For 16 years Steve Mancuso did everything he could to get Mountain Pointe swimmers to post their best time possible.
But when it came time for him to get from point A to point B last October, he couldn’t do it fast enough.
The Pride had a meet in Tucson and his bride, Jill, went into labor back home. He left the team in order to make the trek back to the Phoenix area and did what he could not to break any laws while setting a personal record.
“I did what I had to do,” he said. “There was no way I was going to miss anything.”
He didn’t and little Leo was born on Oct. 6, the same date the couple married the year before. It was the perfect anniversary gift, but it also changed Mancuso’s perspective.
No longer did practices until 8 p.m. seem practical, nor did spending nearly 10 hours on a Saturday at an invitational. Holding your child can initiate a transformation and Mancuso, 41, was no different.
“I love being part of Mountain Pointe swimming and always have,” he said. “But I missed being away from family more. I felt like if I can’t give myself to the program as much anymore, at least not all the way, it was a sign to move on and put all of my attention to the family.”
It made the decision to step down as the Pride’s boys and girls head coach easier. He will stay at Mountain Pointe as a guidance counselor, stay close to the program with his sister, Lisa, remaining as a coach, but will gladly turn in his stop watch for a baby backpack.
“In the end, you can’t get those times back,” Mancuso said. “I can walk away knowing I left it all out there. I don’t have any regrets. I am not saying I won’t miss this or that, but if I did stay on I would regret missing out on certain milestones with the family.”
Technically, this is the third time he has stepped down as head coach after a year away two separate times (once to be a principal at a charter school and the other to adjust to a job transition) over the 18 years he has been at Mountain Pointe since graduating from Northern Arizona in 1996.
“This time it is for good, or at least for a long time,” Mancuso said.
The impression he left will also be around for a long time. In fact, the news of his retiring from coaching has led to a reunion party of sorts as there will be a picnic and pool party in his honor on May 10.
The hope is to get as many former and current Pride swimmers involved as possible. For those who can’t make it, they are asking for cards of appreciation. For more information on the event, contact Julie Rachford at email@example.com.
There will be plenty of people in line to give thanks, including principal Bruce Kipper.
“Steve has meant more than most people will ever know,” Kipper said. “Not only has he served as a top swim coach and produced some very high achieving swimmers, but he is one of the most positive role models I have been around. You can always tell which staff have the most influence on students by how much the students want to be around that coach or teacher.
“Steve has current and former students coming by his office every day just to say, ‘Hi.’ While Steve’s influence will be missed around the pool we are lucky to have him in our guidance department continuing to be a positive influence on our students.”
While Mancuso is a bit embarrassed by the party, he does like the idea of seeing the former Mountain Pointe swimmers coming together.
“They are adults now and I’d like to think of our program as family,” he said. “I’d love to see them relive some of that time spent in high school that was fostered through Mountain Pointe swimming through the years and how they still have that bond.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.