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by Scott Rabalais

December 29, 2000

A key figure in New Jersey swimming

Edward H. Nessel, coach of Garden State Masters in New Jersey, has been named the 1998 USMS Coach of the Year. The award is presented annually by the Coaches Committee to the coach who has done the most to further the objectives of Masters swimming.

For the past 18 years, Nessel has been instrumental in the establishment and maintenance of Master swimming programs in New Jersey. He started three Masters clubs and for the past seven years has presided over an alliance of smaller teams under the Jersey Masters banner. He has been a long-time member of the New Jersey LMSC Board of Directors and chairs both the Officials Committee and the Wellness and Fitness Committee. Also within the New Jersey LMSC, he directs the New Club Mentoring Program.

Annually, Nessel runs clinics covering both swimming technique and health concerns. In addition, he conducts numerous one-on-one critiques and is recognized as a leader in technical instruction and innovative training techniques. He is published regularly in SWIM magazine, the American Medical Athletic Association Quarterly, and LMSC newsletters.

On a national level, he established and currently runs the USMS Book Lending Library and has served on the Coaches and Sports Medicine Committees. His contributions have extended beyond USMS, extending into Special Olympics, where he has served as consultant and coach.

Paul Cox, New Jersey LMSC Chairman, says Nessel is "the epitome of a caring and professional coach. He willingly shares his wealth of knowledge with others on all levels and helps others embrace the values, vision, mission and objectives of USMS."

from Swim magazine

Here's an earlier story on Ed:

You could say that Ed was actually embarrassed into swimming. It took place during the summer, after his 10th birthday, at the Roxy Hotel in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. He really was uncomfortable in the water and was deathly afraid where the water was too deep to stand. His dad tried many times to show little Eddie how to swim, but to no avail; I guess, though he loved his dad, Ed had no confidence in him when it came to the water. In actuality, no one to date could get Ed Nessel into the water without somewhat of a struggle.

You name the sport, Ed Nessel was good at it; a natural athlete as long as it was on terra firma. It was no big thing to approach breathlessness on land; in fact, breathing hard while playing ball or bike-riding was anticipated, even welcomed. It meant a big effort was being put forth, and Ed was never one to quit. Most of his contemporaries would knuckle under long before he did, and he was proud of this.

After a few days at the Roxy Hotel, a middle-aged man named Sid befriended the Nessels. It came to light that Sid was an ex-Navy frogman. Watching Sid swim back and forth in the pool, intrigued Ed. Sid made it look so easy. He never seemed to run out of breath. And it was that, and that alone, which made Ed envy him.

With just one offer from Sid to show him how it was done, Ed agreed to join him in the pool. To mom and dad Nessel's amazement, their son was able to get through the water somewhat comfortably in just three days. Hindsight proved 20/20 in that the secret here was just learning to relax and to coordinate the breathing cycle with the arm and leg movements.

It seemed that Sid created a monster. One month later at their swim club's summer championships, Ed Nessel took the silver medal in the 10-and-under 25-yard freestyle. The dye was cast. From the age of 11 on, Eddie Nessel was synonymous with fast age-group swimming in central New Jersey.

Though his high school had no swim team, Ed Nessel became an AAU New Jersey State swimming champion. He would have liked to have swum in college but was warned it would be tough, very tough. Someone from the University of Miami knew the Nessels and offered the prospect of swimming there. But the costs of going to that school was beyond the Nessel's education budget.

Offered a full academic scholarship to study pharmacy at nearby Rutgers University, swimming became an afterthought.

He missed the sense of being "in shape", but had to settle for some intermittent pool time between labs and lectures.

Not until he got married at 27 did he add somewhat of a steady diet of swimming to his weekly schedule; two days was the average, but at least it was something. Ed progressed up the corporate ladder in the field of pharmacy, and before he realized it, he was in his mid-30s with two children. He made sure they both were comfortable in the water as soon as possible. His daughter, Lee, became so comfortable that she grew to be the New Jersey Senior State Champion, a high school All-America, a five- time Junior National qualifier, and a gold-medalist at the World Maccabi Games in Israel. And Jason was ranked as high as second in the nation in the 10-and-under 50-yard butterfly and was New Jersey's best "flyer" through the age of 12.

An offer from the University of Miami proved too much to ignore. Off Lee went to the "land of coconuts and palm trees" and rose to be the team captain, first team Big East, Academic All-America, and Miami's Female-Scholar-athlete of the year (1996). She also became Miami's selection for NCAA Woman-of-the-Year. Needless to say, Ed was very proud; but unbounded joy and pride did not make up the overall ambiance at the Nessel household.

The third child, Matthew, had been born with fetal distress and had severe cerebral palsy. It was a daily struggle to deal with Matt, but Ed and his wife, Eileen, were determined to give their son the best life possible. Matt's condition really put a strain on the Nessel's home life.

Ed remembered how swimming always made him feel good. He joined a local Masters team at the age of 36 to try and create a balance in his life. It worked; Ed really "dived" into Masters with all his energies. He could come home after a 10-hour day and go to night and weekend practices. After a few months, he attended local swim meets. Though he got nervous, just as in his youth, he would feel a sort of euphoria after the competition. This became addicting, and he rearranged his life to include definite time slots for the pool. He made excuses to get to the pool, not to not get there!

Things were going along "swimmingly" until one day, at age seven, Matt choked to death on food. Ed tried first to revive Matt with CPR, then watched as the EMTs and local police worked over him in vain. Masters swimming would fill an even more important part of his life now. So important, if fact, that he left pharmacy and began coaching swimming full time. He had been involved with coaching for years, part time; first with age-groupers, then with the Masters, then both. But the futility of Matt's life, and the emptiness of his death, left Ed emotionally bankrupt. Again swimming came to his rescue, and his life changed lanes at middle age,

Always the sprinter, Ed began sculpting his workouts around the tenets and precepts of swimming fast and always working technique. He firmly believed in strength, both as to move through water quickly and to prevent injury. He patterned his age-group workouts and his Masters practices similarly. The only difference would entail the physiology of ageing; allowing more rest for the older swimmer, as compared to the age-groupers. 3,500 yards per practice with a max of 4,000 made up an average 90-minute age-group session five days per week, while 3,000 to 3,500 yards became the Masters task four times weekly.

His two masters degrees in biochemistry and public health aided him in his structuring of practices, no "garbage yards," everything done for a purpose.

Ed became involved at the national level in Masters with participation in the YMCA Masters Nationals every year from 1986. He also attended many national conventions and became a member of the national Coach's Committee and the national Sports Medicine Committee. He is also the national USMS book librarian and the author of many articles on sports medicine and nutrition and health in national swimming magazines, the American Medical Athletic Association (of which he is a life member) Quarterly and his LMSC newsletter, The Fast Lane.

1997 was a banner year for Ed: his masters team won the men's and combined small team division championships at YMCA Nats, and he was asked to coach the USA Junior National Team at the 15th World Maccabi Games in Israel. The Junior National Team, made up of 13 to 17 year olds, won 34 out of 36 gold medals and set many meet records. Ed was proclaimed "Coach of the Meet." Three weeks in the "Holy Land" with his team, left Ed both exhilarated and exhausted, but with memories for a lifetime.

At the most recent YMCA Nationals, daughter, Lee, was a large part of the women's championship: her seven gold and two silver made her high-point winner of the team. Ed's team (Ocean County YMCA) had the oldest woman, Julia Dolce, 88, and the youngest, Lee Nessel , 22, at the meet and both on the same team. Lee is now a sports reporter for the Key West Citizen where she resides.