A Q&A With Assistant Coach Catherine Vogt

Feb. 4, 2009

(This question and answer story with first-year USC assistant coach Catherine Vogt originally appeared on Swimnetwork.com here.)

Catherine Vogt became a coach to watch as a club coach, helping Chip Peterson to international success. She coached at North Carolina before moving cross-country before the start of this season to become an assistant coach at USC for head coach Dave Salo. She talks about all that, and the future of women's coaching in this week's 20 Question Tuesday with Swimnetwork.com special correspondent Bob Schaller.

1. How did you end up at USC?
Catherine: When Dave approached me about the opportunity, I knew I needed to take some time and think about my career choices and the future with my husband. He is a Captain in the Marine Corps (currently in Afghanistan) and stationed at Camp Lejeune on the North Carolina coast. When we learned of a possible transfer for him to the West Coast, and the opportunity for us to be in the same location -- the decision seemed easy. I met Dave in Montreal at the 2005 World Championships, and then we worked together in 2007 when he was the Head Coach of the Men's Pan American team and I was an Assistant Coach. I had always greatly admired his innovative coaching and training style, and the opportunity to work at at a university with such a rich swimming tradition was appealing.

2. Looking back, UNC made some big strides while you were there -- what was that job like and how do you look back on it?
Catherine: It is hard to leave your alma mater. I was very lucky to be a student-athlete at UNC and then to go on to work with Coach Frank Comfort and Coach Rich DeSelm. Chapel Hill is a very special place; I loved the swimmers and the people I worked with there, and am fortunate for the opportunities I had, and my personal growth there as a coach and person. I have so many wonderful memories there and Chapel Hill will always be a home for me.

3. How hard was it logistically to relocated to the West Coast?
Catherine: Well, logistically, not hard (laughs) at all. The people and team and other coaches at USC were very helpful and supportive in my transition and move. The day I left for Southern California is the same day my husband deployed for Afghanistan. I am a beach person, so I knew exactly where I wanted to live. I had lots of support from my family, friends and peers.

4. I used to live in L.A. County, though way north of the campus -- what is the USC campus like?
Catherine: The campus of Southern California was actually one of the unexpected surprises for me. I think being in the heart of Los Angeles I didn't expect the campus to be as beautiful as it is - there are so many fountains and trees and it is so green, it really makes you feel secluded in a little town. It is a small campus, and that is another thing I love. Everything is so accessible and pedestrian friendly.

5. What's it like working with Rebecca Soni and what's she like as a person?
Catherine: Rebecca is one of the most amazing athletes I have ever met. Her commitment level to swimming and school is unheralded. She is so humble and quiet and kind, and truly has a 'girl next door' kind of aura. I think something else that makes her so special is her work ethic and fierce competitiveness. She is an outstanding leader on the team, a team captain, and sets a great example. She is encouraging to those around her and has a warmth that just radiates.6. How is working with Dave Salo going?
Catherine: (Laughs) I get this question a lot - Dave is great to work with. The rest of the staff at USC were so welcoming, we all work together and have the same goals. Every day there is an enthusiasm that is contagious, for the athletes as well as coaches - I know I have a lot to learn about coaching and training and I am lucky to have that opportunity every day. We are always focused on excellence in everything we do. We all (Coach Salo, Coach Kipp and Coach Davidson) feed off each others enthusiasm and have fun together. I knew Dave's style of coaching was different that anything I was used to and I think I looked at that as an opportunity to learn more. He is so easy to talk to and our philosophies are aligned - college coaching is not just about swimming, but helping develop personal growth in our student-athletes. I respect and value Dave's hard work and know that he is a great role model for me and will help me develop into a better coach.

7. What was the conversation with Coach Salo like that got you to move to 'SC?
Catherine: I don't think there was one specific conversation. It sort of developed over a couple weeks. I feel fortunate to have so many great coaches as role models - and to ask their advice/opinions. It was hard. But, Dave and I would always email and text - I always felt comfortable talking to him, asking him about certain swimmers he had coached and about his philosophies and training. I even remember one Junior Nationals that we sat next to each other, watched the meet and talked about recruiting and what we saw in different kids. When I visited USC it was a combination of the people, the swimmers, the support of the Athletic Department for the swimming program and all sports, and the coaches... I just felt like I was 'at home.' There are so many outstanding athletes that have swum at USC over decades, and I thought there were benefits to being exposed to Olympic athletes, to being in the Pac-10 Conference, to swimming outdoors, etc. And when it came down to it, my husband and I made a decision that would allow him to continue his service in the Marine Corps and for me to continue to pursue my goals and my career and as hard as it was to leave Chapel Hill, we made the best decision for us.

8. Chip Peterson had great success while coached by you -- he's been up and down since, what do you expect from him in the future?
Catherine: Chip is an phenomenal athlete and person. We have an incredibly special relationship, we know each other as well as our families probably do, and I have really enjoyed seeing him mature and grow. We have been through a lot - he has had success as a teenager on the National and International levels and he is going to continue that success in open water and the pool. I know his goals - they are very impressive and I know he will accomplish them because of his work ethic, his intelligence, and his passion for the sport of swimming. He already is off to a great start this year, and I always expect outstanding things from him, whether it's in the pool, the ocean or the classroom.

9. What's it like being on the hallowed pool deck at 'SC in the house that Daland and Schubert built?
Catherine: There are so many traditions, history, and storied athletes that are associated with the University of Southern California swimming program. When you look at the record boards, meet the alumni, celebrate the many SC Olympians from past and present and talk about the future ones, you know you are in a great place. I am proud to be part of the team, and when I have the opportunities to talk to Coach (Peter) Daland and Schubert you just know you are part of something special. They still come around, and it is awesome to be part of the Trojan Family.

