Get Back in the Water

I am the Assistant AD and swim coach at SVC.  I have been involved with HS/age group coaching since 1993 and have, along with my four siblings, been involved with sports since I could walk.  My brothers and I played baseball, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, tennis, ran cross country, and three of us swam and played water polo in college. My sister did many of the same and swam in college.  We get the sports “gene” from our parents.   They participated in plenty over the years and still compete in Masters Track and Field events today.  They encouraged us to do as many things as possible and supported us in every endeavor.  That’s the topic I am sharing here: the role of the parent in your child’s high school athletic career.

Three different events shaped how I treated my own two sons in their athletic pursuits and how I see my role as a coach.   When I was 8, my dad, as my baseball coach, put four of my teammates on the little league all-star team and not me.  As he told me then and I remember today, he loved me, and I had a good season, but these teammates deserved the honor.  I survived.   The second situation came up my freshman year in college: I chose my school because I wanted to swim; the coach recruited me and I believed that I was going to be one of the 22 guys on the team.  47 guys tried out that year…I wasn’t close.  I talked to my parents who reminded me that I was a student-athlete.  Work hard, go to class, swim with the JV group, and show them next year that you belong.  No transfer talk, no calling the coach, no calling the AD.  Just work harder.  I swam for the next four years.  The final event happened about five years ago.  My two sons were swimming in a club meet and in one particular race, one of my boys beat the other one in what had been his signature event to that point.  Both were upset. I was upset … and I didn’t know what to do other than to call my dad.  All he said: “How’d they swim?  Good times?” (I said yes.)  He said, “Great.  So one of them won and the other did not.  That’s sports.  Love them, tell them you are proud of them and get back in the water.”

What we see too much of today in high school and collegiate athletics is this expectation that someone’s child is supposed to start or that a parent is disappointed their child didn’t perform better.

We are blessed here at SVC to offer 18 CIF-approved sports, coached by men and women with tremendous experience, Godly-driven passions for their sports and, in many cases, collegiate experience themselves.  We don’t cut student-athletes, we take all levels, we teach, we support, and we cheer for them.  High school athletics have a profound impact on young people. And in a school like SVC, where more than 85% of our students do at least one sport, we recognize the impact we have on them.

Annually, there are 7.8 million high school athletes in the US and 480,000 will be good enough to compete in college.  That is 6%.  What do these numbers mean? They mean that at our level, interscholastic sports for most will end right here.   Athletics as a whole does not!  Clubs, intramurals, city leagues, masters organizations: a lifetime of exercise and competition await if the foundation is established.  Encourage your child to PLAY A SPORT.  Support them (and their coaches!) in that experience, whether they are a starter or on the practice squad.  Go to their games, watch, cheer, and enjoy.  When the game, match, meet, event ends, give them a hug, tell them you are proud of them, and ask if they want to get a burger.

We have all taken lumps.  They made us who we are and we are better for them.  Teach your children about the lumps.  But, also teach them to enjoy the ride, because for all but a select few, the ride ends here.   My parents have taught me immeasurable things…some of the most valuable were those learned as an athlete: dedication, perseverance, commitment, teamwork.  I hope I am doing the same for my sons and my teams.


Bert Bergen is the Assistant Athletic Director at SVC. He began his career here teaching History and Public Speaking. He also started the swim program at our school and has developed it into one of South County’s premier programs. He and his wife (HS Dean of Academics, Trish Bergen) chose to work and have their children at SVC because of the welcoming nature of the school.

Bert has a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis in Speech Communication from Cal State University, Chico, where he was a seven-time All-American and Senior National Qualifier in swimming. (He is the oldest of five children – all of whom competed at the collegiate level.)

In his spare time, Bert dreams of living in Italy with his wife. The Bergens have two sons – Matthew (now a freshman at UCLA) and Ben (a junior at SVC).

You may reach him at bbergen@svcschools.org.

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