Q&A with Bangor coach Phil Emery

Posted Jan. 26, 2010, at 10:21 p.m.
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN)

CAPTION

Bangor head swim coach Phil Emery watches as the Rams compete against Mount Desert Island in a meet Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 at Husson University in Bangor. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN) CAPTION Bangor head swim coach Phil Emery watches as the Rams compete against Mount Desert Island in a meet Friday, Jan. 22, 2010 at Husson University in Bangor. (Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

Phil Emery is in his 41st season as coach of the Bangor High School boys swim team, which may make him the longest-serving high school swim coach in state history.
At 63, he is still as energized as ever about a sport he was only going to coach for one year before starting on a master’s program at San Diego State University.
Instead, the former Bangor swim star has stuck with a program he was a member of in the early 1960s. He was a science teacher at Garland Street Junior High School for 14 years and then moved up to the high school before retiring following the 2006-07 school year.
The Rams won the state Class A title that year and the two since then as well, for a total of 23 since he led them to his first title as a coach in 1971, his second season at Bangor.
Actually, Emery has had a hand in all 24 of Bangor’s state boys titles as he helped lead the Rams to their first championship in 1964, his senior year. He was the state 50-yard freestyle champ in ’63 and ’64.
In 1975, following Bangor’s fifth straight state crown, the Rams also added the New England title.
After a recent practice at the Husson University pool, Emery, 63, shared at length his thoughts about swimming and a few tidbits about himself.

Favorite meal: I didn’t get to be this size without liking food. Um. I would say — I couldn’t eat it every day — but I would say, a good seafood meal like lobster and clams and corn, that type of thing. They have, down on the coast, down in Bass Harbor, they used to have a seafood emergency. For like $18, you get a thing of clams, I think a thing of mussels, you get a lobster, you get french fries and an ear of corn. If there was one meal that I would say I really enjoy, it would be like that. Almost like a Down East clambake.

Favorite music: You know, it’s interesting because I couldn’t tell you the lyrics to one song. … I love music, I love the rhythm, I love the beat. I’m from a family that loves to dance. We all dance. … But the point is I like rock and roll, oldies and just a good mix of them, nothing specific.

Favorite activity outside of swimming: I do a lot of fishing. Probably fishing No. 1, hunting No. 2. And with the hunting, it’s specifically deer hunting. With the fishing, it would be primarily Atlantic salmon fishing and fishing for brook trout. I go to the Gaspe [Peninsula of Quebec] the beginning of summer and the Miramichi [River in New Brunswick] once in the fall. And those [salmon] are fish that don’t feed, so it’s extremely challenging. … And whenever possible, fishing for [salmon] with dry flies, which makes it even more exciting.

Does that tie into what your favorite vacation would be, also, or is that completely different?: It’s funny. I don’t really consider a fishing trip a vacation. I mean it is, obviously, but, um, I think because I usually somehow find ways to do it and get it in, then I consider…. But my favorite vacation is very simple. I would say I’ve done a lot of road trips, a lot of traveling, mostly in the United States, but the one place I’ve been to the most is Yellowstone Park and that area out West. I’ve been there five times, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, that whole area of the West. I’ve driven out twice and flown out three times, the most recent being two years ago.

