May 29

The Power of Sports Transforms Lives and Uplifts Communities

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Over the years, people and professional colleagues have shown envy when I’ve received numerous awards such as the University of Calgary Teaching Excellence Awards, the prestigious 3M National Award for outstanding teaching at Canadian universities, and other various national and international awards for coaching excellence. During my struggles with chronic lymphatic cancer, which began in 1989 when the diagnosis gave me five days to live, and in 2011 when the cancer returned after stabilization, I was pretty much without collegial support. Difficult to fathom when one is/was one of the most decorated teachers in the faculty! My tenacity as an elite athlete, which developed over years, drove me to ‘never give up’, and made me ‘soldier on’ through life’s dark episodes. This is the ‘other side’ of Coach Monika Schloder that has pushed me to success time and again, and, despite existing biases and gossip, I’m going to shed some light on “who she really is”.

The Power of Sports Transforms Lives and Uplifts Communities

My personal experience of harnessing the power of sports is quite a story! It appeared in the University of Calgary ‘Gauntlet’ Student Newspaper (See below), and was filmed as a Documentary by a Calgary Film Freelancer.

It actually started way back in 1971 as a new TA (Teaching Assistant) at ASU (Arizona State University). I was earning my way through the MSc and PhD programs (Physical Education and Education/Curriculum Design) by teaching physical activity classes and serving as the Varsity Coach for both Artistic Gymnastics and Athletics (Track & Field) in different varsity seasons.

I was also hired as the Aquatics Pro at the new Tempe Racquet & Swim Club and held this full-time position from 1971-1975.  During this time, I introduced the first ‘drown-proofing’ classes for Toddlers in the Phoenix area, taught beginner, intermediate, and advanced swim classes, and started a Swim Team.

After recruitment by the University of Calgary in 1975, I moved to Canada to teach classes and serve as Varsity Coach in Artistic Gymnastics. When this sport was eliminated due to budgeting in 1981, I was assigned to Swimming as the Assistant Varsity Coach, holding the position until 1987. Heavy academic course assignments prevented me from continuing to coach, however, I returned to the Club every summer from 1976-1991 as I was continuing the PhD program at ASU and completing the dissertation.

For my birthday in 1990, a close friend and coaching associate arranged an extraordinary birthday present, namely an experience with a psychic reader. Yes, I know what you are thinking! I felt the same way but went along with the experiment. She told me to be quiet and not speak as my German accent might give me away. I wore a black sweater, black pants, no watch or jewelry.

His projection was this: He saw an eagle, along with colors of black, red, and gold, a big desert, water, and people of color. I was a mentor and teacher! He then focused on my friend, stating that I had served as a master teacher/mentor, teaching her many things.

Here is the explanation: The three colors and the eagle represent the German flag under which I competed! The desert, water, and mentorship became real as I was selected in 1991 as the “Master Coach in Residence” for the Amateur Athletic Foundation (AAF), Legacy of the 1984 Games, (now renamed LA84 Foundation). My friend was my student in kinesiology, and I trained her as a gymnastics coach and mentor. The psychic could have never known these facts!

Now the details: I had developed a model for Minority Coach Education in the late 1990s, and being ahead of my time (as usual), I was disappointed because nobody in Canada seemed to be interested; so, the project collected dust on my desk. My younger son, Eric, who was a volunteer coach in Volleyball for the AAF and also played successfully on the World Beach Volleyball circuit from 1989-1996, mentioned my work to the AAF Program Director, stating that the foundation should start a Minority Education program. I got a call to give a presentation at the AAF Board meeting for February 1991. Board members included some big US sport personalities: AAF Director Anita deFranz, American Olympic Athlete (rowing), member of the International Olympic Committee, and former Vice-President of FISA; BB great Magic Johnson; Rafer Johnson, gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympics. I had titled my presentation: “PROJECT STARLITE.” Education through Sport: A Tool for Social Change for the Betterment of Society.

Each letter of “Starlite” represents a concept:










Change and Restructure



Via Restructure









Giving shape and meaning to yourself and through yourself to others


I argued that black leadership from professional athletes was lacking support in the education of young inner city adolescents. Laker BB star Magic Johnson seemed to prove my point by his absence at my presentation; 2 hours after which, he announced his diagnosis with HIV and his life of sexual excess. If ever there was a right moment for my project proposal, it was then!

As the AAF Master Coach in Residence, I was given the mandate to design and develop the curriculum for both swimming and soccer by end of May 1991. I also wrote the manuals for both sports and co-authored “Coaching Athletes: A Foundation for Success” later on. The recruitment for the Minority Coach Education and Leadership was conducted in the LA inner city and the Watts area. We recruited both black and Latino minority youth, many of whom were or had been affiliated with gangs.

The 4-week courses, 5 days per week were spent with morning classroom sessions and practical on-site training in the afternoons with minority children of a nearby elementary school. We created a 4000-member swim league that still hosts competitions to date.

