Veteran swimming official and coach honored
Veteran swimming official and coach Malcolm Cooper likes to spend most of his Saturdays volunteering with eyes fixed on the entire pool.
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“Don’t fish outside your pond” is an adage many swimming officials use to emphasize the point of focusing on one’s assigned zone of responsibility. But veteran swimming official and coach Malcolm Cooper likes to spend most of his Saturdays volunteering with eyes fixed on the entire pool.
The Pukalani resident has applied his skills and passion for math, physics and computer programming as an official at youth and Maui Interscholastic League swim meets, also lending his analytical eye to the annual high school state championships.
Cooper, 62, was recognized by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association for his “outstanding performance as a top active official” during a Hawaii Sports Officials Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony in September at Ala Moana Hotel.
“It’s always an honor and I really respect the recognition, but the reason we’re doing this is for the kids,” he said. “The swimming officials are the only ones in the MIL who aren’t paid. The league makes a small donation to our community age-group swimmers, so it’s a nice relationship, as some of these kids are able to continue swimming in their teenage years.”
Cooper was honored along with officials from other fields selected by HHSAA officials or sport coordinators as “the best at their sport.”
“In addition to honoring our Hall of Fame class, we want to salute our active officials, including Malcolm, who play such an important role officiating in the state championships,” said Thomas Yoshida, vice president of the Hawaii Sports Officials Hall of Fame. “These are the best at what they do.”
Cooper grew up in upstate New York and began swimming competitively at age 11. A sprint specialist, he was good enough to earn All-American honors in high school and at Harvard College. Cooper continued swimming competitively and coached after moving to Los Angeles, where he spent more than two decades as a software engineer working on an array of projects and as a lecturer at Griffith Observatory.
After relocating to Maui in 2000, he began officiating in addition to logging coaching stints at Seabury Hall and King Kekaulike High School, where he currently coaches. He also assists at the Maui Dolphins Swim Club (ages 5-18), Maui Masters Swim Club and Hawaii Aquatics Academy, which provides free learn-to-swim programs for second graders statewide.
“The idea is we provide 10 lessons over the course of five weeks, including classroom and pool sessions, that focus on the basics of swim safety so those that don’t yet know how to swim learn how to keep from drowning,” he said.
While engaged in his career as a computer programmer, Cooper remained interested in the technical setup and maintenance of touch-pad swimming timing systems that allow for accurate timekeeping as swimmers touch the pool wall to finish races. His database management skills led him to result-keeping duties for youth and MIL swimming, a role he has maintained since 2002.
His responsibilities before, during and after a typical swim competition include using a software program to seed swimmers in lanes to determine heats, setting up equipment including touch-pads and backup timing buttons, connecting the timers to a computer and scoreboard, and imputing and updating results throughout the meet. When the meet is finished, Cooper and other volunteers upload the results so they can be viewed by coaches, participants and supporters.
Cooper said his responsibilities include “coordinating what the coaches and the league want to do with timing and results and assisting the media with athletes-of-the-year selections, so we came up with ways to quantify those selections numerically.
“It takes a number of officials to make all of this possible, and a lot of volunteers from our age-group program make it happen,” said Cooper, who is always on the lookout for prospective officials.
“We’re always looking for new people to train, and I’ve been doing this so long that I can bring people up to speed. And I’ll be around doing this for a few more years, at least.”