Santa Clara didn't win the national championship for the first time in six
years. His sister, Nancy, 16, performed creditably for Santa Clara, but, as her
father says, "she isn't quite a female version of Mark." After the
Nationals the Spitz family received a letter from Haines—dated the day the meet
began—informing them that not only Mark but also Nancy had been kicked off the
Santa Clara team.
"I think any
coach would have done the same thing," says Haines. "In Mark's case it
was a matter of loyalty to his teammates. I'm interested in building a team,
not a great personality. I felt if Mark had outgrown the program, what good
would it do to coach Nancy?"
Nancy in the teeth," says Arnold Spitz. "She cried for three days
afterward. It was a very stupid ending to a very wholesome relationship. One
thing I'm sure George lost sight of is that Mark is my son, not his. I told him
that the biggest thing in Mark's life was not him but me."
Spitz had remained the father," replies Haines, "we might have worked
Early this year
the Spitz family sold its home and left Santa Clara—a move once more dictated
entirely by swimming. To get Nancy the best coaching, Arnold Spitz has moved
his wife and two daughters (Mark's older sister Heidi, 18, swims only for fun)
to Sacramento so that Nancy could train under Sherm Chavoor. For himself,
Arnold Spitz plans to rent a small apartment in Oakland and drive to Sacramento
least I can do," he says. "Now I have only a couple of years left to do
for Nancy what I did for Mark."
at Indiana last January was awaited with mixed feelings. Says Fred Southwood,
co-captain of this year's team: "We thought, 'Uh-oh, this ought to be good.
If he can't get along with people he's known all his life, what's he going to
do here?' We didn't know quite what to expect."
arrival, Counsilman called the team together. He asked that Spitz be given the
benefit of the doubt, to judge him on his behavior at Indiana and not on his
reputation. The swimmers agreed, and apparently that was the only break Spitz
needed. He became close friends with his roommate, George Smith, a swimmer from
Canada, and he shared at least a peaceful coexistence with his other teammates.
Away from the pool, Spitz joined a fraternity, began dating one of the
prettiest coeds on campus and maybe even sneaked a beer or two while Counsilman
wisely turned his head. "He adjusted very well," says Southwood.
"We couldn't understand why he had so much trouble at Santa Clara."
The catalyst was
Counsilman. His special treatment of Spitz takes several forms, not all of them
readily understandable to an outsider. Every day before practice, for instance,
they play a game. Spitz will test the water with his toes, then draw back,
complaining that it is too cold. He will stall on the deck until Counsilman
takes off his belt and chases him around the pool, through the stands and
finally into the water.
"Mark, like any champion, likes attention, that extra little show of
affection for ego."