Making a Splash

Steven Contarsy is a busy man. The Reseda native wears many hats, as a professor, coach, father, and lifeguard. Yet it was his impact as a coach that led to him being named the Western State Conference Swim and Dive Coach of the Year.

The award came as a surprise to some, but was not undeserved. Contarsy coached Santa Monica College's women's swim team to a 7-0 record. Along the way numerous athletes set personal bests, with swimmer Isabella Zhang and diver Sarah Ritz winning state championships.

Contarsy has been involved with athletics practically all of his life. He was born in Chicago and moved with his family to the San Fernando Valley at the age of four. At the age of seven, his father built a swimming pool in their backyard. Contarsy's been swimming ever since.

Due to his mother banning him from playing football, and a desire to avoid the heat that the track team had to endure, Contarsy joined the swim team at Reseda High School. After high school, Contarsy walked on to the swim team at Cal State University, Northridge.

Upon getting his bachelor's degree and master's degree in physical education from CSUN, Contarsy moved on to USC. While there he served as a graduate assistant in kinesiology from 1983-1990, and as an assistant professor from 1990-1993. He also served as a graduate assistant for the swim team from 1987-1993.

Originally aspiring to teach exercise physiology, Contarsy was faced with a dilemma when USC switched from a teaching track to a research track. "I had to get a position, I had to find a job," Contarsy says. "And that's where Venice High School came in."

In 1994, Contarsy began teaching biology and health at Venice High School, where he was also coached the swim team. While there, the swim team won seven consecutive city titles. In 1997, he was named coach of the year by the California Coaches Association.

In 2000, he began working at SMC, replacing SMC hall of fame member Johnny Joseph. At SMC, Contarsy coaches swimming, diving, and water polo, as well as teaching kinesiology and health.

In addition to his occupation at SMC, Contarsy also serves as an L.A. County lifeguard, as well as participating with the program California Aquatics.

At SMC, Contarsy has experienced several exciting moments. However this year's undefeated season is arguably his best work yet.

"It's a great job by him," says SMC chair of athletics and kinesiology Anna Collier. "I think he took a team that needed to develop and developed them very well. I think this is going to help the overall athletic program."

With so much parity in the sport, and outcomes decided by milliseconds, Contarsy realizes the significance of this season, highlighted by the defeat of rival Ventura College. "I've been here ten years and these are my first two state champions," Contarsy says. "It doesn't come easy."

"He has a lot to offer swimmers," says SMC men's swim team captain Tyler Contarsy of his father. "He really brings a knowledge and a level of coaching and background to swimming that this school hasn't really had in a long time."

Not one to lose focus, the elder Contarsy already has his sights set on next season. "We've got to look for a backstroker. That's our main goal."

To see a slide-show of the SMC Swim Team and Coach Contarsy click HERE