Do you get to tie in the fishing sometimes with that?: I did one trip when my brother, Steve, turned 50, we went out and we fished the Bighorn River in Montana and fished the Gallatin River and the Madison River and some of those, and um, but primarily when I’ve gone out there, I’ve just done the sightseeing things because there are so many places to go and things to do. Fishing can chew up so much time. You start fishing and the next thing you know you’ve gone through eight hours and you haven’t really done anything else, and so for the most part only one of the five trips did we do a lot of fishing on. But when you get out there to the Yellowstone area, it’s a combination of, as pretty as the Maine coast is, it’s nearby, and so we get a chance to see it so that’s not a major trip. We can do that on an afternoon when I’m bored or something like that, so I’m not comparing the two. But when you get out West, when you see they call it Big Sky country, it is big sky country. You see such a diversity of wildlife in and around Yellowstone and when you’re traveling, I mean, the elk, I mean, I’ve also seen a couple grizzly bears, buffalo, coyotes. I haven’t seen any wolves, but I’ve heard ’em. Some moose, but we have plenty of those around here. In the whole process of doing that, you go to some of these old western towns like Cody, Wyoming, which is on the east side of Yellowstone. Then there’s Nevada City, which is in Montana, which is on the west of Yellowstone. Those have historical significance, so it’s kinda neat to go through those places and see ’em. Besides just doing Yellowstone, we go to a lot of little different places along the side, too. You just never seem to get …. Each time I’ve gone I feel ‘OK, I’ve seen enough of this, I don’t think I’ll go again, I think I’ll try to go someplace else,’ but I end up going back again.

Who has been your favorite swimmer, of any swimmer, not just necessarily somebody you’ve coached?: I obviously wouldn’t name somebody I’ve coached, that wouldn’t be fair because I’ve coached so many fabulous young men and, just, they’re all unique and special in different ways, even the ones you want to [laughs], even the ones that you almost think, ‘Can we get along any longer?’ But as time goes by…. So I would never do that. Boy, that’s hard, I mean because obviously it’s so recent, what Michael Phelps has accomplished has just been phenomenal. I think his training regime — I don’t think it’s necessary to train 365 days a year, but he does. He trains Christmas, he trains New Year’s, he trains Thanksgiving. I think he only goes a single on those holidays, a single practice. I think the enthusiasm like when you watched that Olympics two years ago, you saw the pure enthusiasm and the excitement, it wasn’t just him for him; obviously he was probably excited for himself, but you saw when the relays did well how excited they got and, um, I think the other thing that was special about that, it was so… it put swimming in such a positive light. And swimming gets hidden, and that’s no big deal, it doesn’t get out in the open very often and it’s not something that you can… it’s not like a football game where you can turn on the TV and whether you can care for either team like last [Sunday] night, heck you might not even care for thoise two teams, but it’s still an exciting game right down to the end, and I watched it right to the end. I was trying to decide do I want Brett Favre to win or do I want New Orleans to win, you know, and I said whichever team plays the best will deserve and so on. Swimming isn’t like that. You kind of have to know the people who are in it, and so, um, so with what went on at the Olympics two years ago, that really was the best thing that happened for swimming in a long time, I believe. But, I think, over the years there have always been so many swimmers that you could go all the way back to Mark Spitz when he won the seven gold medals, all seven of those were world records. Olympic records, obviously, but they were world records, also. Now when we look back at those and, of course, it’s been how many years, 1972. I’d just returned from Yellowstone. In fact, I watched the first one of his races in Yellowstone and we were driving back and I

saw the last one of his races when I got back and went up to fish on the West Branch of the Penobscot and we stopped to watch at a little motel, in the office we watched his last race. [Laughs] I guess it’s Phelps now. It’s new, but … I don’t think all of Phelps’ were world records, most of them were, but one or two might not. I don’t want to say for sure off the top of my head. …

