Tuesday, September 28, 1993

Letter from Prison

The scan of this letter cut out the guys name and prison number.
It was from Indiana State Prison, PS Box 41, Michigan City, IN 46360. 

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Saturday, May 01, 1993

Competition in Swimming, Diving and Aquatic Programming in Western PA

by Mark Rauterkus, Head Swim Coach at Plum High School
Both the boys and girls swimming teams at Plum finished among the sweet-16 at last year’s state championships. Plum swimming, like that of most of the other programs throughout the area, is as strong as ever. Good programs stretch from Penn Hills, to Kiski Area and local bragging-rights encompass the state-champions, North Allegheny. 
High school swimmers and divers look forward to the WPIAL meet and advancing to states. For serious athletes, it is a big-deal to compete at WPIALs. This year, the WPIAL championships were split into two different meets, one for large schools and another for smaller schools. 
The kids on today’s scholastic teams know that to be good, it takes year-round involvement and plenty of additional practice beyond the school-team season. The club swimmers and divers rule at the championship meets. For decades, the champion athletes could be found on the club teams which offer year-round training. Everyone knows that the best way to reach the finals in swimming or diving is to stay in shape and practice well beyond the short, 4-month high school season. Hard work pays off in swimming, and it will continue to do so for many years to come.
In the 1960s, many of the suburban and rural schools did not have swim teams. And in the near future, the swim team structure in place today in many of our area schools might die. Today, many of the swim teams are alive, but a majority are choking and could be in their final twilight hours.
Don’t get me wrong. Competitive swim racing, and the equally important aquatic sports, are here to stay. However, things are bound to be quite different in the years to come.

 Dr. Robert Thomas, assistant swim coach at Penn Hills said, “Swimming, as a recreational form will always be around.” But he sees some changes, like co-ed mixed relays and diving leaving the scene—“unfortunately.”

“I don’t think diving has a chance in the long-term, said Scott Klugh, Shaler’s diving coach. “When I was a kid, if a school had enough people to do an activity, it would start something, even if it was intra-murals at first. Now the administrators at the schools are worried about money.”
Communities will continue to operate their facilities and realize a return on its investments, but community leaders will further emphasize programing and educational enrichment, rather than the recreational benefits. The trend toward more independent coaches will lead to partnerships in the schools and at the pools in due time.
Plum built its pool in 1976 and Penn Hills started its team in 1962. In the older years, kids swam at the Ys and in the summers.
Back in the 1950s, the good teams were in the City of Pittsburgh where swimming pools were in the schools. Vandergrift High also had a pool and a team in its old school, which became part of Kiski Area in 1963. Obviously, swimming pools and swimming teams go hand-in-hand and as the modern high schools in the area were built, they included the pool within the school facilities. 
Today’s exceptions are Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic who bus their teams to practices and survive with rented pool time.
Robert Kozak was a Pittsburgh resident and former, City Swimming Champion in the past period of time. Kozak recently retired after working a career in the printing trade and moved to the North Hills. Kozak says he thoroughly enjoys swimming at the N.A. pool in the evenings and weekends. 

“When I competed for the city title, we were in the war years and there were races such as the tired-swimmers-carry, the 60-yards underwater and one race where you had to kick and carry a rifle over your head as you swam.” 

In the 1940s, butterfly wasn’t in the rulebooks and the 220-yard race was competed at A.A.U. Nationals.
In those times, the war was near, and it touched everything, including swimming. For competition, the focus was the U.S.A. against the world. The swim races reflected the times of society. 
In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the competitive focus became more localized and pitted one school against another. In the 1980s and 1990s, the competitive drive was often found in face-to-face settings, often among classmates. In today’s competitive swimming meets, it is rare to find a school or a team getting an overtly competitive focus of beating an arch-rival. In recent years, the competitive drive has turned to the individuals to better their own personal records.

The great team battles in swimming with months of total team involvement are dying.

Individually, some awesome talent and excellent results are being posted in the aquatic sports at schools. But the gap between the competitors is huge. 
At Plum, there are no “try-outs and cuts” to make varsity teams. In lean years, Plum does not have enough students on the team to complete a meet line-up. Plum does not have many male divers. Anyone who shows-up for practice can make the swimming team.
It is common to see the star swimmers lap the field. A 55-second race for some finds others finishing in 1-minute-55-seconds. The best athletes are getting better and better while the lower-end seem to be getting progressively worse.
Chris Troilo, Kiski Area Swim Coach in 1990s said, “With better training and better preparation, the kids are going faster and faster. Swimming has less in quantity but more in quality.”
Head-to-head, close races are rare. In swimming, the clock is an objective judge and improving one’s time is where self-satisfaction occurs, not in winning.
The future for swimming needs to stress personal excellence. Swim teams should be incubators for excellence. With a shift in athletics away from the team concepts, coaches and athletes can get individualized attention and develop personal bonds. Teams with 3 or 6 or less than 12 members are more common.
Team sports needing large numbers of participants will flounder or have to adapt in the future. The best athletes will compete in individual sports. Plus, professional swimming is in its infancy. Other professional leagues are starting to diminish, obviously in attendance, but also in TV viewers.
In the future, athletic departments in schools will not be able to boast valid win-loss records because the competition will be too diverse and unreliable. 
Swimming is an ideal environment to teach and experiment with high-level learning. The technical, physical and motivational components of the aquatic sports are demanding and require year-round attention. The fundamental lessons in ethics, decision-making, analysis and performance are difficult concepts to teach and study. The lessons of hard-work and fitness at the pool transfer beyond the athletic arena and into everyday life. 
In the future, let’s utilize swimming pools and coaches with vision to capture the imaginations and to inspire greatness in some of our students.

