It’s no secret that Ann Arbor is a great city to live and work. A fantastic place to get an education, to be a sports fan – just an all-around pleasant place to find yourself for a day or a lifetime.
But what some people might not know is that Ann Arbor is also one of the most ideal spots in America to swim. Swim, you ask – in this climate? Sans ocean? With no warm weather for much of the year? Yep. USA Swimming put Ann Arbor on the top of its “50 Top Swim Cities” report in 2014 and 2015.
That honor comes as no surprise to Pete Loveland, who has been a swim coach for three decades.
“Swimming has a great history in Michigan,” he says. “And people like former University of Michigan coach Matt Mann plays into this.”
Loveland, 49, is head coach at Huron Valley Swim Club, where he’s instructed for 26 years, and has been assistant coach for the Saline High School girls and boys teams since 2011. He recalls his love affair with the water beginning in the late 1960s on the boardwalk of Ocean City, MD, his family’s regular vacation spot.
“We would body surf and ride the waves with air mattresses; we scared my mom often and may have been pulled in by the beach patrol a few times due to fearlessness in the water,” Loveland says, reflecting on one particular rescue incident that happened during a hurricane that churned up larger surf than he and his siblings could manage.
“Seeing the  movie ‘Jaws’ slowed us down for a bit, but then we got back at it, body surfing as often as possible.”
As a youth, Orchard Hills Athletic Club was his aquatic home; the Huron High School graduate studied at (and earned degrees and certifications from) The University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University before going on to help motivate youth of all ages to get the very most out of being on a team.
That takes, according to his HVSC colleague Maureen Isaac, a unique ability to foster and inspire young swimmers to make the most of their goals and their talents.
“Pete is completely engaged from day one,” Isaac says, of Loveland’s work with the HVSC youth, who range in age from three to 17 years. “He knows every kid’s name in the first week – and I mean all 350 of them. He is the only head coach I know that still gets in the water with the younger kids.”
Isaac is an HVSC swimming coach as well as the women’s and men’s swimming coach at Skyline High School and the Office Professional at Pioneer High School who holds Loveland in high regard.
“He connects with the kids by teaching life skills every day whether he knows it or not. He doesn’t preach winning. He cheers for the last heat as enthusiastically as he does for the first heat,” she says.
Loveland says that he aims to support the development of positive self-concept in and out of the water.
“Swimming can accomplish this with goal setting, applying themselves by working on improving techniques, team concept, reflection on preparation and performance, and resetting goals and work habits,” he says.
Two of Loveland’s former students, Olympians Betsey Armstrong and Alison Gregorka, have represented the USA in women’s water polo, and many of the athletes he’s had the opportunity to coach have continued to swim in college. He says he’s equally proud of them all.
“We have had almost 400 kids participating each summer for the past four summers and not all of them are pre-collegiate swimmers,” he says. “I want HVSC to be a place where kids of all abilities feel like they are contributing part of something important and think that has been achieved.”
Although the roster of Loveland’s mentors, instructors and colleagues who have influenced him over the years is too lengthy to list, he’s quick to give recognition where he feels it’s due.
“I wouldn’t stand in this position without the help and support of so many other people, he says, crediting his mother – who holds a master’s degree in Public Health and went on to become a professor and associate dean of nursing at the University of Michigan – as his biggest inspiration. “She is the main reason that I became a teacher and a coach.”
Loveland has ridden waves from coast to coast. Bar Harbor, ME, Provincetown, MA, Bethany Beach, DE, Venice Beach in CA, Ocean City, MD, as well the South Carolina waters of Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach and in Florida in Boca Raton, Siesta Key and Destin.
“Swimming with my friends and family made memories that will last forever,” he says. “I have had the opportunity to coach the children of many friends and teammates; to be able to maintain the relationships of up to 40 years is great.”