The records have progressed to such a point it’s hard to break one, especially now: Yeah, because they’ve changed back to the regular suits. And some of those suits that they were using, there was one called the Blue 70, and I don’t know the difference between that and the one Speedo was selling, but the Blue 70 was made by a company, as I understand it, now I don’t know this, I thought was out of New Zealand, their specialty had been wetsuits, you know, which have a certain buoyancy factor to them. This was a much thinner material, but I still think part of that was the same idea, and if you’re body gets up level enough, you don’t need to waste your energy in your legs. The part of your legs is just to get you up on top [of the water]. On a really short race, you use everything you’ve got, but on longer races, if the longer the legs will float and keep you so you’re not creating resistance, plowing through the water, then still you can use more of your upper body ’cause your leg muscles are much bigger and again, these are numbers I’ve read and they aren’t necessarily the right numbers, so let’s say in a 500-yard freestyle, 20 lengths of the pool, if you have a pretty strong kick — a really good, strong kick — your legs might provide 10 to 20 percent of your forward propulsion and your arms 80 to 90 percent, but your legs will use up about 50 percent of your energy because the muscles are so big. So you’re using a lot of energy for not the direct benefit. Better to allow that energy, that oxygen to get in your arms. Simplistic, but that’s why sometimes you’ll see a lot of swimmers swimming longer distances won’t seem to have very good kicks, or if they do, then they have enough kick to keep their bodies up so they don’t waste it. … And they may have had some ability to shed water in terms of the material, but a lot of it was the buoyance factor, and it also squeezed your muscles in there, too, squeezed and made you just a little bit smaller somehow, just like women wearing a girdle. It squeezes everything in. So, um, that just means there’s a smaller hole you gotta make through the water.

I’m going to interrupt you. I’m going to tell you one of my favorite movies. I can’t remember the names of movies, so it’s not like that, but there’s one I was using with the swimmers the other day. I believe it’s the Return of the Jedi. It’s the second in the original Star Wars series, and it’s when Luke Skywalker comes crashing into the swamp and Yoda is trying to teach Luke Skywalker the power of the Force and trying to get him to lift that craft up and get away. Luke doesn’t believe and finally says he’ll try, and Yoda says “Try or try not,” no he says, “No try. Do or do not.” Either you do it or you don’t. And I often use that with the swimmers, talking about, if somebody says, ‘I’ll try to be here on time,’ then I know they aren’t gonna be. If they say, “Coach, I’ll be there on time,” then I know they will be. If I say, “I’ll try to be there tomorrow, I’ll try to write your recommendation,” then you can probably presume it’s not going to get done. If I say, “Yes, I’ll write the recommendation,” you know it will be. And I use that kind of like, um, in Yoda that power of the Force, I relate it to the people that I know, it’s the power we have within us, that all of us have. As swimmers, as adults, as professionals, as working people, it’s getting that energy, and releasing that energy, to do whatever it is you want to do. Some of you have that power and you really believe you have a goal and you really believe that you’re going to achieve it and you’re going to work toward it. Others don’t really believe, have a strong goal. You don’t necessarily think you’re going to get to it, and so therefore you don’t really believe in it, like Luke Skywalker, and so you don’t work very hard. Because why would you work hard if you believe the goal you have is unachievable. You have to believe, and you have to do, and that’s the talk I gave to them Friday before the meet with MDI, it was not just a premeet thing. It was because I had a captive audience, um, with plenty of time while MDI was warming up. And I more related it to what goes on with the rest of the season. And that whole series I liked, related to different things like that.

We talked about the suits a little bit. How has the sport itself changed over the years?: If you just want to talk in general, if you look out there, you see those lane lines and a lot of people just think the lane lines just separate swimmers so they don’t hit each other. But the truth is, that’s one of the things they do. If you look back in the ’50s and early ’60s, Adolf Kiefer, who was an Olympic champion in Berlin in 1936, and he has a company outside of Chicago, and he’s well into his 80s now, and he probably has the biggest business in the world in pool products. And not just swimming, but all aspects of pool products. He developed the first set of nonturbulent lane lines. So when the waves hit those little wheels, they spin around.