Practical soccer sessions consisted of coaches-in-training teaching each other in a small group, and afterward undergoing evaluation for lesson planning, teaching, and communication skills. They were also prepared for the USA Beginner Soccer F License, all of whom passed and are now teaching/coaching in their respective communities to date.

The AAF model had a tremendous impact as we graduated 217 Minority coaches. Most were school dropouts at ages 12-13 and had joined or peddled drugs as ‘runners.’ All the AAF graduated coaches went back to complete their high school diploma through the alternative GED program. One of our coaches proceeded to enroll in a community college and graduated with a Masters in criminology.

The AAF project included the design and development of the 12-week physical literacy activity and nutrition education program for inner city schools, KISFit (Kids in Sport Fit). The program was later adopted by the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii, KIKIFit, for the education of indigenous children.

When asked what I value most in my career as an elite athlete or coach, I have to admit that it is not the success in those personal areas, but rather the reward of having made the difference in the lives of youth, who most likely would have ended up getting killed or doing long-term jail sentences. So, I proudly accepted the 3M Award “Making a Difference – Toute la difference.”


By Ali McAndrews

The Gauntlet/University of Calgary, sport reporter

Posted January 24, 2002

There are not very many white women who would have the courage to walk into the backyard of gang territory. However, Monika Schloder is no ordinary woman. A swim coach by trade, a humanitarian in spirit, Schloder once risked her life and limb in an L.A. ghetto.

“I was teaching in the pool, and a black gang pulled off a Latino lifeguard and just beat him to pulp,” she recalled. “We were all on our stomachs, and shots were flying every which way.”

Okay, so what was she doing there in the first place? She says it’s just one of her many projects. For the past 10 years, Schloder has run a summer program to get kids out of trouble and into sports. In that time she trained 217 swim and soccer coaches, who have, in turn, trained other coaches. All of the original 217 are ex-gang members who, through this program, have turned their lives around. She’s had some major successes and some major disappointments, as well as her share of life-threatening situations.

Given these credentials, Schloder is also a full-time faculty member at the University of Calgary in the Department of Kinesiology. Currently in the fifth year of a 10-year study involving her own coaching philosophies, she focuses more on technique and efficiency than yardage. She also stresses the importance of an active, supportive coaching network for every swimmer. The overall goal of her theory is to produce well-rounded athletes that will not succumb to premature burnout. Throughout other parts of the world, Schloder is recognized for the five books she published on coaching methods and techniques in swimming. An elite level coach, Schloder has also sent athletes to the Olympics in swimming, track, and gymnastics.

However, no one could say it has been an easy road. Almost every moment has been a challenge for the 40-year veteran. As far as coaching goes, swimming is a predominantly male sport, and the popular philosophy is to be tough and not worry too much about technique. Schloder challenged a lot of traditional beliefs in swimming with her theories. She has been continuously questioned and been called crazy for her new ideas of producing athletes instead of swimmers.

Schloder admits the disrespect shown to her by the rest of the swimming community does hurt. Always overlooked, experts are actually flown in from Europe to teach Schloder’s theories. And in a country that constantly complains that not enough money is given to sports it seems that much of the problem is the distribution of funds.

“People here are always complaining, it’s the money, it’s the money, but we don’t even use the resources we have,” said Schloder. “If we used the money we had more wisely, it could be distributed more easily.”

It is for all these reasons that Schloder has taken a step back from elite level training to focus on the developmental part of the sport. With all the prestige at the top, why would someone do such a thing?

“You are only as strong as your base,” she said of Canada’s underachieving developmental program. “That backfired for Canada big time in the 2000 Olympics. We saw the results of that.”

According to Schloder, nothing is put into the developmental program in Canada, and there needs to be a more systematic approach to the developmental level. Swimmers throughout Canada should have similar training programs, as well as some experienced coaching staff.

“Having more females in the coaching positions is needed,” said Schloder. “With the proper guidance, they can do great things with these young kids.”

Many groups talk about the need for more women in strong positions in sports, but do nothing to make it happen.

“If you want something to change you have to do it yourself,” she said. “But the money is not there.”

Schloder has trained between 17,000 and 18,000 coaches in Canada, and has received little recognition for it (I have trained over 24, 000 coaches to date in Canada, USA, Europe, and South America). What she would like is a scholarship fund set up to support women in coaching.

“I do this to see the fruits of my labour,” she said. “I do it to know what I’m doing works, despite everything else.”

As an athlete, she promised herself she would make a difference. If you talk to the kids in the ghettos of L.A. or the coaches and athletes she mentored, or even students in her classes, they would probably say she has. She has overcome almost every form of adversity. Monika Schloder is a woman of vision who is not afraid to fight for her beliefs. 

A group picture with Coach Monika and coaches in training

Coach Monika and her coaches-in-training













Children in a field practicing soccer

Soccer practice session













Children in a pool practicing swimming

Swim practice session

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