Saturday, October 19, 2002

Notes of Thanks

This thank you note was delivered at the end of the day on Tuesday to the four people with the DU Athletic Department who had been part of the interview process on Monday. I rushed a bit and it slid to fit on three pages plus an attachement of additional swim references.

Traditional letterhead details snipped.

Thanks to those at Duquesne University on the swim coach interview team!
Dear _____,

Thanks for the interview and insights concerning your mens swim coaching position. It was splendid to meet with you given your busy schedules. I'm excited about the possibilities and opportunities. With every conversation, it was clear that a drastic change in directions is desired. I was happy to learn of your serious concerns and assessment of the situation. Hiring me is a certain pivotal step to making a serious difference with the team.

The flurry of interviews in a brief period uncovered just a few of the challenges ahead as well as our past approaches in similar situations. Please allow me a moment to reflect on the different conversations.

Key expectations from the Duquesne officials seemed to be:

1. Performances worthy of a competitive Division I team.

2. Ongoing supervision and coaching of the team.

3. Recruiting and outreach to insure talent enters the teams.

All of the above, in the hands of an aggressive coach, should not be a problem. My ambitions exceed that of most in swimming, sports and education. Providing a master plan with a vision and details in a sensible style can be delivered. As an engaged, driven, creative, organized and effective coach, I'll want the Athletic Department and my swim coaching peers to, in turn, offer insights, feedback and support of these presented ideas.

As well, the athletes I coach have always been and are expected to be highly successful because they internalize a trust with me (their coach) and seek to perform for intrinsic reasons.

The "mind - body - spirit advertising campaign" of Duquesne University is clever and fits to a small degree in the Pharmacy classrooms. However, in the natatorium, we get to live the lifestyle and associated challenges in moment-to-moment pursuits. The refreshing part of swimming -- personal, group and team engagements -- gives student-athletes their top rewards.

Travis said he still wants to be on a swim team. His drive to be with the sport comes from deep within. I want to coach him for all the right reasons. I won't need to toss existing swimmers off the team. I'm not the type of coach that needs to worry about such matters. Squad size can stay at or near present levels, as desired. Travis swim faster this season than he even expected.

For those associated with the team, now and in the future, I'll help to make those reasons for participation clear. Many young men will enroll in D.U.'s program after Travis graduates. Those who take his place will enter with measures of A10 standards. They will choose to be a part of this styled program.

Before yesterdays interviews, worries concerning D.U.'s accommodation of my personal insistence upon excellence within the sport of swimming were unresolved. Today, that outlook has changed. I had been sure that I'd be able to do a fabulous job for Duquesne. What's more, now, I'm sure that your setting can be home to fabulous swim programs.

Consider prior turnabouts as selecting the next coach. My background has been filled with rapidly progressing teams brimming with improvements. I bring new excitements to these programs and leapfrog most of the competitors.

Duquesne presents risks to coaches resumes. David C. Salo, USA Swimming's Coach of the Year, asked me, "Do you want THAT job?" I'm creative enough to see a way out of these situations and confident enough to trust in my abilities. The biggest risk rests with you as a department in its decision on hiring. An individual with a world-view, rich experiences in fast swimming, as well as a command of excellence and philosophy is called for now.

In Peoria in August 1983, PAWW had 25 swimmers and was in last place in the Lincolnland Conference. By October the team swelled to 200. I hired and trained seven assistants. The reputation changed and word-of-mouth buzz shifted from splashing on inter tubes to practices with teaching, training, and real swimming.

In 1984 at the Illinois State Senior Championships the PAWW girls 400-Free Relay clocked a 3:40.12. That performance, a Junior National Cut, happened with Erica, Beth, Katie and Jennifer, grades 7, 8, 8 and 9. The five of us flew on Peoples Express from Peoria to Syracuse, NY for a first Jr. National experience for that team. Rapid improvements to blistering speeds make a recurring theme in my past.

Both "A" and "B" relays from Peoria and men and women were soon headed to Juniors. We broke a number of state records and were sending kids with scholarships to Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Bakersfield and beyond. The excellence snowballed. We were not just getting a few kids to states, we were dominating races at elite venues. And, we grew from scratch.

The 02-03 DU women's team may clobber its 3:40 team record in its first dual meet. Performance facts were raised to a former Athletic Director on the bluff at an interview some years ago. Before Wayne Becker was the coach, I came to understand that no swim coach had much hope of thriving. Gladly, times and circumstances have changed today. I hope we all choose to work together and capitalize on these changed outlooks.

The quick build to excellence happened in more recent times and locally at Plum High School. Plum hovered at tenth place in the WPIAL Championship meet the year before my arrival. I coached the squad from November 15 to March and Plum's 400-free relay clocked 3:35.66, dropping more than 10 seconds from the prior year. Those kids (Karen, Erica, Karin, Katie) shattered their own expectations.

Moving an unranked team to second in Western PA and sticking there the second year speaks to the nature of the results I'll expect to attain.

This year's women's team at DU may beat the 3:35.66 in the 400-free relay the A10 Championships. I'll hope to be there to cheer them on to do so.

Deliberate, organized, structured programs of excellence yield fast times. My team will become masters of our space, time and relationships and seek groove performances in our athletic pursuits. Furthermore, we learn skills and make efforts to transfer these quests of mastery into lifelong activities.

Recent academic advancement of the DU women swimmers is terrific. As a team internalizes concepts of excellence, limits to potential vanish. A natural outgrowth is academic performance. To soar, we'll need to strive in holistic ways. Of course the classroom perfection sharpens as well. I'd like to learn more of the academic standings of the DU men, and help them advance too.

The Ohio University ascent from 8th to 3rd from 1978 to 1982 in the ten team MAC highlights the same trend, but in the NCAA Division I setting.

My habit of crafting clear instructions necessitates extra steps. I take those steps and deliver those messages. To explain why things need to be done in certain styles makes the burden of teaching five times greater, but outcomes are pushed so perfection come near.

In my interview with Dave and Rick, questions of drugs and alcohol among the team's members surfaced. I said that the members on the team that I've coached have never had a problem in those areas. Within the season, the OU swimmers made a promise and didn't drink. Athletes I'm engaged with won't want to drink. We'll be quite busy with other, more important activities. Those striving to treat ourselves with great care won't drink. Some of the greatest programs with great individuals don't drink. For DU, squad members won't drink because other championship programs do the same and because we'll behave in the right manners for all the right reasons.

Thanks again for the time and for everyone's full consideration about the job.

Sincerely yours, Mark Rauterkus

Additional swim references:
These folks could help ease specific worries you might encounter with your decisions in the days to come.

- Bill Wadley, Head Coach of the Mens Swimming Team at Ohio State University

- Tim Welsh, Head Coach of the Mens Swimming Team at the University of Notre Dame

- Paul Blair, Head Coach of the Arkansas Dolphins

- David Salo, Irvine NOVA, USA Swimming's Coach of the Year, 2002

- Al Ledgin, former Lincolnland Conference coaching peer, Y coach north of Chicago

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