Volding back on deck

In an office, or on the pool deck coaching girls, Doug Volding has long been a counselor for Corona del Mar High.

He resigned as CdM girls' swimming coach in 2009. A year later, he retired from counseling at the high school.

Retiring from counseling made sense to Volding. Leaving the girls' swimming position was something harder to take, but necessary as he battled health issues.

A comeback seemed unlikely.

"I really never wanted to leave the sport, but I was feeling so rotten," Volding said. "There was a time when I didn't think I could do it ... I really like to give [the girls] a feeling of 'get up and go.' If I'm not feeling that way [myself], I'm coming across like that, and that's not good for me."

Volding said now he feels rejuvenated.

After the three-year hiatus, he has returned to coach the CdM girls for his 26th year this spring. Barry O'Dea, who has overseen the whole program in Volding's absence, remains the boys' coach. Stephanie Gabert, who swam at CdM under Volding before graduating in 2007, remains on staff as well as a varsity assistant for both the boys and girls.

The Sea Kings are happy to have Volding back. And he is happy to be back.

"I love doing this," said Volding, 62. "I thoroughly enjoy the coaches I've met, and many of the refs are friends of mine. It keeps me younger too. I want to contribute to [the girls'] enthusiasm and health, and I want them to enjoy themselves out here."

O'Dea said Volding approached him early in the school year about his desire to return. O'Dea had no qualms.

"I was bummed when he retired," O'Dea said. "When he said he was feeling great and he wanted to come back, I thought it was awesome, because he and I work so well together. It's exciting.

"He's a good mentor for me, and we bounce ideas off of each other. He was one of the people I loved working with when I first got here, and it's great to have him back again."

Volding's credentials are impressive. From 2003-2006, Corona del Mar finished top two in CIF Southern Section Division II each year. The Sea Kings won the title in 2004 and 2006.

Volding said on some of those teams he had 90 to 100 girls. Now, he has 40. The emergence of other girls' sports, such as lacrosse, has perhaps lessened the number of swimmers in the program.

Volding will definitely work with what he has. Last week at CdM, he was still learning about some of the current swimmers. But he does have familiar faces who were freshmen in 2009, now-senior swimmers like Hollace Barden, Pippa Saunders, Diana Murphy, Natalie Wong, Alex Dickens and Victoria Pierotti.

Saunders, Murphy and Pierotti were starters on this year's CdM girls' water polo team that reached the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship match. They had a week break following the Feb. 25 title match, and Volding is OK with that.

"They very much deserved it," Volding said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I want them to do well in polo, and I'm happy for them. I don't begrudge them at all."

That's just Volding's personality. Saunders, who is going to Cal for water polo and is a valuable freestyler in swimming, simply calls Volding "a nice guy."

"He's going to let us miss practices if we have water polo, but if we don't have water polo we want to be there," Saunders said. "We want to be there for him. His personality, his coaching style, it makes us want to be there. Especially for us water polo players, it's not one of those things where it's like, 'Oh, we have to go to swim team now.' It's fun having Mr. Volding."

Murphy, who is going to Princeton for water polo, agreed. She remembers freshman year, when Volding helped straighten out her freestyle stroke.

"He's a really cool guy," said Murphy, who specializes in the breaststroke for CdM. "He's all about the team, all about everyone having a really good time. It's cool to have him back on deck. He's a very positive force for us."

Volding knows that University is very strong in the Pacific Coast League. He said CdM also lost its top freshman from a year ago, Ellen Naruse, who is concentrating on track this spring. But again, he doesn't mind.

"That's what she should be doing, if that's what she wants," he said.

Volding is back doing what he wants for CdM.

matthew.szabo@latimes.com

Twitter: @mjszabo

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