And they dissipate the waves so it doesn’t bother the people in the next lanes? Right. And chews up some of the energy. And so when a wave hits it, the fins on here [he holds up a wheel] spins it around, It doesn’t get rid of it all, but when you go to the NCAAs, and I’ve officiated the NCAAs, this will be my 25th or 26th year of officiating at the men’s NCAAs, so it’s kind of neat, and they use two and I’ve seen them where they even use three sometimes — there’s one underwater — but most recent years they use two, side by side. And these are bigger. We only use these for championship meets because they’re bigger and they sit up higher and take up a bit more room and kids hit ‘em with their arms and stuff. When I was a kid, swimming at the Bangor Y, we had lane lines that were just a rope with a buoy, a rope with a buoy, and it was basically to separate the lines. Then Kiefer developed those and other companies have come along and he’s continued to improve his and then you see the backstroke flags draped across the pool. When I was a kid swimming — and other parts of the country, being in the center of swimming, may have had these things before we did so I don’t really know when all these things came along — but a lot of people come to a meet and think the backstroke flags are just decorations to make the pool look nice, like you do at a car sales lot when your selling stuff, right, the blue ones and all those pennants. But they are 15 yards, I mean 15 feet, from the end of the pool at each end and 7 feet above the water so when backstrokes come under them, they know how far they are from the end of the pool. Now, it’s their responsibility to learn it so they get to know how many strokes it is or just simply where the wall is. That’s really helped.

That’s important for learning how soon you’ve got to start making your turn: Well, when I swam at the Y, Joe Constantine, Fred McAlary, there was a vent at one end and so we knew that was 1 1/2 strokes out and at the other end the vent was 2 1/2 strokes out. And when we went to Portland Boys Club there were beams in the c

eiling, so we’d warm up, we’d learn which beam was how far away and try to remember it. So you did it even back then, but it wasn’t standardized. Um, the suits themselves obviously have gone from… actually, it’s kind of full tour because when you see the pictures of the people in the ‘20s and ‘30s they wore a full body suit, to some degree. You know, it covered the chest and the torso and down a certain distance on the legs. I can’t remember how far they came down. And then the suits started getting smaller and smaller and the material went from, what, cotton to basically a Lycra-type material, Spandex-type material, it was lighter and didn’t drag much water along, then of course, they went to the full-body suits which until now, until Jan. 1 for high school, this past Jan. 1, they could even cover your head. I think they even experimented with that. It didn’t really catch on, but it went all the way to your wrist, all the way to your ankles, and so when I was at the NCAAs last year, especially because I did the men’s and the women’s last year because they were both at Texas A&M, and the women all had the full-body suit, from one end of the body to the other, and I think almost every single event was a record. And everybody knew what was causing it, and it’s not like the ladies weren’t good swimmers because they were all still the best swimmers in their field and in their events and so on, all of a sudden they were turning in these unbelievable times. They had that many records set, everybody knew it had more to do with the suit, you had that many set at once. In the men’s meet, piles and piles of records, the same deal. … Like in any sport, a lot of of it’s… I’m not sure the word is glamorous. You know, companies are trying to manufacture things and get people to buy them. Bottom line is if you want to make kids faster, you get them in the water and you train them hard. Goes back to the basic thing since Day 1, get in the water and train.

Do you find that you’re doing more muscle-specific training methods now or is it still basically the same? You know you’re working with certain large muscles for the most part?: Change over the years is partly based on what’s available for facilities. Until 1975, we were at the Bangor Y. On Jan. 1 of ‘75 we moved out here because Husson had a swimming team and then they dropped it. It was a men’s program then. And they dropped it, and so we knew the pool was available and we needed space as we had a lot of kids, so we moved out here. At that time we had a weight room that nobody was using. It had all kinds of stuff in it. It wasn’t barbells, but you know it was the things with the cables. You could do leg extensions. It wasn’t real fancy, but we used to do that. But in the pool, for the most part, you want the kids to do all the strokes, if they possibly can. By doing all the strokes, you accomplish a number of things. They work all the muscle groups. Um, and just because a person’s a good freestyler… Most of the kids, obviously, if they start at Bangor High School, we teach ‘em freestyle first, then backstroke, then breaststroke and butterfly, then we recycle through. And as they learn the different strokes, what they might struggle with this year, a year or two down the road, they might be really good at. Either as their bodies change or as they kind of get a better feel for the water.

