Seasons from Hell: Dealing with Adversity by Mel Roberts (2010)


Thank you. Hell, it’s kind of a tough job following Lanny [Landtroop], but it’s an honor because… well, a lot of what he talked about, I am going to try to apply. I am going to tell you about three different seasons that we had: problems that we ran into and how we overcame them. The adversity… I am not exactly sure what… everybody will probably interpret it a little different. So, my definition is: when things don’t go exactly as planned and adjustments have to be made to achieve the desired results.

The high school Winston Churchill graduated from tried, a number of times, to get him to come back to their graduation and be their commencement speaker. And, after a number of times, he was finally able to fulfill their request. And the auditorium was packed, and people are expecting this great lecture from this world leader. He was introduced. And he walked up to the podium and he said five words, and then he turned around and went back and sat down. And the five words that he uttered were: Never, never, never, give up. And I kind of have to use that as my philosophy, as I was going through this season. [Note: Winston Churchill actually said a bit more than 5 words, and said it a bit differently.]

When I boarded the plane at Salt Lake City I was seated next to a parrot. And we struck up a conversation, and he seemed-like a fairly-intelligent bird. And once we were in the air, the flight attendant came by and asked if we would like to have a drink. And the parrot ordered a scotch-on-the-rocks, and, like a true coach, I ordered a Diet Coke. We sat there for about five minutes, and then finally the parrot gets upset and he jumps on the back of the seat, and he yells to the flight attendant: where is my drink? And the flight attendant immediately comes over with our drinks and apologizes for the delay and we continue to fly on. But an hour later, we ordered another round, and again there was a delay. And parrot has given the flight attendant a lot of grief about her service, and I kind of got into the sprit of things. I said: “You charge us for a pillow, you charge us for a blanket, your charge us to fly our luggage here; service on this plane real stinks. Next time I am going to fly Southwest.” She walks over to the sky marshal on the plane and she talked to him, and then she kind of nods her head over in our direction. The marshal walks over, and he grabs me with one hand and he grabs the parrot with the other hand, and he walks over to the hatch and opens it up and throws us out. And as we are falling to the ground, parrot looks over at me and tells: ‘wow, you really have a lot of guts for a guy with no wings.’

But we are going to go ahead and hope that the presentation goes a little bit better than the flight.

Tooele, Utah has a community of about 25,000 people, who are nestled against the base of the Oquirrh Mountains. We are 35 miles [southwest] from Salt Lake [City], at the south end of the Great Salt Lake; and the altitude is about 5,000 square feet… not 5000 square feet, 5000 feet. The average temperature in the winter ranges from lows in the single digits to highs slightly above freezing, in the mid 30s. We have snow on the ground from Thanksgiving until into November… excuse me, into February; and we get an average of about 85 inches of snow a year. I moved to Tooele in 1945—after my dad had won the war–and I lived there my whole life, except for the time that I spent at the University of Utah.

In my fourth year of college, I changed my major from accountant to education. My high school coach had retired in 1964. The program had been going down hill, and I wanted to return to Tooele as a swimming coach and try to build it back-up again. My goal became a reality in 1969.

Tooele High School is located right here, but I’ve got kids on the team from Vernon (down here) which is about 40 miles south; from Lake Point, about 15 miles north; from Grantsville, about 15 miles to the west; and then all the points in between. And we have a lot from Stansbury Park, and Erda, and Lincoln, and Stockton and Rush Valley. It’s a four year high school of about 1,500 students. And the district… there is another high school, which is in Grantsville, but the district has an open enrollment policy where the students can go to any high school that they choose.

Swim practices can begin in September, our first meet is in October, State meet is in early February. The State Activities Association [which oversees high school sports in Utah] imposes moratoriums for 3 days during Thanksgiving, 5 days during Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The girls and the boys seasons are run concurrently, and both compete in the same meets.

So that kind of gives you a background of where we are.

