilson and alternate James Bergeson.

The '84 Olympians were frustrated by the fact that although they did not lose a game, they ended up with the silver medal. There was no overtime rule in '84, so a tie with Yugoslavia meant a second-place finish based on total goals.

Yugoslavia will be tough at the next Olympics, too. As well as the Soviet Union. But Schroeder says that the U.S. team is taking serious aim at the gold medal. The U.S. team has already qualified for the '88 Olympics by virtue of a fourth-place finish in the World Championships at Madrid last August.

In these Pan Am Games, the most serious competition for the United States will be Cuba. But the U.S. team has already beaten Cuba four times this year, and is the overwhelming favorite for the gold medal here.

Monday night, the United States beat Mexico, 10-3, with an effort that had Coach Bill Barnett fuming about poor intensity and enough mistakes for a whole tournament.

Barnett said: "We basically wore them down. We have two lines of players, and we try to keep fresh players in there."

In fact, the game was tied, 1-1, after the first period. The United States led, 4-1, after two periods. And after that, it was no contest.

Schroeder played less than half the game, shuttling in and out to give his injured shoulder some rest.

Schroeder suffered a whiplash injury in a car accident about a month ago. He had his right hand on the stick shift when he was hit from behind by a car going 40 m.p.h. The pull on his right shoulder left him with soft-tissue damage. He's at about 80% strength now.

His rehabilitation has included a lot of chiropractic help. From his father the chiropractor, his brother the chiropractor, his wife the chiropractor . . .

Obviously he's a believer in chiropractic treatment. After all, he's sharing his father's business a couple of days a week.

"It's a very natural, conservative way to go," Schroeder said. "My father has been adjusting me since I was two days old.

"If you keep the spine healthy, you keep the nervous system healthy, and that affects your overall health."

When Schroeder finally has time to develop a practice of his own, he would like to specialize in chiropractic care for athletes.

"Athletes are using it more and more," Schroeder said. "I know I've adjusted almost everyone on the team. Athletes know their bodies better than anyone else, and they know when a change is for the better or for the worse."

Said Schroeder: "We need to know when to refer a patient to medical doctors, but they need to know when to refer a patient to us. It should work both ways."

While he explained all this in the Pan Am media center, a press conference was droning on about the six athletes who tested positive for banned substances.

Schroeder and a couple of his teammates got a big kick out of donning pins that said: "Go ahead. Test my urine."

The All-American image of the pin-up boy water polo players is undeniable--across the board.

Craig Wilson was talking about water polo etiquette (they never talk to officials, it just isn't done), and Doug Burke was talking about the bread-making business he and his wife, synchronized swimmer Candi Costie, have begun .

They could be a family of 13 brothers.

"Actually, it is like a family after all these years," Schroeder said. "Maybe more like a fraternity."

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