Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
Mercy High School has found a most capable and qualified individual to take charge of its enormously successful swimming and diving program.
Mike Venos, who has had parallel results in his 17 years with the Brother Rice boys, will coach the Mercy girls, too.
He replaces Shannon Dunworth, who resigned recently after 12 seasons with the Marlins to take a non-coaching job in Texas.
“I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am with this new opportunity,” Venos said. “This is a program that is rich in tradition. These young ladies know how to work and understand how to compete, and they walk around with the pride of a Mercy girl.”
The Venos family is very familiar with Mercy. Venos’ mother, aunt, wife, sister-in-law and daughter are graduates of the school.
As was the case when Dunworth replaced Jim Downs in 2004, Venos had a lot of phone calls from past and present Mercy parents and swimmers, asking him to put his name into consideration for the position.
“The support I have received from people I know and a few I don’t has been completely overwhelming,” he said. “If I hadn’t applied, I don’t think the women in my family would have ever spoken to me again.”
Venos’ wife, Angela, is a former Mercy diver, and their daughter, Kelsey, is a former Mercy swimmer who was a member of the first four teams coached by Dunworth.
“I’ve known Shannon for a very long time, and I have witnessed what his approach can do for these young ladies,” Venos said. “My daughter is a confident, successful young lady due in large part to what she gained from Mercy swimming. I look forward to continuing what Shannon has built upon with the Mercy legacy.”
Coaching a girls team is nothing new for Venos, who did that at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep the past three years.
“Philosophically, my approach is the same with the girls, although physiologically I may tailor my workouts a little differently,” Venos said. “I have the same high expectations in and out of the pool for all the teams I coach.”
Venos, who will be 52 next month, also has coached the Beachwood Recreation Association’s summer club team for 34 years. There are 288 kids in the program, ranging in age from 4 to 18.
“I love it,” he said. “Teaching these little kids how to enjoy the competitive sport of swimming is the reason I have been coaching all these years.”
Venos has been a high school coach for 31 years, starting at his alma mater, Grand Blanc, in the 1980s and including stops at Bloomfield Hills Andover and Ferndale.
He has been at Brother Rice for 18 seasons — the last 17 as head coach. During that time, the Warriors have won the Catholic League championship every year and four Division 1 state titles.
Brother Rice has compiled a dual-meet record of 144-22-1 under Venos, who has coached more than 100 all-state swimmers, including 10 individual and 11 relay state champions.
Venos, who teaches theology at Brother Rice and is the father of four, was named Coach of the Year in 2013 by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
He takes over a Mercy program that has won six state titles in the last 12 years. The Marlins will return a lot of talented individuals from a team that finished third in the Division 1 state meet behind Ann Arbor Skyline and Saline.
“Our goal is the same year in and year out, no matter what kind of talent we may have,” Venos said. “We want to focus on the things we can control, and that means just trying to swim and dive as well as we can.
“If we go into the state meet focused on that, we will be very successful. It’s never been about winning; it’s about being the best.”
Interestingly, swimming was not the original sport of choice for Venos, who was a baseball player in his early teens.
“My dad told me, in the winter of my freshman year, I was not going to sit on the couch waiting for baseball to begin,” he said. “I was cut from the basketball team and, with no swimming experience at all, joined the varsity team at Grand Blanc.”
Venos began his coaching career a year after he left high school with the summer club team at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, site of the former Buick Open golf tournament.