1976-1977 was our first adversity. It wasn’t anything compared to the others, but it kind of lays a good foundation. The Tooele Memorial Pool was constructed after World War II as a government make-work project, and was completed in 1951. If you take a look at the side-view of the pool, you can see that here, in the shallow end, they built a teaching platform; and it was about a foot-and-a-half high and three feet wide. So in order to have races, we built a bulkhead—the one in here—and our coach divided the team up into two parts: a purple team and a white team. And the purple team would go down to the basement the night before a meet, bring the bulkhead up, put it together; and then the white team would take it down, and put it back in the basement after the meets.

In 1961, it was decided that we could take this ledge here, and get some jack hammers and take it out—and then we’d have a 25-yard course. When the pool was constructed, 20 yards was pretty standard; and then they started converting to 25. We wanted a 25-yard pool, so we chipped the ledge out during Christmas. When we came back and started swimming, our times were really slow. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We thought: maybe it’s changing from a 20-yard pool to 25-yard pool? Maybe it was the break during Christmas? But then the other teams were also saying that: yeah, I find they are lot slower here, than they have ever been. So this brought out the measuring tape, and therein the construction of the pool was discovered.

When they dug the hole, it was 75 feet—which would be exactly 25 yards. But then, they decided that here in the shallow end, ‘we will put a little ledge for people to stand on’. So that extended the top part of the pool to 75 feet, 11 inches—so we had an extra-long pool to swim in. No one wanted to really swim in the long pool, but that’s what we had. When I started my coaching career, we were using the 25-yard-11-inch pool, but we couldn’t host any type of a championship meet.

Early in 1976, the Tooele City Council decided that they were going to do some remodeling and adjust the length to the pool so we would have a 25 yard pool. So at the end of the season—the summer season, after lessons were over—the pool was drained and they were going to remodel the pool. They were going to put deck tile on the deck, they were going to put a ceiling over the pool, and they were going to pour-over some cement and shorten the pool to 25 yards.

Now there is a military base, the Tooele Army Depot, about a mile-and-a-half south of Tooele, and they had a pool at the army base. And the commander of the Depot had a daughter that was on the team, so he postponed the closing of the pool at the Depot from Labor Day until the time when we had our pool back. There’s was a four-lane pool that was 25-meters and we had to make a few adjustments with the lane lines. But we were able to get in, and we… we’re conducting practices.

The cold weather and the winter started to come-in the latter part of October, and the Depot pool had to be closed. So we needed to find another pool to practice in. There was pool in Stansbury Park, which is about 10 miles north of Tooele, and it had a bubble over it. It didn’t have dressing room or anything like that, but I went to the director of the facility and asked if we could practice in their pool until our pool got fixed again. And he was really easy to work with, and accommodated us and said we could use that pool in the afternoon. But without dressing rooms, when the bus would take us down to Stansbury, the boys would have to go into the bubble, change–you know, into their suits—and put their clothes back on, and come out; then the girls would go into the bubble, change, they’d get into the pool, and the boys would come back-in and we would had practice. And at the end of practice, we’d reverse the procedure.

We brought lane lines and pace clocks from our pool. The pool at Stansbury only had 5 lanes. And they had markings on the bottom of the pool for the swimmers, but there were no targets on the wall and it took a little while to get adjusted to the turns. But after awhile, kids didn’t have any problems. The charge for the pool was a token payment of $10, and the team agreed to go help them at the start of the summer to take down their bubble and clean their pool for the summer session. And I took the divers into Granger High School in Salt Lake, three-nights-a-week, to keep that program going. And we were able to get back into our pool in middle of January, right… just in-time to host the region championships. And like I said, it wasn’t a real bad experience, and I’m sure lot of other coaches have gone through something like this, but it did provide good preparation for the future.

1994-1995, this was what I call the Season from Hell. The boiler for the Tooele Memorial Pool was huge; it was about 8 feet high and 6 feet wide, 10 feet long. It was originally a coal burner and they later converted that to natural gas. It required a constant supply of water to operate properly, and in early November, with the waterline broken, there was no water going into boiler. So it overheated, and it fried all the coils inside and ruined it. We continued to workout in the pool for about a week until the water became too cold. And then we had to drain the pool and get ready for the boiler repairs. And I didn’t think we’re going to be out very long, so I thought: well, maybe we can go back down to Stansbury.

