by Allison Moore
photography by Chris Heinrich
It is Sunday afternoon, and the Zwisslers have just finished playing a heated game of soccer in one of the many teams in which they compete. Despite their busy schedules, every member of the family is now home. They are not sitting around a campfire singing “Kumbya,” but they are taking time to embrace one another as a family. “Everyone is expected to be home on Sunday,” says Wendy Zwissler.
Sunday’s schedule consists of a soccer game in the morning, followed by a day spent at home running errands and doing laundry. The day is completed with a nice home cooked meal that the family enjoys together.
The five members of the Zwissler family, Jim, the father, Wendy, the mother, and twins Jenny and Jacqui, 24, and Katie, 19, have always established themselves as a unified group. In spite of all of it
s activities and responsibilities, the family has found a way to stick together. “My family comes first in everything to me,” says Katie, a ULV student.
This bond has established its unity tradition even before Wendy and Jim moved to Claremont in 1978. In their home town of Illinois, Wendy’s family had tight relationships and made a point to connect over dinner. “I’m still very close to my family. I call my mom about two times a week,” says Wendy.
The Zwissler’s are bound to one another through spending a great deal of time together — usually on the soccer field. Jenny discovered soccer when she was 4 years old, while Jacqui maintained an interest in coloring, sitting on the sidelines and watching. By the time Jacqui was 5, she decided to join Jenny. As soon as the girls started playing, Wendy and Jim began to coach. When Katie joined the game at 5, the whole family had something in common.
Jim and Wendy fostered this family interest in sports. “It was a conscious decision for us to spend a lot of time together,” says Jim. The couple would often play tennis and bring Jacqui and Jenny along in their strollers. Jim, an engineer for Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is also a referee for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). Fishing is his passion; he admits that he watches the fishing channel to gain skill tips. “In a family of five, we have about 500 fishing poles,” jokes Wendy.
In addition to the family playing soccer together, they also take annual vacations together. Some of their other favorite vacations are spending time on a house boat, going camping, fishing and snow skiing.
Wendy has always been athletically inclined. Softball, basketball and tennis are some of her favorite sports. When the girls started playing soccer, Wendy attended clinics and started mastering the sport’s fundamentals and techniques.
While attending Mt. San Antonio College in her mid-30s, she earned M.V.P. honors for her soccer skills. Since then, Wendy has dedicated her career to coaching soccer. During the time that she coached AYSO, Jenny, Jacqui and Katie were all coached by their mother. “She has always been very hard on us. She expects more out of us because she knows that we are capable of being better,” says Jenny.
When Jenny and Jacqui entered the fifth grade, they left AYSO and started playing for a club team, The Claremont Stars, which Jim and Wendy established and coached. Throughout their high school years, Jim took over coaching the Claremont Stars, while Wendy coached the Claremont High School team. In addition to coaching at Claremont, Wendy also coached Katie’s AYSO team until she was in the fifth grade. When Katie started playing for The Claremont Stars, her mother, too, was the coach.
For Jim, coaching his daughters was “exceptionally satisfying.” He says it gives the family a chance to participate in an activity that promotes teamwork, enhances social skills and promotes mental health.
In 1992, Wendy branched off into another sport and started coaching the women’s tennis team at the University of La Verne. The following year, she coached the women’s soccer team. By the time that Jenny and Jacqui graduated from high school, Wendy was the head women’s soccer coach at ULV.
The Zwisslers began a tradition at ULV. During Jacqui and Jenny’s senior year at Claremont High School, they had to decide where they would attend college. Wendy encouraged Jenny to consider ULV as one of her options because of the small class sizes and the close relationships that students were able to develop with the professors.
Soon after Jenny made her decision to attend ULV, Jacqui decided that ULV was the place for her, too. Jacqui felt that ULV was the most logical choice for her at the time. “I knew going to ULV would help my parents financially because we would get tuition remission,” says Jacqui.
ULV’s incoming class of 1994 brought with it eight new women’s soccer recruits who formed close friendships with one another. Jacqui and Jenny were among those eight.
When Wendy began coaching the women’s team in 1992, she dramatically improved the team’s record by coaching the members to their first victory after four winless years. Prior to the time, the team had the top loosing record in the history of Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) soccer. By 1993, the team had reversed that trend, gaining a record of 10-7 in conference and earning respect on campus and in league.
By the time that the eight women who started in 1994 finished their senior year, they had racked up several SCIAC awards and honors. Jacqui, a left fielder, received honors as second team SCIAC and second team All West All Stars during her freshman year, plus first team SCIAC her following three years. She also received first team All West All Stars and player of the year SCIAC for her superior performance during her senior year. Jacqui ended her career at ULV with a combined total of 51 goals and 45 assists.
Jenny, a center midfielder, was awarded second team SCIAC her freshman year. She also received first team SCIAC her following three years and All West All Star her junior year. Jenny finished her career at ULV with a combined total of 40 goals and 32 assists. Jenny was the captain of the team all four years that she played.”The class that Jenny and Jacqui came in with built the history of the team,” says Wendy.
The success of the team and the developing close relationships made it so Jacqui and Jenny found a home at ULV. For Wendy, coaching her daughters was ideal. As their childhood coach, their was no adjustment period, although problems did arise every once in a while. “Jenny and I have very similar qualities, so usually once a year we would get into it,” recalls Wendy. “Jenny is very feisty. She is the outspoken one of all of us,” says Jacqui.
On and off the field, the Zwissler’s stick together. If there was ever a problem on the field, one of them would take care of it for each other. “Jenny would always stick up for me during games. If somebody was being mean, she would come and take care of it for me,” says Jacqui. Jenny and Jacqui socialized with the same group of people. “They are like best friends, but neither one of them will admit that,” says Wendy. As freshmen, Jenny and Jacqui shared a dorm room in the Oaks. The following year, they had different dorm roommates but lived next door to each other. During their junior year, they lived in a local apartment complex with a friend. “Jenny and Jacqui are like best friends, but they would never admit that,” says Wendy.
When problems occurred off the field, they helped each other. The whole family had a say in what went on in each other’s lives. The companionship that the girls developed with their parents, through their coaching, allowed a strong bond to form that has yet to be rivaled by any outside force.
In spring 1997, Katie was looking forward to graduating from Claremont High School and searching for a place to go to college. “We wanted Katie to go to other places, since we never got the chance to,” says Jacqui. Despite the family’s effort, Katie decided to join her mother at ULV, replacing her sisters, who were graduating the following year. “I think she always wanted to come to ULV. Of all the girls, Katie was the least likely to go away to college,” says Wendy. “I like La Verne because it is close to home,” says Katie. Currently, Katie is in her second semester of her sophomore year working on her diversified major; she would like to teach first through third grade.
Similar to Jacqui and Jenny’s incoming class, Katie’s class had several new recruits. The year that Katie started playing was a rebuilding year for the women’s team. The team had several incoming freshmen who held starting positions. In 1997, the team’s record was 15-4; in 1998 the record was 13-6. During Katie’s freshman year, she displayed such impressive skills that she was awarded “All Far West All Stars.”
After graduating from ULV in 1997, Jenny and Jacqui are pursuing teaching careers. Jacqui, after receiving her B.A. in psychology, is currently substitute teaching for the Chaffey School District and working as an intern counselor at the Ontario Montclair School District while finishing her credential at ULV. After receiving her diversified degree, Jenny is teaching fifth grade at Sumner Elementary School in Claremont, while finishing her credential at ULV.
The Zwisslers represent a family that has found a way to bring itself together with common interests to develop a bond that has followed the members throughout their lives and, perhaps, forever.