Scott Fowler

After 10 years and many Olympic medals, coach David Marsh is out at SwimMAC Carolina

After a decade at SwimMAC Carolina, coach David Marsh and the organization have agreed mutually to separate.
After a decade at SwimMAC Carolina, coach David Marsh and the organization have agreed mutually to separate.

Swim coach David Marsh is out at Charlotte’s SwimMAC Carolina, The Observer has learned.

One of the most well-known swim clubs in America and the highest-profile coach it has ever employed have agreed to mutually – and immediately – separate after a decade together. Those 10 years included multiple Olympic medals won by Marsh’s top Charlotte-based swimmers.

“SwimMAC Carolina and Coach David Marsh have mutually agreed to part ways, bringing to a close Mr. Marsh's tenure at the club,” read a joint statement from Marsh and SwimMAC issued to The Observer Wednesday night. “The separation is effective immediately.”

At the moment, Marsh plans to continue his coaching career in Charlotte and to still direct the Team Elite program out of Queens University. Reached for comment, Marsh said he did not want to answer questions yet but would have more to say about his future plans in the next few days.

Marsh is one of the most respected coaches in U.S. swimming, having been chosen last year to serve as the women’s head coach for the U.S. Olympic swim team at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He has coached dozens of Olympians during his career. Well-known in the community, Marsh gave the commencement speech at Queens University last week.

The statement jointly released by Marsh and SwimMAC Carolina did not go into specific reasons for Marsh’s departure.

“We would like to thank Coach Marsh for the years he has dedicated to SwimMAC and the coaching guidance he has provided over the past decade,” Terry Fritch, SwimMAC's Head Coach, said in the statement. Reached for additional comment, Fritch said the statement would stand for itself at this time.

Matt McFee, the president of SwimMAC’s board of directors, said the organization wishes Marsh “the best as he pursues future endeavors.”

Marsh said in the statement: “I am grateful to so many SwimMAC athletes, parents, staff, and supporters for the opportunity to have led this club. I am also extremely proud of the program that, working together as a team, we have been able to develop over the past 10 years.”

Marsh, 59, had been the head coach of the SwimMAC program since he arrived in 2007 with 12 national championships fresh from a standout coaching career at Auburn. He has coached multiple Olympians from Charlotte-based Team Elite for the last three Olympic cycles, including a SwimMAC-record six swimmers at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Swimmers like Cullen Jones and Kathleen Baker have achieved the greatest successes of their career under Marsh. An experiment with Ryan Lochte moving to Charlotte to train under Marsh for a couple of years prior to the 2016 Olympics was not as successful.

In February, SwimMAC and Marsh had confirmed that Marsh would no longer be the head coach and CEO of the SwimMAC club, with Fritch assuming the head-coaching role.

But at that time, Marsh’s signature Team Elite squad remained under the SwimMAC umbrella, and the move was portrayed more as Marsh’s role at the club naturally evolving over time.

Now SwimMAC and Marsh are parting for good.

Team Elite remains alive and intact, with more than a dozen American and international swimmers living in Charlotte who have Olympic dreams and perhaps the talent to achieve them. That team is now solely under Marsh’s guidance and could theoretically be moved anywhere in the country, although for the foreseeable future it will continue to be based in Charlotte and train primarily at Queens.

SwimMAC, meanwhile, is implementing several strategic changes beyond its separation from Team Elite and Marsh. Another will be noticeable soon. Fritch said in an interview last week that the club’s UltraSwim meet – a mainstay in Charlotte for decades – would be retooled this year in hopes of becoming a strong addition to the pre-Olympic swim calendar in future years.

The UltraSwim will include far fewer world-class swimmers this year compared to the past several. Instead, the club is “going back to our roots,” Fritch said. For 2017, the meet will include more younger age-group and college-level swimmers, as opposed to pitting many of the best swimmers in the world against each other.

“This was more about a strategic change,” Fritch said of the UltraSwim. “The issue was that the time standards were set in such a manner it really limited opportunities for our younger swimmers. We want to get back to the basics.”