Initially, the people just laughed at me when me and the superintendent and principal went down to approach them. And the reason they laughed is, that a couple of years earlier during a windstorm, the power had gone out, the generator kicked on and then the generator went down. And when the generator stopped working, then the bubble came down. And when the bubble came down, it took out all the lights around the pool and it tore the cover beyond repair. And then Stansbury decided: we’ll not replace the cover, we’ll just use it in the summer. So, we agreed to have the school district pay for the heating and electricity, and we could use their pool during the winter for our practices.

When I came… I’m searching: there were no dressing rooms. What we did is, there was a building there that they used for admission and first aid and lockers for change… lifeguards changing. And down the middle of the building was the banker lockers, and that kind of become our line of demarcation. We took sheets and hung them up and divided the building into two parts: the girls would dress in one part, the boys would dress on the other side. And one of the parents provided us with a propane heater to heat the building. The wind seemed to blow all the time, and so the parents put some heavy plastic… bought some heavy plastic and put it all around the fence, cut down on the wind, a shield.

When they started to repair the boiler, they found out that it was covered with asbestos, and most of the heating pipes were covered with asbestos. That became a big problem because they had to bring in a special team to remove the asbestos before they could even start working on the pool at all. The City then decided: ‘Well, since we’re going to be down for a while, let’s do some remodeling. We’ll tile the showers, we’ll tile the lavatory area, we’ll remodel the lobby, we will put new entrances to the dressing rooms and to the pool in it.’ So, all of these things helped delay our getting into the pool.

And I have a friend at Murray High School, about 40 miles away; and he called and said: ‘I can give you an hour-a-week in our pool, so you can practice on starts and turns and relay takeoffs. So we took him up on that offer, and on Wednesday evenings a bus would pick us, drive us to Murray and we’d have practice. We did get some good practices in there, and he didn’t charge us for the use of the pool, which was great.

The heater at the Stansbury pool was designed for summer-use only, when the sun would help heat the water. So, after we had cleaned the pool and filled it up. the water temperature never did get above 67°, but I told the swimmers that it was 72 every time they would ask. I confiscated a lifetime-supply of thermometers from the kids: they were trying to sneak-in and get their own readings because they didn’t… didn’t trust mine. But they did have covers for the pool,, that we could put on when we weren’t using it, to help keep the area heated. And, again, the divers had to go to Salt Lake for practice.

There was a road that wound around, up above the pool. Initially, there was a lot of access, and some people would be slowing down and stopping, and taking their eyes off the road and rubbernecking, to watch us down in the pool. And we had these wheels weakened and crashes, and that was kind of a fun thing to do. We didn’t have a restroom, but the lake was close-by for emergency reasons. Kids were not to use that, and that year we’ve had a pool for the… for the whole year. Pool didn’t open until after we were done. And it was particularly amazing to me that, and there was only one girl whose parents wouldn’t allow her to work in the outdoor pool, but she did go with us when we went to Murray. After that season was over, I thought that we were on easy street, and that was just the season from hell, but I didn’t know what was on the horizon.

2001-2002, it was kind of warm in there. I was… I came back from the NISCA Convention in Austin, Texas in 2001, and it was a Sunday night and I was unpacking and the phone rang. And that was the mayor, who happened to be my brother, and he asked if he could come and talk to me. And I said, sure, yeah. I don’t know why, I knew it wasn’t just to welcome me back. The pool had been drained before I left, and it was to be painted and filled while I was gone. And you know, we’d get back in to practice. Well, the mayor came and he sat down. And he says, ‘The building that the pool is in, has been condemned. It’s been permanently closed, and it’s going have to be torn down. And, in a best case scenario, we could have a pool in a year, but it will probably be at least two.’ I just sat there in a state of shock and disbelief.

