Just add water: swimming assistant coach Fred Michalik’s passion runs in family


Junior Gina Peruzzi, varsity assistant swimming coach Fred Michalik and freshman Olivia Peruzzi pose for a family photo in front of the pool.

By Emma Puglia, Web-Editor-in-Chief

A natural in the water, volunteer assistant varsity swimming coach Fred Michalik grew a passion for the sport when he was just 6 years old.

Michalik got his start at the Boys Club of Detroit in the 40s, only a couple blocks away from his childhood home. Since then, Michalik developed into both an all-state and all-American swimmer at Holy Redeemer High School, coached at Harper Woods High School, East Detroit Seals, Fitzgerald Swim Club, Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, Grosse Pointe South and now Grosse Pointe North. From U.S. swimming to club and high schools, Michalik has a vast coaching experience.

“I actually prefer schools than club swimming,” Michalik said. “It’s very hard to go ahead when a youngster has too many different coaches, it conflicts the youngster. Each coach coaches a little bit differently.”

North swim coach Mike O’Connor influenced Michalik’s decision to coach. The two worked together at the Detroit Parks and Recreation swim team and Fitzgerald Swim club before coaching the two Grosse Pointe rival schools. However, the duo would cooperate workout schedules, helping each other prepare for meets.

“Mike and I coached very much alike and that’s why we were always able to get along,” Michalik said. “Sometimes I would come over here and run a workout with him with my boys, and he would come over to South to run a workout with his boys. That’s how close we were.”

After having a daughter who followed in his footsteps, swimming became a family tradition for Michalik. Two of Michalik’s grandkids, junior Gina Peruzzi and freshman Olivia Peruzzi, swim on the varsity team at North.

“I love working with my grandpa. I’m so happy he’s coaching me this year because he’s actually my favorite coach and he’s been coaching me since I was like 6 or 7,” Gina said. “He motivates me so much, he personalizes the workouts to the team’s abilities. It’s really nice having him because of his large background.”

Despite early-morning workouts and late-night practices, Michalik’s family supports him throughout the coach’s rigorous training schedules.

“It’s quite intense. You have to love what you do and your wife has to be very understanding, which my wife is,” Michalik said. “She knows I love the sport, so she basically always helps. Does my wife know how to swim? No.”

To become a great swimmer, Michalik values three attributes in particular: dedication, attitude and cooperation.

“If a youngster is the same way, they’ll succeed in the sport. You have to have dedication and you have to be able to want to go ahead and do it,” Michalik said. “Swimming is a very tough sport. Like my grandson would tell me in Florida, as a baseball player he would ask me, ‘how did mom keep her head in the water all the time?’ Not everybody could do it.”

When he’s not surrounded by the smell of chlorine, the volunteer coach visits his grandchildren in Fort Lauderdale, remodels his house and fishes.

“I do try to fit in fishing as much as I can, but not as much as I used to when I was younger,” Michalik said. “Seems like now I have less time than I ever had before.”

However, there always seems to be time for the family’s conversations at Thanksgiving or Christmas to gravitate towards swimming.

“We talk about times, workouts, the new latest tricks, what they’re doing, swim teams, other people he coaches,” Gina said.  “We always talk about swimming.”