Remembering the time we scored more than 32,000 votes in the city with a ballot question about coaching

Come Live Over Here, News, Parenting, Proposal, water, Wellness


Our small-step advancement generated a landslide. Next, the beginning of an epic suggestion.

From: Mark Rauterkus, 412-298-3432,, Varsity Boys Swim Coach at PPS Obama Academy

More than 32,000* friends and neighbors voted with me in the recent ballot referendum giving a landslide victory that now allows city employees the opportunity to coach in part-time roles for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

  • Our exact vote total was 32,201 and 73-percent.

Thank you for you support, for caring.

This amendment to the city's charter is a nice advancement and by all means, it is not a big game-changer in the history of sports in this city. 

My hope is that the victory helps to spark continual growth in the city and PPS Athletic Reform.

The suggested changes for the next chapter are larger, more epic – and more specific to aquatics and competitive swimming.

My suggestion: Let's replicate the model deployed for the district's Athletic Trainers and apply it to AQUATICS. (See other post.)

Presently, the existing PPS Athletic Training model is great. I love it. It works well. I've always been grateful of the support received from the Athletic Trainers. The model for the service delivery provides a huge assets and support for the athletes, coaches, guardians and administrators.

All PPS high school with scholastic-sports teams have athletic trainers that help to care for the health and wellness of the PPS student-athletes. These athletic trainers are present for practices and competitions. They serve boys-and-girls and work among various venues.

The athletic trainers, with the initials, A.T.C., after their names, are professionals, academically trained and certified. They get continuing education and are hired, managed and evaluated from a central office. The division head for athletics in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Mr. Mike Gavlik, supervises the service contract with UPMC Sports Medicine. The contract details the services rendered so that the school principals and coaches do not need to worry about coverage from the athletic trainers. A well executed, system wide, district-wide approach makes great sense. It is efficient and effective. Bravo to you all for such wonderful results.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh Public Schools, in AQUATICS, a much different model and resulting outcomes are unfolding.

With our swim teams and with our programs at the various PPS swim pools in after-school hours programs, everything is site-based. Site-based aquatic programming isn't working, in IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion).

We have 15 indoor swim pools within our schools and my audit and experiences shows that we are lucky to get one-or-two-percent of the value in community benefits of our paid-for facilities in OUT-OF-SCHOOL TIME activities.

I am worried about activities, programs, leadership and opportunities we offer our kids and the communities at the pools in afternoons, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, vacations and throughout the weeks of summer.

  • Most of the time, the pools sit idle. They are closed.

To be clear, what happens in Physical Education in the normal school day is not a concern of this suggested proposal.

Just as UPMC Sports Medicine handles system-wide needs for athletic training, PPS needs a system-wide approach to what happens in the swimming pools beyond the school day.

The engagement for the students, the competitive swimmers, and the communities is suffering and an overhaul of purpose, methods, programming, hiring responsibilities and mission in AQUATICS is needed and can be delivered with an AQUATICS DIRECTOR.

  • Take these tasks off the backs of the school principals.

Let's deploy a system and thrive. Let's train lifeguards, compete around the region, and deliver serious health and wellness benefits.

Attach AQUATICS with the budding PPS Community Schools network.

Let's coordinate human resources among lifeguards, swim instructors, coaches, rec organizations and have an aquatic mission that fits the various facilities and interests of the kids and grows as they improve.

Our students need to know that their devotion and investment into swimming is supported. The un-tapped potential within Pittsburgh's kids in aquatics is phenomenal. But, we as coaches and administrators, we need to be nimble at the pools and offer excellent programs. Aquatics can be a vital cornerstone for PPS Community Schools.

The PPS Board made a dramatic step before the arrival of Superintendent Hamlet to embrace the concept of PPS Community Schools, as a pilot, among five of its schools. These suggestions for AQUATICS go hand-in-hand with the efforts of PPS Community Schools.

Let's make a splash with AQUATICS with PPS Community Schools.

These programs can pull their own weight financially. Creative and inspiring leadership coupled with important partnerships can make the AQUATICS programs sustainable.

To implement the vision, the Administration and PPS Board negotiators should carve out AQUATICS from the realm of the PFT Contract. Assigning coaching duties, instructors and lifeguards need to be fluid and flexible, coordinated and well deployed. Accountability, certifications, and alignments to systems, squads and developmental pathways need to make sense.

Go figure: Last year, a swim meet between Obama and Allderdice as impossible to schedule.

Go figure: …

  • A four-fold increase in both quantity and quality is expected as a first-year bump.
  • In 2017, PPS has about 250 kids who swim. With the pools we have, PPS could have 1,000+ kids calling themselves swimmers.

Going swimming and being a swimmer are different.

We want to turn around the opportunities so our kids become:

  • scholarship student-athletes,
  • employed at the pools,
  • competitors with anyone, and
  • know how to play well with others.

* The ATC credential identifies a Certified Athletic Trainer. Certified Athletic Trainers are healthcare professionals who are experts in injury prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation, particularly in the orthopedic and musculoskeletal disciplines.

About the author 

Mark Rauterkus

Swim, SKWIM and water polo coach in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Also the webmaster for the International Swim Coaches Association and a publisher at,, and a former small-press, Sports Support Syndicate. Former free-market candidate for public office on various occasions, generally as a Libertarian.

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