I knew the city was planning on building a new pool sometime in the future, but a bond election to build a new fitness center, it failed a year earlier. So I knew financing was going to be a problem. The girls team had just won their second state championship in three years. And the boys team finished in the runner-up position, five-and-a-half points out of first, and they were really upset about finishing second. And they came up with a team, team of second slots for the following year. So, I was really looking forward, and been able to work through for the year, and I was kind of disappointed over that. I had been a high school math teacher and swimming coach for 32 years, and I was eligible to retire; so I faced a decision of retire. Let the program die, and then have someone else come in and try to revive it in a couple of years? Or do I try to hold the program together somehow, and go for the next two years?

We just needed to find another pool to practice in. Closest one was Cyprus High School, which is about 25 miles away on the other side of the mountains. And anybody who’s been a coach and you work with your kids, you know, how close they… you get to them, and how much they depend on you for support. And some of the kids were saying: well, do you think I should transfer to Cyprus or transfer to another high school in Salt Lake, so that I’d be able to keep swimming? And I should know, somehow we’re going to make it through this, we’ll find some way to make it. I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but I figured we’d try.

So, I met with my principal to discuss the situation, and we decided to have a meeting with the parents and swimmers and discuss a course of action. The first thing we tried for is the county-owned Deseret Peak Aquatic Center. It’s the largest pool in Utah, 450,000 gallons. It was closer than Stansbury—it was only five miles away—and it had 16 lanes. And it had a larger heater that we could use. So, I arranged a meeting with the County Commissioners, and the big plus we had there was one of the commissioners was an ex-swimmer of mine and he had a daughter on the team who had won the 100 fly at State that year. She still had another year of eligibility, so he kind of pushed to allow us to use that pool. After a couple of meetings with the school officials and the county officials, they came to an agreement: the school district would provide buses to take us back-and-forth from the pool to the school, then the district agreed to pay the heating bill for the water, which averaged about $10,000 a month, and I agreed to work there during the summer as an instructor and head lifeguard.

The closing of the pool caused a lot of controversy throughout the community. Many people thought that the remodeling, done six years earlier, that was good enough to have the pool last another 20 or 25 years. Some thought that there was a political ploy on the part of the mayor to force the city to build a new aquatic center. Others, who had never been downstairs to see the rust and corrosion caused by water over the last 50 years, thought that the pool was still serving the purpose for which it was constructed. So the City Council hired a team of architectures and building inspectors to investigate the closing to see if it was justified. So when the report came in, it supported the mayor and the closing and said the pool just can’t be used anymore. And so we were definitely without a pool.

At the parents’ meeting, I explained this plan of action, and there were the expected questions about the temperature of the water and dressing rooms and the health of the swimmers and so on. But overall, the meeting went well and if the water temperature could be kept in the mid-70s, the dresses… the coaches could dress-up warm, and we could go-ahead and have practices.

We began practice in April, and we went throughout the summer without any incidences. And then the County requested two bids. They requested one, to find out what it would cost to heat and insulate the dressing rooms, so we could use those; and they also requested what it would cost to put a bubble over the facility to make it a lot more comfortable for the swimmers. And in the fall they agreed to buy blankets and covers to put over the pool to help keep the heat in, but it would be warm before they arrived.

So the bids came in, and the dressing rooms with a $100,000; the bubble was $500,000; and I wouldn’t go that high. So we didn’t get a bubble, we didn’t get dressing rooms. The boys dressed in the building that has the heater and the filters, and that was fairly close to where their competition pool was; and the girls dressed in the concession stand and they… they had their own building and they were fairly close. A port-o-potty was installed outside the building that the girls dressed in, and most of the time the kids would use the rest rooms at the school before they got on the bus—but everyone knows how emergencies could arise.

