Five Star coach: Daum lauded for years of excellence

By on February 21, 2018

It was just over a year ago that the Warwick swimmers made program history.

And Gordy Cowher remembers the event like it happened yesterday.

Not just for the euphoria of Warwick’s athletes, under the leadership of head coach Mark Daum, when the girls beat Manheim Township 92-91 for the first time ever.

But also for the reaction of MT’s swimmers.

“I watched as a number of the girls from Township came over and congratulated Mark,” said Cowher, a former Warwick swimming coach. “That transcends the sport. That just speaks volumes about what the kids feel about Mark and what an impact he’s had on them as people.”

What Cowher was referencing was not just Daum’s career as Warwick’s head coach, spanning back to the 2006-07 season, but also that as the Five Star Swim Club boss. Ever since the club began at the Lititz recCenter nearly 30 years ago in 1989, Daum has been its leader. Prior to that, it was the Four Seasons club competing at the Hempfield Rec, which Daum took over in 1984.

The boundaries for Five Star stretch well beyond Warwick. Its roster includes swimmers from Manheim Township, Hempfield, Cocalico, Manheim Central and other Lancaster County outposts.

“Mark has kids that swim all over the county and are representing him well all year,” said Krista Ober, whose daughters Lauryn (a three-time State qualifier at Warwick) and Jenna compete in Five Star. “When the (L-L) girls meet came down to the last relay, all four of the Manheim Township swimmers were Mark’s Five Star kids, as well as all four of the Warwick swimmers and one Hempfield. He should be so proud of what he’s done for L-L swimmers.”

If you include the years Daum was the head women’s swim coach at the Lancaster YMCA from 1974-81 — when Gordy’s wife, Anne, swam for Daum — you’re looking at roughly 40 years of devotion to the sport and his athletes. He also served as the head swimming coach at Millersville University (2000-05), and was an assistant at the West Chester Swim Club (1981-84) and York Suburban High School (1979-80).

The devotion is reciprocal among the swimmers.

Daum is beloved by many.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Cowher said. “That’s absolutely true. I think without a doubt (what makes him special), number one, is the swimmers are people and kids to him first and athletes second. He knows his kids. He knows them as people and he cares about them. He always has their best interests at heart.”

Emma Schouten, a Loyola University freshman who won three District titles and three State medals prior to graduating from Warwick in 2017, saw it first-hand during her high school career.

“He’s been more like a father-figure to me,” said Emma, whose siblings Colin (2009 WHS grad who won District gold and State bronze in the 500 free) and Maddie (2013 WHS grad who qualified for States twice) also competed for Daum. “He sees us all as his children and he doesn’t just want the best for us in the pool. He wants the best for us in life. He’s been awesome for my life.”

Dan Griest, a former Five Star board president whose children Emily (2013 Warwick grad) and Tim (2016 WHS grad) both swam for Daum, is quick to concur. Tim’s first passion is actually baseball, and he is currently a sophomore pitcher/outfielder at McDaniel College, but yet he still enjoyed a lot of success in the pool.

Asked what makes Daum the coach that he is, Dan, who is now a Five Star assistant, said, “To tell you the truth, it’s dedication to his swimmers. I’ll use Tim as an example. Tim has loved baseball from the time he was 2 years old, and Mark was able to keep somebody who treated swimming as his second sport. Frankly, under (Mark’s) tutelage, he was able to to go States twice individually.”

Another assistant in the Five Star program is Ashley Singer, who competed at Warwick prior to graduating in 2004, then went on shatter seven records and qualify for Nationals twice at Kutztown University.

When she was 12 years old, Singer began swimming for Daum at Five Star. His impact on her was so great that when she returned home from college during winter break or summertime, Singer continued to train with him.

“I can say that when I went to Kutztown, I was more than prepared to go, truly,” she said. “I was ready to rock and roll there because I just learned how to become one of those elite swimmers because of Mark, really. I won Athlete of the Year my senior year at Kutztown. I was kinda shocked, but at the same time, I learned from the best through Mark.”

Besides being a father-like figure, Daum’s knowledge of the sport just makes Singer shake her head.

“Mark is a phenomenal coach and takes even the science behind what goes into the sport,” she said. “Not only will he encourage and coach swimmers to do the right stroke technique, but he always has a reason behind the drills and why he does the certain drills that he does.”

As Singer explained, Five Star swimmers train six days a week from September until the first week of June. From then until early August, it’s five days a week. All the while, Daum has a different workout for each lane in the pool. Toward the end of the season, he oversees a specific taper for every swimmer depending on their needs.

“He has workouts that he puts a lot of time and energy into each and every day,” Singer said.

“The Five Star program, to tell you the truth,” Griest added, “is very, very well-built to peak in high school.”

Griest, while mentoring the younger swimmers, notes that the emphasis for them is just learning stroke development. As they get older, then the coaches give them more yardage in their workouts.

“He never really tried to overextend his kids at a young age,” Griest said. “I think that’s probably how he’s developed such a good program over the years.”

Tapering is part of that program, in which the swimmers reduce yardage while incorporating sprints into their workouts, ideally to help them drop time for big meets at the end of the season.

A year ago at Districts, Warwick’s Joe Moll shaved five seconds off his time in the 200 I.M. while setting a school record in 1:52.69 while winning the first of his two gold medals.

“Invariably, you see an incredible high percentage of Mark’s swimmers who do their best times at that District Meet,” Cowher said. “He knows his sport inside and out.”

“To be quite honest with you,” Griest added, “I don’t know that I’ve seen a better coach — frankly in the District — tapering the kids to catch the time when the time is right. I’m extending that beyond the League to the District.”

His program has produced back-to-back L-L championships for the Warwick girls.

Through it all, Daum has remained ever humble.

“He deflects that (praise) to the kids,” Cowher said. “That speaks to who he is.”

Like Cowher indicated earlier, he sees Daum as one of the better coaches, in any sport, at being able to connect with his athletes.

“I think it’s the number one thing that separates Mark from so many other coaches,” Cowher said.

Over the years, Daum has been known to give his swimmers a nickname. Whether the moniker is given out based on their personality or something else, it helps to form a bond.

Emily Griest was Cosmo, named after Cosmo Kramer from the TV sitcom Seinfeld.

Since Schouten’s freshman year in high school, she was dubbed Emma-Gun by Daum.

“My middle name starts with a G and it just clicked,” she laughed. “I think him giving us nicknames is more him just giving everyone a way to open up and know that he’s just not a coach that’s going to be hard on you. He wants you to talk to him and he wants you to be open about how you’re feeling.”

Added Cowher: “It’s not a contrived thing on his part. It’s just part of his DNA. It’s who he is. I think deep down inside, without thinking about it sub-consciously, it’s his way of connecting to the kids and letting them know that they’re special.”

Clearly, it’s not just the Warwick swimmers who view Daum as being special. As evidenced by the Township girls congratulating him following their loss to the Lady Warriors last year, they do as well.

“I think he trains over half of the Township swimmers and they love him dearly like we do,” Schouten said.

Others are in the same boat.

“He does such a nice job with many, many swimmers over the years,” Singer said. “That’s for sure.”

 

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