Taylor stresses value of college education
UH swimming head coach Mark Taylor, who was once forced to turn down a job offer because he didn’t have his bachelor’s degree, is in his ninth year at UH and hasn’t stopped educating himself since.
He received a master’s in physical education in December from the University.
“I’ve always felt education is an important thing,” Taylor said. “My dad never finished high school and my mom graduated high school but never went on to college, so I was the first college graduate.”
Taylor, 50, graduated from Satellite Beach High School in Satellite Beach, Fla., in 1979, then went on a two-year mission in Nevada for the Mormon Church. He did not enroll in another class for 12 years.
“I just started working and eventually started coaching,” Taylor said. “That’s what I did when I grew up, I was a swimmer. After being a coach for 12 years or so, I realized that if I was going to get anywhere in the coaching profession, I was going to need a degree.”
The urgency to continue his higher education did not set in until he had to decline a full-time assistant coaching offer at Arizona State University because he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. That’s when ASU swim coach Ernie Maglischo took matters in to his own hands.
“He told me, ‘Go to school now,’” Taylor said. “He made me stand up at that moment and he went with me down to the registrar’s office and helped me sign up.
“He said, ‘This is the most important thing you’re going to do for yourself and for your family, to become an educated individual who can provide because he’s taken the necessary steps in life.’ I will never forget that advice.”
Taylor said homework and writing papers into the early hours of the morning was the most challenging part of balancing school and maintaining a Top 30 swimming program in the nation. The hectic schedule helped Taylor identify with his student-athletes experiencing similar situations.
“It was easier for me to understand when they were mentally stressed,” he said. “There are a lot of times I got mentally stressed. I’ll have a test coming up or a paper due and, I still have four hours of practice to do, four hours in the office and then I also have to make sure I get down to my kid’s play.”
The message Taylor and his staff (diving head coach Jane Figueiredo and assistant swimming coach Jaime Lewis) hope to send to their student-athletes is one he’s trying to deliver through actions, not just words.
“I hope they realize how important education is to me,” Taylor said. “That’s why we push them so hard. We do study hall, tutoring and everything we can to help them be successful. Since I’ve gotten here, the swimming and diving team has always been one of the better academic programs at the University.”
Taylor believes in doing the groundwork in life in order to get ahead. He credits UH as an institution full of opportunity to further an education.
“If you go through the list of our alumni, the people who are successful and went to UT, Harvard, UCLA, whatever, they come here to get their master’s and doctorate degrees. This is a powerful University with a great message: Come here, get smarter and learn the things you need to learn.”
The skills Taylor acquired over his studies have been put to good use. He deals with the groundwork behind the scenes of a swim meet that go unnoticed to the public eye: dealing with facility managers, following protocol, marketing and promotions.
In 2008, the Cougars were second in Conference USA under Taylor’s watch. In 2009, he was awarded C-USA Coach of the Year.
Taylor said his focus is to win the C-USA Championships on Feb. 23-26 at the CRWC Natatorium in hopes of qualifying athletes to the NCAA Championships. His long-term aspiration is to elevate UH into a Top 10 swimming and diving program.