The plan we had: we conducted dryland training in the mornings at the high schools—and during the summer we do it in the evening—and we received a lot of benefit from that. And as most of us practicing outdoors, spread around, I got a couple of interesting phone calls. One was from a scuba company, and they offered to outfit the team in leg suits, so that we could practice. And I kind of filed that one away as last resort, but I was glad to know that we had that in the back. Another lady, who has an indoor pool in her home, called and offered us to practice in, but 35’ x 15’, motel-type wouldn’t serve our purpose—but I appreciated Ralphie and thanks to Flora

In late October and early November, water temperature really began to drop in the uncovered pool—as nights would grow longer and the days grew shorter. And it would drop one or two degrees each day. In mid-November, the heaters melted down at Deseret Peak, in the constant battle to try and keep the temperature up. And every team has that one swimmer, who’ll get in the water no matter what the conditions are. I called mine over, and then I put my arm around her and I said: ‘Look, I want you to get in and I want you to swim. And I want you to show the rest of the team that you’re not going to die if we get in and start the practice.’ And she agreed and she got up on the block, and she dove in and then she immediately made a hard right to the side, jumped up on the deck, and yelled up to me from the deck. And I know that was probably too cold to have practices.

So again, we were without a pool to practice in, and only four weeks into the season. And the parts needed to repair the heater, boy that had to be manufactured. So they said it would be four-to-five weeks before we could get back in the pool. So I’ll called my friend Joe Pereira, over at Cyprus High School, and asked him if there was any time available in his pool that we could rent for a couple of weeks until ours got repaired. And he was really willing to work with us. He gave us two hours a night, from 6:30-8:30 in the evening, and another couple of hours on Saturday. And he said: we are not going to charge you for the use of our pool because you let our water polo team come over to your pool and practice when our pool was being tiled. So, that unselfish act on his part saved our team: any other outcome may have doomed us.

A bus would pick us up at the side of the old pool at 5:30 each evening, bring us back about 9:30, he would pick-up the kids from Grantsville first, and come into Tooele and pick us up, and pick-up the ones from Erda and Stansbury and Lake Point on the way to Cyprus.

I let the kids enter the pool before they tore it down, and they wrote their memoirs on the pool deck and on the walls. And when we loaded the bus, I was right there where the old pool was and it was particularly hard on some of the swimmers and the coaches to see the building that they had spent so much time and being ripped apart. And there you can see some of the kids and the pool was almost gone, and then finally it was gone.

The pool at Cyprus High School was used only by the age group team and it had six lanes and had starting blocks. And we’re allowed to access any equipment that they had, which included fins and paddles and kickboards, and all of those good things. And Joe had several homemade devices that he allowed us to use. All we had to do was put the covers on the pool when we were finished.

The rest of November came and went, and our time started to slow down in meets and the kids were getting worried. They were a half-a-second or a full-second slower for each 100 than what they had been earlier, and they were starting to get worried. I just explained to them that was our desired result, and they were doing fine for this part of the season; when the end of the season came, we would be ready.

The covers for the Deseret Peak pool arrived when the heaters were down, and we went down and put them on. And the covers for the 50m pool fit, and there was no problem. But the ones for the fan area, the recreation area, the other half of the pool would cut around and they didn’t fit—they had to be sent back. And the parts for the heater finally came, and they put those in, and we thought: we’ll able to get back in for Christmas break to practice. But it took a long time to heat the water up: with no separation of the recreation and competition pool at Deseret Peak, and only half of the surface area was covered with blankets and the other half had a heat sucked out of it twenty-four/seven.

First day back at Deseret Peak a couple of the girls forgot to wear their sandals out of the pool from the building. And I remember that, seeing in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie and his friend were out in-front of the school, and Schwartz dares Flick, triple-dog-dares him, to stick his tongue on the pole. After practice the girls got out to run to the building they were dressing in and then their feet instantly froze to the deck and they lost a couple of layers of skin on the run. Kind of funny now, but they were really upset.

The 2002 Winter Olympics were being held in Salt Lake City, so the Activities Association moved the State meet up to the end-of-January, instead of the traditional February day. We had a great region meet that year, and both the boys and girls were able to win and we had a lot of lifetime best. And I was wondering if maybe we’d shut water Region and wouldn’t have anything left for the state. In the past if we had a poor or mediocre performance by the swimmers at Region, the ones who are going on to State would have lifetime best.