 Mark Rauterkus, was the Head Swim Coach at Plum High School, and was the publisher of the Sports Support Syndicate, an independent, small-press in Pittsburgh. The SSS published cutting-edge books on sports-participation. Mark has coached swimming state-record holders in five different states. In Mark’s first and second years of coaching swimming at Plum, the girls team finished in 2nd place at the WPIAL championships in 1992 and 1993.

Tuesday, February 16, 1993

Letter to editor: Headline = The grade is in for John G. Criag Jr.'s column: A big, fat zero

Published in the Post-Gazette on Tuesday, Feb 16, 1993.
Regarding John G. Craig Jr.'s Jan. 30, 1993 column, "Zero in on Specifics," about a forum he attended on the media, gangs and youth violence:

John, before you read my suggestions, you might want to get a copy of your column and read it aloud. Then try to put your thoughts into an outline.

You ask if we -- "regardless of race, creed or national orgin" -- can agree on someting. Well, I can't easily agree with you because your communication skills are foggy and your lack of logic makes for confusing statements.

You talk about the need for "calm and peaceful" schools. I don't want "calm and peaceful" schools. Knowledge enrichment can be brutal, and it can't be achieved in an environment riddled with compromises.

Let's not make nice. There is a war in our midst. We are either winning or losing, and I contend that if we make an easy pace today and allow gangs' existence, we are losing.

The "keystones" of your "new policy" to combat the problems of youth violence are useless. "A sense of proportion"? A tiny bit of poison can kill. Informed choices are what's needed. "A sense of responsibility"? To me, it's irresponsible to come down hard on parents, like those of the Carrick girls' basketball team, who were looking out for their children. "A sense of reality"? Refer back to proportion. "A sense of fairness"? Agreed. But why should "getting tough" on crime cost money?

Here is an old idea. You have an institution at your disposal called the Post-Gazette. Why not use it to effectively communicate clearly thought-out, well-written ideas and solutions? Don't use up space in your paper with some gibberish that in reality is only meant to say that the Post-Gazette is fair ad responsible.

John, please get a critical proofreader and a specific sense of logic in your writings. Your column gets a zero in rhetoric by my standards.

Mark Rauterkus
South Side

This old letter, in a swim book file, clipped and yellow, was re-typed and posted to the Running Mates blog on Dec 6, 2005. The original editorial by Craig isn't here.

Tuesday, February 02, 1993

Plum will experiement with pater polo team

OLD NEWS to be inserted into this blog for the sake of HISTORY!
By Michelle Kanche, Tri-State Sports & News Service

A unamimous school board vote has given Plum High School the go-ahead for the school's first water polo team and aquatics game program.

The program will have a trial period, which will run from March 15 - Aug 1. At the end of that time, a full report and evaluation will be presented to the board. The report will describe the program's acceptance in the community and future feasibility.

"The success of this program will depend on the right communication," said Plum superintendent John Cummings. "If it turns out to be a wholesome experience, the committee will look at it favorably for the future."

The program has been coordinated to make it possible for a wide variety of players to participate.

Co-ed sessions for adults, college students, high school students are scheduled.

"The creation of the water polo program does not mean that we'll be fielding a varsity team next year," said Mark Rauterkus, Plum's head swim coach and coordinator of the water polo team. "But if this trial period generates enough interest on the high school level, then I hope it will increase the probability of that happening in the future."

Penn-Trafford head swim coach Dave Babbick is interested in seeing Plum get its water polo program started. Last December, the P-T swim team visited Plum for a joint practice and water polo scrimmage to complement their swimming schedules. Plum hopes to coordinate some exhibition matches this year throughout the state.

In order to help raise money for the program, Rauterkus will conduct a Sports Lecture Seris. Modest admission charges to hear lectures will generate money for the student-activitie fund, but will also allow for interaction with respected athletes and coaches with educational messages.

"You can sell candy bars, or you can teach kids important things," said Rauterkus. "Kids today need to see and hear from experts in the field."

