The University of Michigan has landed on another hire for their rebuilt 2023 staff, and they didn’t have to look far to find him.
Program alumnus Gunnar Schmidt, who has been the head coach of the Canham Natatorium-based Club Wolverine since 2016, will take the role, while experienced club head coach Jim Whitehead, who recently joined Club Wolverine, will lead that program going forward.
Schmidt is expected to stay on with Club Wolverine through the end of the summer season before fully transitioning to the university staff.
As an athlete, Gunnar competed for the University of Michigan Men’s Varsity Swim Team. At Michigan, he won multiple Big Ten Championships and National Championships competing with Club Wolverine in the summer months. Gunnar transitioned from athlete to coach in 2009 in the Chicago area with Big Blue Swim School. He later moved back to Ann Arbor and began coaching Club Wolverine, Club Wolverine Elite, and worked with the University of Michigan Swimming and Diving team as a program assistant and later volunteer coach.
During his time as Head Coach/Executive Director, Club Wolverine has developed Michigan State Champions, Sectional Champions, Futures Champions, and qualified athletes for Junior Nationals, and US Nationals. Under Gunnar’s leadership, Club Wolverine qualified 5 swimmers for the 2021 US Olympic Trials and has placed two swimmers on the US National Junior Team. Gunnar was awarded 2018 NCSA Coach of the Year, 2020 Michigan Coach of the Year, and assistant coach to the 2022 USA Swimming National Junior Team (Mel Zajac Team).
Michigan’s new head coach Matt Bowe, who was hired away from the defending NCAA Champions Cal, has now chosen at least three of his assistants for next season, all men: Bryon Tansel and Aaron Bell are leaving Louisville to join the staff.
Schmidt’s hire will inject a little more maize and blue blood into the lanes at Canham. The rest of the staff all have ties to Michigan rivals: Bowe and Tansel were previously on staff at Ohio State, while Bell was previously on staff at Notre Dame.
Backfilling at Club Wolverine
The timing is fortuitous for Jim Whitehead, the former co-head coach of Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics in the western part of the state who recently joined the Club Wolverine staff.
He and Schmidt are among the few coaches in the state to have qualified multiple swimmers for the USA Swimming Junior National Team.
Among MLA’s best-known recent alumni are brothers Derek Maas and Kyle Maas. Derek Maas, who just finished his senior season at Alabama, was 7th at the 2023 NCAA Championships in the 100 breaststroke. Kathryn Ackerman, a 2023 NCAA Championship qualifier for Michigan, also did her club training with MLA.
Whitehead and MLA also provided a home for Devon Nowicki after he forewent his college eligibility and turned pro in 2019, and Pac-12 Champion Cameron Craig in a comeback attempt.
White was previously co-head coaches at MLA with Ian Townsend.
Club Wolverine, which trains primarily out of the Canham Natatorium at the University of Michigan and the Mike Jones Aquatic Center at Eastern Michigan University, has a long list of notable alumni who have swum in college and beyond. Much of the team’s history is connected to the college and pro groups that have represented the team, the club team has produced a number of well-known swimmers as well. That includes Olympic gold medalists Kara Lynn Joyce and Allison Schmitt, multiple-event Junior National Champion Sierra Schmidt, and Junior Pan Pacs teamer Cameron Craig (who later trained with Whitehead at MLA).
Among current Club Wolverine swimmers is University of Michigan commit Hannah Bellard, who was 3rd at Winter Junior Championships – East in the 200 fly. Bellard was also recently named to USA Swimming’s World Junior Championships roster.
Club Wolverine won the recent Michigan 14 & Under age group championship meet, while MLA was 3rd.