Doug Peargin named national girls swimming coach of year

Although he turns 60-years-old this month, Doug Peargin looks as though he could teach swimmers a third his age a thing or two about competing in the water.

Actually, Peargin has done just that for the last 37 years.

His dedication to the sport was recently recognized with his selection as the 2001 Girls Swimming and Diving Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High School Associations.

Although he didn’t attend the national banquet held in Montgomery, Ala., Peargin received a plaque and a ring.

“One person can’t do all this by himself,” Peargin said. “It takes the kids, the parents and the assistant coaches. If they would have put all of them on a plane, I’d have gone back. I wouldn’t go by myself.”

As Peargin leaves the Sweet Home pool on a recent summer morning, he takes a moment to talk with one of his incoming seniors.

“You’ve been swimming haven’t you?,” he queries with a smile. “How about Burford? You know, if we can find that fourth man, you guys are going to be in the hunt in that relay.”

It’s an 80 degree August day, the dog days of summer. Families are on vacation. The swimming season is four months away and Peargin is about to enter his fourth year in retirement from teaching, but his mind continues to whirl around the sport that attracted him at age nine.

“I never quit thinking about it,” Peargin said. “I already have potential lineups in my head for the district and state meets. I can tell you what other schools we face lost in terms of seniors and what they’ve got coming in as freshmen. I think about shaving a second here, a tenth of a second there and figuring out where each kid needs to be.”

Peargin’s dedication, he admits, has a two-point foundation: he loves working with athletes who want to work hard and he hates to lose.

“I absolutely hate to lose,” he said matter-of-factly. “If a kid does his best and loses, that’s fine. But, if a kid who has the talent and ability goes out and fails miserably, then it has to be something I’ve failed to do for him. I will go home and get sick after something like that.”

Reared near Fresno, Calif, where summer temperatures were always near 100 degrees, Peargin started swimming literally to beat the heat. A friend was off to swimming practice one humid summer day and Peargin realized a dip in the pool was better than dealing with the sweltering heat.

Several years of hard work later, he went on to win the district 50 yard freestyle and 100 yard butterfly as a high school senior and earned a scholarship to the University of California, Fresno. There he was named All American his junior and senior years in the 100 butterfly. At that level, Peargin was one of the 20 fastest swimmers in the nation and probably among the top 40 in the world.

“I enjoyed the friendships made during those years,” Peargin said. “Many of us still stay in contact. The amount of time you put in at that level makes you more like brothers and sisters than teammates.”

Peargin is quick to divert praise away from him and toward his assistant coaches. Rene Kirkland, Bruce West and his son, Josh Peargin, are extremely valuable to the swimming program, he says.

“There is no way I can do justice to the kids working alone,” he said. “On any given day, Coach West will be working with kids on the walls, Coach Kirkland will be teaching them strokes and Josh will be finding the best events for a couple rookies.”

Peargin’s coaching career began at Tracy High School near San Francisco in 1965. The school had a student body population of about 2,000 and faced competition from schools with up to 5,000 students.

“I was the boys water polo and swimming coach,” he said. “We had 100 boys out and we swam in two conferences. I’d take my top 25 boys to one conference and my other 25 to another. We were in the hunt. My second year there, my younger kids were third at the district meet.”

As Peargin’s young family was growing, he saw a need to move away from the highly competitive California programs.

“Down there, a two sport athlete was virtually unheard of,” Peargin said. “Kids had to specialize year round. I wanted my kids to be able to do more than that.”

The father of five, Peargin’s oldest son was in the sixth grade when the family moved to Sweet Home.

“The local program was struggling in those early years,” Peargin said. “There were maybe 20 kids in the summer age program. In seven years, we built that up to a high of 130 kids. That’s when we started bringing in four top swimmers at a time to the high school program and that’s when we started pulling trophies. We have earned a trophy at every district meet since 1982 until this year.”

Peargin said his Huskies have earned so many trophies he has peeled the nameplates off many, cleaned them up and given them back to be reused.

Sweet Home is now swimming in the 3A division and the boys team has earned a state meet trophy all three years, the only team in the state to do so.

“I don’t miss teaching all that much. The amount of paperwork required today by the state took the fun out of it,” Coach Peargin said. “I would really miss coaching though. I love the dedication of the kids.”

Peargin talks freely about the dedication of his athletes but doesn’t mention that he has missed only two practices in his entire career at SHHS and that was due to a severe illness last spring.

“If a kid gives me that kind of commitment, I fall in love with that kid,” Peargin said. “You owe it to take them as far as you possibly can due to the time and commitment those kids are making to the program.”

Peargin says he doesn’t believe in fixing something that isn’t broken. That’s why he uses the exact training program today that he used in 1981.

“We have done the same thing on the same day of practice every single year,” Peargin said. “That’s from the first day of practice right up to the state meet. I may vary rest periods, but the basic workout is exactly the same for every kid over the last 20 years.”

That training program is based on being in shape. While other swimmers take off or ease up during Christmas break, Husky swimmers are hammering out thousands of yards in the water.

That dedication pays off in tight races, Peargin said. “If we’re neck-and-neck going into the final lap, we’re going to take the other guy,” Peargin said.

In addition to his coaching staff, Peargin credits his wife, Vicky, for her support. They’ve been married 13 years.

“She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Peargin said. “She’s my best friend.”

When he does get away from the swimming pool, Peargin can be found target shooting with his bow or hunting. He recently won the state bow hunter freestyle title.

“It’s relaxing,” Peargin said. “Target shooting helps me tone up for hunting season.”

Over the last 23 years, Peargin has bagged 18 elk bow hunting.

“I’ve hunted everywhere from here to New Foundland. In October, I’m headed to Calgary, Canada to hunt,” Peargin said.

As his mind wanders back to the swimming program, Peargin notes that since 1981 some 19