The video you’re about to see was shot by one of the TV station in Salt Lake just before our State meet. On this day the water temperature was about 67º. And I knew the kids were suffering, but told them to get in and practice and put-on a good show for the TV people, and then when they are gone, I’ll get them out. But the TV people stayed a full two hours, until we got on the bus. And it was one of the few times that I really felt sorry for them; but I was extremely proud of the way they conducted themselves. And our boys’ team would always dye their hair, before they shaved it off just prior to the State meet, so you’re going to see some pretty weird hairdos.

: One by one they leap into the cold. This is like ice, so they want to get out, but they don’t. The pool is barely one which includes tap water, still these swimmers push passed the pain, they say, looking to win.

[MR]: Now we’ve got to stay; we got try to hard as in, I don’t know. We got to be dedicated… our model this year is ‘believe the unbelievable’. So it is, by the time I get in, it going for freeze.

[narrator]: This new pool won’t be ready for a few months; their old one was condemned two months ago. For now, the kids take a 5 mile trip to a temporary practice pool in Granger.

[MR]: Sometimes it’s really cold.

[narrator]: Everyday it’s a quick change from winter-wear into swimwear, to run their heats in the freezing temperature.

[voice 3]: You do not think about it you think about water heaters.

[narrator]: Coach Mel Roberts says the chilly water pushes his team to never give in.

[MR]: We were practicing and the water get worse and worse. Then they’ve got more and more exhausted in it. And so they just don’t want to give up.

[narrator]: Chattering teeth and blue lips are common; so is the passion to win. Something Coach Roberts says is just within reach.

[MR]: Yeah, we had our successs. But we got to have the type of kids that we’ve got in order to do that.

[voice 3]: I think it is fun just to do something crazy.

[narrator]: But you knew that.

[voice 4]: Construction of that new indoor pool should be finished this spring; that must be good news for those kids.

[MR]: We had qualified 7 girls and 13 boys for the State meet, and I figured that the girls could finish as high as 3rd because we didn’t have anybody in the 200 and 500 free. The boys would have to go even faster than they did in Region to finish 1st or 2nd, but we did have at least two individuals in each of the individual events and our relays were ranked in the top-3 in all of those events. And so, every swimmer that was going to State would be in the position that they could score and help the team.

As a coach, you can easily tell how well the team is going to do during the first race of the meet; and after the medley relays, I knew that somehow these kids were going to have a great meet. Both the boys and the girls team dropped a couple of seconds in the relay, and they were on their way. At the end of second day, the girls had finished 3rd and the boys had won their first state championship in 16 years by 9 points. And our girl sprinter was named Female Swimmer of the Year. It was hard to imagine the outcome being any better.

I was able to be involved with the planning and the construction of the new aquatic center right from the very beginning and when the school district agreed to pay $900,000 to use the pool for 4 hours a day for 20 years. We were able to go from a 6-lane pool to an 8-lane pool, the locker rooms were expanded, and lockers were put in for the team. We had an increased deck area in the competition pool, they built the storage room next to the pool so we were able to use for a team room, and they added spectator area for 400 spectators. But moving into a 8-lane pool from a 6-lane pool was going to require the team to come up with new backstroke flags, a couple or more touch pads, some more lane lines. And we also wanted to have an 8-line scoreboard, we wanted to have a record board, and we wanted to have a great sound system.

So, a group of the alumni swimmers got together, and formed what they call the Flashback Foundation: they raised money for the aquatic center and the team. The merchants from the community donated items for a raffle, and a car dealer even gave us a car. Bricks from the building and tiles from the deck of the old pool were sold. And in the period of a little over a year, they were able to raise nearly $60,000, that they gave us. We continue to practice at Deseret Peak through the rest of the year-end, while the construction on the new pool is going on, and the covers for fan-area arrived. We were able to put those on; that helped a lot to keep the water temperature in the 70s for that year. The wind all the time and sometimes it’d blow the covers off, but other than that we… the year was fairly uneventful. The girls’ and the boys’ team both repeated as Region champions, and the boys and girls was finished 2nd year at State.