Potential speakers, according to Rauterkus, include former USA Olympic water polo coach Monty Nitzkowski and Olympic gold medal-winning swimmers.
A handout had this extra text:

For futther information, please call of visit the Plum High School pool on Tuesday (HS & college students) or Thursday (adults) evening from 8:30 - 9:30 pm. The Plum HS is on the Orange Belt.

Call Mark Rauterkus.

Swimmers, old and young, fast and slow, male and female, needed for water polo fun. No prior experience preferred!

Plum opens pool to water polo program

Tuesday, Feb 2, 1993, Valley News Dispatch - page B3

By Joe Starkey, staff writer

Mark Rauterkus hates to see a swimming pool with no people in it.

Rauterkus, in his second year as Plum High School swimming coach, couldn't believe the school's indoor pool lay dormant nearly all of last summer -- and he's determined to fill it wiht activity once school lets out this year.

In fact, he's going to get an early start.

Beginning March 16 and running through Aug. 1, Rauterkus will direct a water polo program at the Plum pool.

The Plum School board voted unanimously Tuesday to give him the go-ahead and Rauterkus can't wait to get started.

"There is a need to use the facilities herer," he said. "Last summer, we must have had the only pool in America that kept its doors locked all day. I had wanted to run an entire aquatics program here, but (the school board) said to pick one thing. I came up with the water polo idea.

"Hopefeull, it's the first step to a more advanced aquatics program. After it's finished I hope to go back to the board and say, 'Let's talk about some other things.'"

The obvious question is -- why water polo? Even Rauterkus knows it's not the most popular sport in the world.

"The standing joke in water polo is that you don't need your own horse to play," he said. "But I wanted something that might appeal to more than just swimmers on the swim team or just divers. And this is a good recreational outlet for kids in the summer. I thought I could reach a large population with this and have maybe 100 people or so get excited about it."

Once person ready to play is Plum diving coach Fred Luffey, who played on Franklin Regional High School's now defunct traveling water polo team in 1978-79. He hasn't played since, but is looking forward to the opportunity. And he says others are, too.

"There's a free swim over at Plum on weeknights and I've talked to a few guys there about water polo," he said. "Some of them are interested. I think it's a great sport.

"It's a great tool for conditioning -- a lot like baseketball. But it's easy on the knees compared to basketball or jogging. Plus, all you need is 15 people or so."

Rauterkus is countin on many more than that. He will divide the co-ed sessions into three classification: adults, students (high school and college) and kids. Rauterkus has projected 25 people each for the adult and student sessions and 60 for the kids'.

Most sessions will be divided into periods of instruction, clinics and scrimmaging. Robert Webster, formerly the head water polo coach at Harvard University, might be one of a handful of guest coaches Rauterkus plans to utilize.

Rauterkus claims anyone can get the hang of water polo.

"If you can float and feel like you can pass a ball to someone else, you might be interested," he said.

And if you feel like you can't float?

"Well, there is a shallow end," Rauterkus said. "And in the shallow end the goalie can stand on the bottom. Maybe after a few weeks you could build some stamina and be able to float a little."
This article will be put back into is proper place in time, 1993, shortly.
Plum Water Polo (printed in a box on the page)
Director: Plum High School swimming coach Mark Rauterkus
Begins: Tuesday, March 16, 1993
Ends: Sunday, August 1, 1993
Sessions: Tuesdays - high school and college students 8:30-9:30 pm; Thursdays -- adults 8:30-9:30 pm. Saturdays = kids 3-6 pm.
Fees: Adults, Plum residents, $20, non-residents $23; Students, Plum residents $15, non-residents $18; Kids -- $3.

Monday, February 01, 1993

Modest Expansion of Plum's Aquatics Program with Heach Coach Leaderships

Page 9 -- reprinted

Further Explanation:

Why These Activities?

The aquatic environment is a fantastic setting to exercise and learn about health, tewamwork and kinetic senses. Since the first priority of the pool, swimming lessons, is generally covered, let's enhance further learning activities. Water polo and aquatic games are fresh, new, dynamic areas that have not been tried locally in the past.

Water Polo is an excellent Olympic Sport, played in the pool with boys, girls, men and women.

New Games Clinics are action packed, moveent oriented and teach both cooperation and competition to engaged, thinking and fitness-striving participants.

the combination of water polo and new games clinics will serve as a valid test area to Mark's overall plan of increased usage and programming based upon challenging, learning opportunities.

More Reasons for Water Polo and New Games Clinics:

Our water polo and underwater hockey teams can succeed early and beecome the best around with modest improvements.

A literacy component can be built into these activities.

We should play polo because we have already purchased the goals and getting a few more balls and hats are quite inexpensive items. (The school owned the goal. The goals were in storage and not ever used since the pool was built.) (The polo hats were purchased by myself, personally. I still have them.)

Water polo, underwater hockey and fin swimming have international status with cross-cultural events.

Mark wants to have fun when he is at the pool too.

These activities can succeed with a larger base of participants and a smaller staff, making the supervision costs easier to recover from the user fees.