By Jane Fernandez
After going a decade without a swim team, East Los Angeles College will now be lead by experienced swim coach Erik Matheson. Matheson’s experience dates back to when he attended Culver City High School.
Matheson played other sports such as soccer, but due to a knee injury, he was led to aquatics. He was part of the swim team for four years, where he earned and still holds three school records as a swimmer. He attended California State University Northridge on a scholarship through the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I swimming team at Northridge.
“At California State University Northridge, I was a member of two record breaking relays – 200 yard Freestyle Relay and 200 yard Medley Relay,” said Matheson. At Northridge, Matheson earned a Masters Degree in Kinesiology and Biomechanics. He wrote his master’s thesis on “A Kinematic Analysis of the Breaststroke Kick.”
He used underwater video cameras to capture a three-dimensional analysis of the foot/ankle movement during a breaststroke kick. His research study was presented in the 2011 International Society of Biomechanics in Sports Conference in Porto, Spain. His first coaching job was at his high school. There he worked alongside his former swim coach.
Matheson said he finds himself to be lucky because he has always been able to work around what he loves. He has also worked as a lifeguard for eight years, watching over Santa Monica and Venice Beach. He has been coaching swimming for 20 years and college students for 12.
Matheson said ELAC has the potential to build a successful swimming program. He also said “There are many good swim teams in the area from which to recruit and the pool is a nationally acclaimed facility.”
He said those are two important aspects of a swim team. He also decided to work for ELAC because the staff is dedicated toward building a successful swimming program. He credits coach Dave Salo, of the University of Southern California, as one who has inspired him to refine his “coaching philosophy, style and techniques.”
Matheson has set goals for himself and the team. He said he wants to build a “solid foundation for aquatics, rank in the upper half…in the South Coast Conference and qualify for the California Community College Swimming Championships. I really like the college atmosphere.”
Matheson teaches his students that swimming is not just a sport. He believes that through swimming, students could learn to do better in academics, be better workers and become better citizens. His last coaching job was at Santa Monica College where he was assistant coach for the men’s and women’s swimming division. He also coached the men’s water polo team. “I love coaching. I am fortunate to do something I love and make a living at the same time,” Matheson said.
He motivates his students by helping them set goals. He said he always tries to find what motivates his students, so that he could help them become better swimmers. “I show them how much I enjoy it. If the coach is enthusiastic and excited about it, then it’s easier for students to be enthusiastic and excited about it,” he said.