Then in May 2003, the new aquatic center—named in honor of Tooele High School’s former swimming coach, Lee Pratt, who compiled the dove meet record of a 166 wins and 9 losses, with 9 straight State championships—was opened up. The home of Tooele High swimming.

Looking back over the experiences, there were negative effects to our program and there were positive effects. The negative effects. First of all, we didn’t have a feeder program. We had no age group program, we didn’t have any way to teach kids to swim, and no junior high and high school programs. And then prepare them to come in at State or into the team when they were freshmen. They took a lot of talking to even get the freshmen who had competitive experience to even come out for swimming.

Power bumps and outages are fairly common during the winter. And when that would happen, the heaters would shutdown, water temperature would drop two or three degrees, and made for uncomfortable practices. The time that we spent away from home was a lot, especially the year that we had to travel to Cyprus. We also had to travel to all our away meets. But the kids learnt how to settle down on the bus, and they used those hours for study.

And the expense was high, especially for the school district. In addition to running buses and bus drivers for us, they had to pay that $10,000 a month bill at Deseret Peak. All of our meets had to be away. Parents and the boyfriends and the girlfriends would generally come and support of the team, but they didn’t get to swim in front of their fellow students and the community, as we had in the past.

But all was not lost, we had a lot of positive benefits and we will share those with you. The first one was we had less sickness. We… the kids knew how to dress warm: they covered their heads and they took care of themselves, right. I didn’t have to listen to comments like… ‘and when they go into the car coach.’ When they would… when I would ask them: where their shoes were, where their coats were, when they left the building. The academics were seldom a problem for swimmers because they know how to budget their time and get studying done. We have always stressed the academics, and the kids take a lot of pride in having one of the highest GPAs of any group in the school.

Team unity was unbelievable, and I think this is one of the keys that every team that wants to be successful has to have. This is… the kids on your team have to know each other. And as they get to know each other, they start to care for them. And when they care for each other, then you get the team unity and they start performing really well.

The practices that we had were super. The kids knew we only had so much time in the pool, and they put every bit of effort they had into the time that we are in there. Going through what they went through was an investment and scarifies on their, part and they were not letting it go to waste when I was there trying to shine. We always had great Region and State meets during those years.

The publicity the team received on the TV and in the newspapers made them well-known and respected by the public, and especially swimmers from other teams. Plus we brought lot of new swimmers into the program when the aquatic center opened. They created lasting friends and memories of what they went through. They will never be forgotten. At our annual alumni meet, held between Christmas and New Years, that’s always the topic of conversation.

Last two were really important. Alumni support: stay in-touch with your former swimmers whenever possible. Like Lanny was saying, I think I had a positive experience that they realized that the lessons that you were trying to teach them—like goal setting, dedication, sacrifice—is going to help them throughout their life. And they have fine memories of the experience; they will do whatever they can, to put something back into the program.

The image of your team, their behavior and how the public views the program will have lasting effects. I found that many of the little things that we did and didn’t think too much about. Like community service projects, collecting food for the food bank, providing Christmas for a needy family each year, teaching. Taking time to teach the kids manners and respect, so that when they were coming in and out of the pool with the public they knew how to open doors for the public. They knew how to smile, they knew how to greet, they knew how to answer your questions when someone complemented them on their performance. We’d go up and help the Children’s Justice Center collect items. They help doing swimming lessons. And all of those things had lasting effects and came back to help us many times over.

Looking back on the experiences, I was always optimistic about being able to go, to make it through. Or I was planning on the inconvenience for only a short-period of time. But knowing the program we were going to… if I knew the problems we’re going to have before attempting to swim outdoors, if I have not had the group of kids that I did, the outcome may have been different. However, those experiences will live forever with swimmers, coaches, parents and anyone else who is involved.

Thank you.

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