He’s the longest-tenured coach at UVA, with 35 years under his belt. His men's and women’s swim teams have captured a combined 27 ACC titles, and his swimmers have taken various NCAA titles, Olympic medals, and have even broken world records. With both the men’s and women’s teams winning ACC Championships this season, he set the record for most career ACC swimming and diving championships. What’s Mark Bernardino's secret to success?
He’ll say it’s everyone else.
“It’s the hard work and devotion of the swimmers, the athletes willing to make sacrifices to achieve the highest levels of the sport,” Bernardino (Com ’74, Educ ’78) says. “It’s the dedication of the assistant coaches instilling our philosophy that hard work pays off.”
Bernardino began swimming when he was nine or 10, in a summer league at a local community pool outside of Philadelphia.
“It was just one of a handful of sports I played as a kid,” he says. “I did pretty well, but there was no special emphasis on it.”
But as an undergraduate at UVA in the early 1970s, Bernardino made it to the NCAA Championships three times and qualified for the Olympic trials in 1972.
Despite his successful career in the pool, Bernardino says it was not something he encouraged with any of his four children.
“Only one has been a swimmer, and that was their second sport,” he says. “I want them to choose their own paths in life, to do the things they want to do. That’s what makes you happy.”