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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Retiring coach remembers love of swimming more than wins and losses

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Paul Bretscher
For some, athletics is about the wins and losses, the awards and the accolades. But for recently-retired GHS varsity swim coach Paul Bretscher, nothing is more important than the love of the sport. Or more to the point, the love you get from the sport.

Starting from humble beginnings, Bretscher's introduction to the sport of swimming was unique.

"I grew up in a family of 10 children. My father was a minister, so we didn't have a lot of money. In Valparaiso, there was a YMCA which a membership was about $30 a year," Bretscher said.

"He figured it would be cheaper to send us to the YMCA and have us take showers there than it would be at home. They had a swim team, so he put us on the swim team," he concluded.

After a successful high school swimming career, Bretscher entered Valparasio University and set to work.

In his time at Valparaiso, he finished second in the 100 butterfly and earned himself NCAA College Division All-American honors. He also won conference MVP his junior year after winning swim titles in the 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke and the 100 butterfly. In his senior season, he won the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley titles.

Bretscher got his coaching career started as an assistant coach at Valparaiso. After that he taught at Portage High School and coached their swim club and coached the girls' high school team for a season.

Things really began to take shape in 1978 when Bretscher accepted a graduate assistant position at DePauw University where he met the other love of his life -- his wife Mary.

"I coached the DePauw University men's team from 1978 through 1980 and that's where I meet Mary," he said. "Since I fell in love with the coach here, I was looking for a job in the area and that's what got me into Greencastle High School."

But with GHS swim coaches in place, Bretscher waited for his opportunity, which presented itself quickly.

"Don Izzo was here at the time, he told me he thought he was leaving at the end of the year. So I was sitting there ready to pounce on it," Bretscher revealed.

Bretscher has spent a combined 41 seasons, 17 with the varsity girls and 24 with the varsity boys, and has compiled a record most enviable.

With a total of 407 wins opposed to 135 loses, his 75 percent winning percentage is quite impressive.

On titles wins, his teams have taken 29 conference, 19 county, seven sectional and two Lebanon Invitational titles. Even more significant, Bretscher was named Sectional Coach of the Year 10 times.

In 2002, he was inducted into the Valparaiso Athletic Hall of Fame along with his brother Joel. He spoke about his feeling of being inducted and also being joined by his brother the same year.

"It's an honor you never really feel like you deserve. That's kind of cool."

The Bretscher family is inducted into the Valparaiso High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Looking back over his years being involved with the sport, he points to one single innovation that made the sport progress to the point it's at today.

"If I had to name the thing that I think really revolutionized the sport, in terms of equipment, it would be -- swim goggles. Now you could practice twice as long as before," he commented.

Reflecting on a career that spanned 26 years with Greencastle swimming, Bretscher had numerous memories to choose from, but singled one out.

"I can remember riding on a school bus and I went to the back of the bus because one of the girls was upset because she was getting a B in English. She was a senior and she hadn't had a B yet," he said. "Then another swimmer smiled and said I don't feel that way because I got a B first semester of my freshman year and the pressure was off.

"It's the things that happen at practice, the conversations you have, the bus rides, that are probably as memorable and sometimes more memorable than anything that went on at a swim meet," Bretscher added.

"You do this sport and you know when you wake up tomorrow, whether you win or lose, the sun is still going to come up. Whether you swam well or not, the sun is going to come up and your parents love you," Bretscher commented.

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