10. You have some amazing freshmen, tell us about that current class a little?
Catherine: The coaching staff brought in a big freshman class of men and women. I am lucky to be part of their first year at `SC, it is my first year too, so that has been fun. We have five National team members and that is helping secure a foundation of success. The current freshmen have elevated the training level and created a competitive environment, they have done a great job training, recruiting and showing their passion for all `SC traditions. They complement the current leadership of the upperclassmen and I can't wait to watch them grow and be successful in the next couple of years.

11. Courtney Kalisz has battled that foot/ankle problem -- she seems to have a great college career in front of her once she's healed, how is she doing?
Catherine: Courtney is still dealing with her health issues, but time and commitment should enable her to successfully resume her swimming career in the future. Freshman year can be difficult when you are healthy. With her passion for USC, for swimming, and for success she is eager to get back to competition and training.

12. Lyndsay DePaul is a great story, how she got to 'SC and all that -- how did she fall off the radar, and how did she get back on it?
Catherine: Lyndsay is a great girl. She is raising the bar for training every day, always has a smile on her face, and is excited to be part of a great, young, team. She is so fun to challenge every day - and never backs down. She already knew some of the current swimmers and is just enthusiastic about everything. She adds great depth to our team in multiple events and is going to be on fire and ready to compete - she is coming off a great Long Beach Grand Prix...and looking for success this summer.

13. Presley Bard also transferred in from Indiana -- what's she been like to work with and how amazing is her young perspective?
Catherine: When we talked to Presley, she asked a lot of questions, did a lot of research and decided that USC would be the best place for her to reach her goals - academically and athletically. She is so competitive, mature, and is from California originally, so I know she is happy to be closer to home. She gives us great speed and maturity and national team leadership. She is a lot of fun to work with - she is energetic and light-hearted, always laughing before and after practice, but tough as nails in the pool, tough and trains hard.

14. It seems like the 'SC women's program is really on the verge of becoming a power again -- what's missing, or what's needed to make it a top NCAA contender?
Catherine: We believe we have a group of women that can be contenders at the National level. These women have built a strong foundation for their future teammates. We are still young, and learning from wins and losses, ups and downs, and all that is part of college swimming. We have a team that believes in each other, they hold each other accountable and I believe they all really enjoy being together. We are hungry to be on top - and with an outstanding group of girls coming in next year we look forward to the future, and a strong finish this year.

15. You are known for your success with distance groups -- do you work with sprinters and IMers and other strokes, and what is that mindset shift like?
Catherine: I knew there would be a different mind-set, or training set up, and that was exciting for me. One thing I really admire about Dave is the success he has had with athletes that have swum at all strokes and all distances. Coaching is coaching and I love being on deck working with all groups. I do tend to gravitate to the swimmers that compete/train in the longer events, but have really enjoyed coaching all the kids. Like I mentioned before, all the coaches work together and talk about what we need to work on, what our focus needs to be, every day.

16. What about L.A. surprised you?
Catherine: Everybody warned me about the traffic, so I wasn't surprised by that. But really, it is not that bad. And the weather is just unbelievable - I mean today it was 75 and sunny in the end of January. That is enough to make me happy. But, I think I am amazed at how much there is to do, everything is right here. I love being able to walk to the beach, my favorite coffee shops and restaurants. There is a great USC network in the area, I am always meeting people and surprisingly, there are lots of Tarheels in the area - kids that I used to coach.

17. How different culturally are North Carolina and SoCal, and can you give an example?
Catherine: Southern California is a much more diverse place, the students and swimmers. At the same time it really helps expand your horizons and understand how many opportunities we have, but at the same time makes the world seem small. We have American, Italian, Japanese, African, and Hungarian athletes and Olympians training here - and they all have similar goals. One thing they don't have here is good, old southern cooking; I miss some great sweet tea, North Carolina BBQ, and hush puppies.

18. We hear a ton about the football and basketball teams at 'SC -- what kind of community and campus support to the swim teams get?
Catherine: Funny you ask this because just this past weekend we swam against the University of Washington and Pete Carroll stopped by. He brought some football players and recruits and it was really cool. We congratulated him on an outstanding Rose Bowl win. He is a great guy and always takes time to talk to our athletes and coaches. The athletic department is committed to all teams at `SC.

19. So being close to the other sports - literally - is not a drawback?
Catherine: The proximity of training facilities helps make the athletic community and campus very supportive. We can watch football practice from our offices, the baseball field is so close, an occasional baseball lands near the pool, we hear the band practice - that is really cool and helped me learn the songs quickly - and we share a facility with National Champion Water Polo team. Our kids support the volleyball team and some guys have been known to be in the front row of basketball games. There really is great support for all athletes and teams here.

20. As a young up-and-coming coach, how do you feel, along with Coach McKeever, Coach Brackin and a few others, about the opportunities for female coaches at the college level?
Catherine: There are lots of opportunities for females at the collegiate level. Luckily, I have had great role models and had people that believed in me, and I've had great opportunities - pool and open water. Coach McKeever and Coach Brackin have had tremendous success with their teams and athletes, and I know I have much to learn from them. At UNC and USC I have been able to coach both men and women - and I love being part of a combined team. I am fortunate to have worked with, and learned from, the people and teams I have been part of - and hope to continue to grow and learn.

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