OCC Spawns Master’s Class, a Stroke in the Right Direction

<i> Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition</i>

The Orange Coast College swim team knows something about success: It has won the state championship 10 times in the past 12 years.

Now, the coaching expertise that has helped shape that success is available to adults 19 and over as part of a master’s swim program launched in February.

Don Watson and Jon Rathfelder, coaches of the Costa Mesa school’s competitive team, also head the master’s program, which meets for an hour each weekday morning at 6:30.

“We try to carry the same quality of coaching over to the master’s,” Rathfelder said.


Participants range from age 19 to 60-something, and abilities range as widely as the ages. “We’re equipped to handle someone from the rawest of beginners to an elite level swimmer,” Watson said.

Beginning swimmers might choose to work on improving their strokes during the hour, with the help of coaches; more advanced swimmers might swim as much as 4,000 yards during the workout.

The program is “a nice blend of stroke mechanics and cardiovascular work,” Watson said.

Apparently the program has filled a need. When it started Feb. 1, there were only seven swimmers. Now, it averages 35, hitting a peak of 55 during the summer, when an afternoon workout was added temporarily. Rathfelder said participants include former competitive swimmers, triathletes and those who look to swimming primarily for fitness.


The program is divided into three ability levels: beginners, intermediates and advanced.

Even accomplished swimmers can benefit from the coaching assistance a master’s program offers, Watson said. “Your improvement is measurable,” he said. Also, the program helps bring a “sense of community” to the often solitary regimen of lap swimming.

Watson said that he and Rathfelder started the program because they wanted to provide a “cradle-to-grave” swim program that would give competitive swimmers an outlet after their college years and also give beginners and intermediate swimmers a place to work out and work on technique.

“It’s based on the Greek model of the healthy mind and the healthy body,” Watson said. The program is run in one-month sessions, with the next one set to begin Friday. However, Watson said, interested swimmers can drop in and sign up anytime. Workouts begin at 6:30 a.m. in the gymnasium pool, Monday through Friday.

Rathfelder said the OCC master’s program recently became sanctioned to compete as a team in master’s swim events, so interested swimmers can take part in meets.


What: Orange Coast College master’s swim program.

When: Weekdays, 6:30 a.m.


Where: Orange Coast College gymnasium pool, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: Exit at Fairview Road from the San Diego (405) Freeway and head south. Orange Coast College will be on the right, about a mile down.

Wherewithal: $35 a month for October and December, $20 a month for January and February.

Where to call: (714) 432-5880.