Dr. Andrew Schmutz has a passion for swimming. Even as a chiropractor, he has remained an intergal part of the sport.
The 40-year-old graduate of Boardman High School is part of a five-person medical team for USA Swimming at the FINA World Championships, held Sunday through Aug. 4 in Barcelona, Spain.
Schmutz swam for Boardman High School coach Terry O'Halloran.
"Being from Youngstown, Ohio, I think it's kind of unique to have somebody doing that," O'Halloran said.
Schmutz swam his first laps at the Boardman Swim & Tennis Club. That's where he first met O'Halloran.
"He, along with his assistants and my youth swimming instructors, really cultivated my love of swimming," Schmutz said.
O'Halloran said Schmutz was a good breaststroke swimmer on a solid medley relay team. Schmutz spent most of the 1990s earning his educuation in biology and in the chiropractic trade. He returned to the area in 1999 and is now at The Chiropractic & Sports Therapy Center in Struthers.
About six to seven years ago, Schmutz became part of USA Swimming's Sports Medicine & Science Committee.
"This multi-disciplined group is designed to help USA Swimming and athletes of all abilities," Schumtz said. "By multi-disciplined, I mean that we were made up of orthopedic surgeons, family practice docs, psychologists, chiropractors, physical therapists, massotherapists, etc. I joined the group just looking to be a resource to my local swimming committee."
Then, he took what he calls a network intership a year later.
"This culminated in me working with U.S. National team swimmers at a grand prix meet in Columbus about four years ago," Schumutz said. "I think I had 10 to 15 former Olympians there, so it was a great experience for me. Little did I know at the time, but this was essentially a working interview. I was evaluated by the athletes and staff members on not only my clinical ability, but also on other aspects. I assume teamwork, attitude and communication were a part, too. I was never told. Anyway, a few months after the meet, I was awarded a 'High Performance' award. This essentially put me into the travel medical staff pool, making me eligible to do additional national and international meets with the national team."
He's done other events, but none as big as the World Championships, with names like Olympic champions Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin representing the United States.
"Working with the athletes is a pleasure," Schmutz said. "They are great people. They are the type of people you would want to represent your country. No divas. No attitudes. Pretty down to earth. Very grateful.
"For me, the excitement comes when competition begins, and I put on my uniform with the USA flag on it, the Anthem fires up. I can't describe it - chills, goosebumps."
He found out about his invitation to go to the World Championships in March.
"I thought I was going to be asked to do a smaller meet, like another grand prix. I was shocked when I was invited to Worlds," Schmutz said.
He quickly told his wife, Sheri.
"I wasn't even considering going at first," Schmutz said. "It's a huge commitment - three weeks away from home, my family (two kids, ages 4 and 6) and my office/work. When I told her I was invited, but I didn't think I should do it, she said I was crazy. She told me I would regret it if i didn't go, especially with my eye on Rio (summer Olympics) in 2016. I'm lucky she's such a strong person. And I'm lucky to have a great support system around me."
Schmutz is not the first Boardman High School graduate to represent the Spartans with USA Swimming. Famed Boardman and Pennsylvania University swimmer Jackie Bak Yost (1988 Boardman graduate) was a USA Swimming Team Manager/Leader from 2002-06.
Despite working with the highest level of swimming, O'Halloran said Schmutz hasn't forgotten his roots. The 1991 Boardman High School graduate has given his time to the school's swim team.
"He represents the sport at the highest level," O'Halloran said. "Some doctors, nothing against the medical professions, you send them in with a swimming injury and they'll say rest it for two or three months. In swimming, that doesn't fly. If it's a shoulder injury, we keep them in the water kicking, they can do all sorts of dry-land stuff like stretch bands. Unless it's a serious injury, where there's a separation or requires some type of surgery, he actually tells these kids they need to keep swimming. He understands the nature of the sport and what it means to the kids, on top of that, he tailors that to the training in the water and gets them swimming again.
"He can respond on very short notice. If necessary, he's gone in after hours and opened up his office for us. If I tell him it's serious and we need to get it evaluated further, Andy, being a chiorpractor, is smart enough to know to refer somebody over to an orthopedic surgeon and get more detailed information. He won't treat somebody if he knows it warrants another medical opinion."
As for Schmutz, he'd like to make it to the Olympics one day.
"In the near future, I have no idea what's next," he said. "We are not usually notified too far in advance of what competitions we will be asked to work on. Long term, I would like to do an Olympics, and Rio is in a few years. Who knows?"