The Queer Utah Aquatic Club has seen close to 3,000 swimmers in its fifteen year history, who have participated in everything from beginning level classes to the group’s annual Ski-n-Swim, to the group’s water polo team, which took first place at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championship in 2008.
Chances are, Doug Fadel has worked with all of them.
In 1995 Utah’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-affirming sports group was just nine people strong, including wYllis Dorman-Li as team manager, Dave Ferguson as team captain and Fadel as head coach. While the earliest meetings were mostly swimming workouts, Fadel and the other co-founders dreamed of creating “an adult competitive swimming team” that could compete at the IGLA Championship each year — a competition that Fadel had attended both solo and as a member of Washington, D.C.’s team before QUAC’s founding.
While Fadel didn’t get into such competitive swimming until adulthood, the sport, he says, has been a part of his life ever since his kindergarten days in Bountiful, when his older siblings got him interested in aquatics.
“It was sort of a family thing,” he explained. “Swimming is a great sport. You have a lot of opportunity to think when you’re swimming, to process your thoughts, sort of like, I guess, long distance running would be. It’s a great way to wind down from work and the chaos of your schedule … a great way to exercise and a great way to push yourself.”
Such was Fadel’s love for the sport that he became a swimming coach at just 18 years old. By the time he signed on with QUAC, he had years of experience to impart to the team, which grew to a roster of 50 within a year. Each season since, QUAC has typically boasts 50–120 active members of sexual orientations, gender identities, skill levels and ages, from 18-year-old college students to senior citizens (QUAC, however, is open only to adults). In his 12 years in QUAC’s leadership, Fadel said he happily taught them all — seasoned swimmers and beginners alike.
Indeed, Fadel said that teaching the sport has been one of his long-time passions, as has teaching in general; in years past, he also taught English when he wasn’t poolside.
“I understand the mechanics of swimming well, and I think it’s rewarding to teach people things they haven’t tried before, and to have excitement they have when they accomplish a new goal, and do something they couldn’t do before,” he said.
Before stepping down from QUAC’s leadership council in 2006 due to work commitments at the law firm that now bears his name, Fadel also competed in a few IGLA Championships as part of the team. From 2004–2006 he was part of the group’s competitive water polo team, which took second place overall at Chicago’s Gay Games in 2006 and first in the IGLA Championship held in Paris the following year. Today, he only competes in open water swims, calling his interest in swimming these days “more of a participation than a competition thing.”
“It’s hard to travel and train for swimming meets when there are so many other things that are important that you need to do, like traveling for work and family,” he said. “Your schedule gets a bit busy to train and, and then to go for a long competition out of town is a little difficult.”
While his family, law practice, and the estate planning courses he teaches at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney Law School keep Fadel plenty occupied these days, he is still happy to swim with QUAC and serve as a volunteer coach.
“It’s a good opportunity to stay in the sport and stay active with QUAC without having to do all the administrative things,” he said. “It’s a way I can help out without having to be responsible for the whole team.”
“It’s a nice group of people and they remain very inclusive and have consistent practices that I think are always enjoyable for people,” he continued. “Something I’m amazed at is the sheer number of people that have gone thru the QUAC program because swimming is one of those sports where people go way and come back; they might be gone for a month or two or a couple years and they’ll return again.”