He jumps to set a volleyball in the North Gym while wearing a neon pink windbreaker and black running shorts. Only now, he’s a teacher instead of a student. Eldin Onsgard comes back to where he was 44 years ago.
Onsgard works part-time as the volleyball instructor at Pierce College, which he attended from 1970-1972.
As a student, he was involved in swimming, volleyball, springboard diving, water polo, cheerleading, dance, theater and music.
As a teacher, he has coached men’s swimming, diving and water polo. He was also inducted into the Pierce College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.
Onsgard is a full-time kinesiology teacher at East Los Angeles College, but teaches volleyball Monday nights at Pierce.
“It actually costs me money to teach here, because to come over for one night means I can’t teach two classes at East [L.A. College], which means I’m losing a class to pick up this one,” Onsgard said.
Onsgard has applied for a full-time position at Pierce multiple times throughout the years, but never received an interview, which he says is “heartbreaking.”
“Pierce is my origin, and I think about that all the time,” Onsgard said. “It would’ve been nice if I ended my career here, but it doesn’t look like I will, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support the place.”
Besides teaching, Onsgard is still an active participator in various sports and activities. This past year, he competed in the USLA National Lifeguard Championships.
He entered all nine events and placed first in his age category for each one. Some of the events he competed in were the surf boat race, the American and national ironman, and the run-swim-run event.
“I’ve been doing this a pretty long time and I think I have a leg up over my competition because I love to train,” Onsgard said. “I trained hard this year. Some of the things I do for strength are rowing, surfing, ski, paddle boarding. I thrive on it. I get into a rhythm and into a piece of mind. I’ve been blessed to be able to do as long as I have.”
Tom Ouimet, assistant coach for the volleyball class, thinks Eldin is a strong role model for students and faculty.
“The fact that he is out here still doing this stuff is just remarkable,” Ouimet said. “Eldin is amazing. He’s still doing the races, he’s winning. He’s still a lifeguard at Santa Monica. He comes here [to Pierce]. He’s at East [L.A. College] teaching 700 hours a day and then he still goes fishing.”
Onsgard said he is grateful to have attended Pierce when he did, because the school was at its peak in both the athletic department and community involvement.
According to Onsgard, the kinesiology teachers were versatile and would teach various classes from yoga to skiing, back when the school had a ski ramp.
The vision of schools being multi-faceted and engaged with the public is one he aims to replicate in today’s kinesiology department, both at Pierce and East Los Angeles.
Mike Mirijanian, a student in Onsgard’s volleyball class, thinks his teaching style is appreciated by many.
“He doesn’t get upset and he’s got a lot of patience,” Mirijanian said. “I’ve done varsity sports a long time ago and I think he’s good.”
Onsgard is going to take a sabbatical next fall, traveling to Australia, New Zealand and parts of Asia.
His objective is to compare these countries’ fitness facilities and curriculum to those of the United States and see what he can bring back and implement to help develop his teaching style.
Onsgard hopes that Pierce will once again begin offering athletic opportunities such as men’s water polo, track and cross country.
Some of his favorite Pierce memories revolve around the ski club, which he was the faculty adviser. According to Onsgard, the club had approximately 750 members.
“[CSU] Nothridge and UCLA used to call us and go, ‘Can we go on your trips?’” Onsgard said. “We used to go to Aspen, Salt Lake City, Mammoth. There were so many young college kids having fun, and I really believe in that. Life can be too stressful. We have to make time for the fun things in life.”