When Sofia Sanchez first came to the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center at 6 years old, she didn’t want to go near the pool.
Diagnosed with autism, Sofia had spatial orientation and sensory processing issues combined with low muscle tone, and her parents were hesitant. “We really thought she might not ever be able to swim, plus she was petrified of the water,” said her mom, Susan Tarka Sanchez.
But under the enthusiastic direction of life guard manager Kandis Pulliam at the center’s warm water therapy pool, Sofia began, little by little, to enjoy the experience. Soon, Pulliam coaxed her over to the Olympic-sized pool, and as soon as Sofia could swim across, convinced her to join the Rays swim team, a competitive and social team for individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities.
Sofia, now 12, swims more than a mile each team practice. Sometimes she uses one arm, sometimes no arms, but it doesn’t matter, not to her and not to anyone else. Continue reading “Rose Bowl Aquatics Coach Shines for ‘Rays’ Team”
For years, Jeff Julian has been one of the best swimming coaches in Southern California. The head swimming coach at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center has devoted his life to the sport, guiding and mentoring countless athletes and coaching Olympian Jason Lezak prior to his remarkable, multiple-medal-winning performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Julian, 45, has become even more influential after surviving a bout with stage 4 lung cancer in 2015. He became a motivational speaker and has served as a beacon of hope and optimism for athletes and families who know him. His sister, Jaimi Julian Thompson, said he seems to be more of a teacher than a coach, providing “lessons that help people be successful in life.”
After nearly 30 years of working as director of development at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, it seems fitting that one of Mary Pinola’s favorite memories is a simple one, albeit repeated by nearly 30,000 children during her tenure.
It’s the moment a 3rd grader edges up to the end of a diving platform — gingerly, small toes curling over the edge — and then takes a leap into the deep end. It’s a leap of faith, both in the ability at having learned to swim and in the confidence that will last a lifetime, cheered on by the instructor in the water and teachers watching from the pool’s edge. Continue reading “Rose Bowl Aquatics Director Leaves Legacy After 30 Years”
Jefferson Elementary School teacher Gloria Barrera proudly watched over her 3rd-graders as they happily splashed and swam at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center last week, delighted squeals piercing the steamy morning as instructors guided the students in formation on strengthening kick exercises.
She loves her students’ enthusiasm for the program, but more important is that teaching them water skills will help save lives and introduce the children to a love of all the things you can do around the water, Barrera explained. Continue reading “Aquatics Center’s Master Stroke: Lifesaving Water Skills for PUSD Kids”
Mike Nyeholt keeps on swimming.
The former three-time All-American swimmer, who was paralyzed from the chest down following a motorcycle accident 37 years ago, is in the pool three, sometimes four times a week. Despite some shoulder injuries, the Pasadena resident still hits the water and is a familiar face to anyone doing laps at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center pool.
He has a lot to swim for. This year, his Swim With Mike nonprofit is bigger than ever, helping 56 physically disabled athletes find new purpose in life through scholarships at colleges nationwide. The Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, based at USC, is the only kind in the country, raising more than $19.6 million and sending recipients to 104 universities across the country since its inception. Continue reading “Swim With Mike Scholarship Fund Swells With Support”