In Memory

Julian Szmidt VIEW PROFILE

From The Napa Valley Register

Julian Szmidt, Vintage High School’s girls water polo coach and the executive director of Napa Valley Water Polo, died late Monday night of a heart attack at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa. Szmidt was 60.

Szmidt’s background in swimming and water polo dates back over the last 42 years. Under Szmidt’s direction, Vintage has made CIF Sac-Joaquin Section tournament appearances since 2001.

He was also an assistant swim coach at Vintage and was a prominent, respected member of the athletic department.

He began coaching swimming in June of 1969 after graduating from Napa High. He redshirted the 1972 season at UC Davis and coached swimming during the spring of ’73. He decided not to return for a fifth year due to knee problems that showed up during training at Davis.

Szmidt began coaching water polo in Napa in 1975, when he convinced the Napa Swim Club that playing water polo in the fall made sense as an alternative to practicing swimming for the entire seven-month short course season.

The league played for the ’75 and ’76 fall seasons until Szmidt left to coach swimming in Livermore in June of 1977 for the Livermore Aqua-Cowboys. He also coached at Granada High-Livermore.

Szmidt returned to Napa in 1981 and began teaching water polo at Napa Valley College and continued to do that on several different occasions.

He returned to coaching water polo in 1996 when he was asked to start a water polo team at Vintage High. Szmidt started Napa Valley Water Polo with Dean Wagner, the Vintage boys coach, in the winter of 1999-2000.

Szmidt was named head coach of the Central California Youth Girls All-Star team for national competitions from 2004-2008.

“He cut quite a figure on our campus and was definitely someone who everyone knew, every student knew,” said Craig Lewis, Vintage’s principal. “He was a powerful figure and a powerful voice on our campus. I really think if there’s one word that I could use to describe Julian, it would be perseverance. I think that this is something that he taught his students, something that he taught his athletes, was that single quality — perseverance, that you stay after it, that there’s a doggedness in the pursuit of excellence.”

Water polo players and staff were informed early Monday about Szmidt’s passing. Players were “devastated, heartbroken,” upon hearing the news, said Lewis.

A team meeting, involving both water polo and swim coaches, is planned for this afternoon at the Vintage Aquatic Center. Cam Neal is expecting the Crushers — who tied for the Monticello Empire League title — to play on Friday against Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Division I playoffs at Johansen-Modesto at 1 p.m.

“We’re going to work with the girls,” said Neal. “I’m hoping that they can rally and decide as a team to play in Julian’s honor for Friday’s playoff game.”

Based on a coin flip, Vintage is the MEL’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs, which has a 16-team field.

The tournament continues on Nov. 9 and 11 at Tokay-Lodi and the championship game is Nov. 12 at Woodcreek-Roseville.

Support areas were provided in the library and the college and career center for students if they needed it, said Lewis. The staff at Vintage, meeting in the little theater at lunchtime Tuesday, was informed of what support was available.

“Next to the water polo team, it’s probably our staff that’s been most hard-hit, most devastated by this news,” said Lewis.“We’ll pull together and provide all the support we can for the water polo girls.”

Szmidt was a founder of the Monticello Aquatic Club Seals Swim Team, which includes Napa Valley Water Polo, a competitive team that is sanctioned by United States Water Polo.

“He stood for hard work, dedication, loyalty and a fierce intensity for competition,” said Neal.

Szmidt was the Napa Valley Water Polo coach, which has played in regional tournaments and the Junior Olympics over the years.

“The amount of knowledge that the man had, of swimming, of technique, of the whole sport, was just amazing,” said Liza Saunders, Vintage’s head swimming coach. “The people in the area that he knew was just amazing. He was respected by many.

“I will remember him as a man that demanded a lot, but he loved the sport and loved the kids. He demanded that the kids always work hard for what they got and he was there right beside them, putting 120 percent in also. The kids gave their all for him. They understood that he was a tough coach, but he was a fair coach.”

Szmidt joined Saunders’ staff for swimming in 2006. Besides water polo, Szmidt was an experienced swim coach.

He was a coach for the Napa Swim Club and was a past president for Wine Country Aquatics and the Napa Valley Swim Team.

“He worked hard,” said Saunders, adding that she and Szmidt started out swimming as youths with the Vichy Springs Seahawks, a club team.

“He’s always coached swimming. His love was water polo,” said Saunders.

Szmidt was the owner of Adam Szmidt TV for 10 years, but for most of his professional life he was a teacher and coach.

“He was a very dedicated person when it came to local aquatic sports,” said Szmidt’s brother, Andy Szmidt.

Szmidt taught AP government and government classes at Vintage and began the session by reading a quotation each day.

“I think that’s something that his students would recognize and remember,” said Lewis. “He liked to start the class with a quotation to set the tone. He was known for that.

“He really was larger than life in a lot of these kids’ lives. He was a powerful classroom teacher, I think a very good classroom teacher. He did an excellent job in terms of supporting his students and doing everything that he could to make sure that the students were going to be successful. He demanded that the students do their part. But he was going to support them if they did their part.”

Szmidt is survived by two sons, Leszek Szmidt and Alexander Szmidt, and a daughter, Heather Szmidt; his brothers, Leszek Szmidt and Andy Szmidt; his mother, Judith Szmidt; and a grandson, Zander Szmidt.

A memorial service for Szmidt will be on Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Vintage High pool.

People have been sharing their memories of Szmidt on Facebook at

Heather Szmidt posted this comment on her father’s Facebook page:

“To all of the people who were blessed enough to know Julian, thank you for all of the kind words of love and support we have received and continue to receive in response to his untimely passing. As all of you know he loved his family, his students and his athletes dearly and loved being a part of all of your lives.” 

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12/14/11 11:23 AM #1    

Loral M. Moore

Remembering you on your birthday 12-14-11, our dear Julian.  Loral


05/27/12 02:21 PM #2    

Mary L. Gatica

I remember Julian as a kind,funny  wink ,  great smile cheeky & his laughter  cool as well as a loving heart & soul ...he was

love by everyone  @ Napa High Class of 1969...RIP JULIAN...

09/05/13 11:18 AM #3    

Jan D. Ovando (Dalluge)

Dear Julian, what fun we all had at the many swim meets and goofing around with Craig Wooster, John Ihorn, Mike McBeth, Steve McConnel, and so many others........It's taken awhile for me to be able to sit and write these few words to you.  Your big personality will most definitely be missed greatly by all.  To your family, my heart goes out to you.  What a loss for Vintage High, all the students, the family, friends present and past.......RIP dear friend 

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