One of my other questions was if you saw more specialization for swimmers now: For us, it’s almost the opposite. We make them do all the strokes to keep them coming along. It would be more distance-specific in terms of there are some kids who just don’t have the muscle type or body type that can go long distances. If they can, we have them go all the different distances, also, just as they get better as swimmers often, and everybody does this, as you build a broad base when the kids are young, and young here would be ninth-graders, although kids have swum plenty before they get to high school. Of our 40 kids on the team, we have 40 swimmers and four divers, I would say 30 of the 40 started swimming in ninth or 10th grade, competitive swimming. And 10 came up through the various age-group programs. But those kids, obviously, that worried about the thing, they start in lane six. And they spend a whole year in there, and it’s not a stigma to be put in lane six. Everybody understands it. Anybody who knows anything about swimming at Bangor High School or when coaches see me in the fall, they ask me how many kids I have in lane six this year, because that’ll give a little bit of a clue about what might be coming a year or two down the road, and we don’t even know who they are, you know, at the time. That’s what’s given us the depth that we have that we need to be competitive. I kind of jumped away from your question, but we try to work everybody in everything we possibly can. So nobody is just a single-stroke person, hopefully.

Somebody might think they know what they are, but you don’t know what they are: I had a freshman last year tell me right off the bat, I put him in a distance lane for a workout, and he said, “Coach, I’m a sprinter.” I said, “Well, we start everybody as kind of a distance swimmer, then we see.” He placed in the state meet in the 500. He would never have placed in the state meet in any of the shorter distances because he’s too young and not strong enough yet. That doesn’t mean by his senior year he won’t. Jason Thomas holds the state record in the 200 and 500 because he’s a distance swimmer, but he also holds our school record in the 100. Kids often start as distance swimmers, and that just builds a broad aerobic base is what it does. Then as they grow and get stronger they may become sprinters, but they can’t become really good sprinters if they don’t have a strong aerobic base so they can train full workouts at a pretty high level.

In hockey, you get to ninth grade and you’re not very good at it, you’re probably not a very good hockey player. You still don’t know who the best are because out of the group that is in any community, playing hockey since they were little kids,there are still kids who are going to mature and be better than others. And probably the same with baseball and so on. But if you get to ninth grade and you’re not a very good swimmer, it probably means one thing. You haven’t swum much. It’s as simple as that. You haven’t swum much. So nobody would know [if they were good]. If you’d been swimming since you were 2 years old, and… Swimming’s about, swimming’s like… Swimming in water is like a bird learning to fly. You have to learn to feel the water and relax. When you learn to feel the water, like a bird’s wings can feel the air… Of course, the bird kingdom, the bird gets pushed out of the nest. And it goes down and hits the ground because it can feel the air the first try, that’s probably it. OK. So, not much mercy in nature. But with a swimmer, we don’t throw ‘em in the water and let ‘em drown, but, you know, for some of them, it ‘em takes a long time to feel the water. But all of a sudden… You know, I had a kid just this last week who just changed his stroke a little bit and all of sudden he could feel the water, and he was a lane sixer from last year, and he’d done a real good job last year, but all of a sudden, it just came together. And so all of a sudden he went from not even having a remote chance of qualifying for the state meet, in two weeks he went from that point of probably it was going to happen next year to qualifying for the state meet [this year]. He just changed his stroke just a little bit, got a feel for it and improved over two seconds in his 50 and eight seconds in his 100. That’s a lot. Just all of a sudden the timing came together, he changed his recovery a little bit, and then, it doesn’t all happen that fast, but so much of it is about feel. You know, people who can’t swim at all, if you push them in the water, they panic and they’re muscles start flailing in every direction. When the truth is you just have to relax and just barely move their hands and they can stay up. That’s all you gotta do to stay up. But if you took somebody who didn’t know how to swim, like an adult, and you threw them in to the water, and they’re the worst ones to try to teach, they would just start… The faster they move, the more they’re going to sink. You know what I mean? It’s all about feel, just like the bird’s wings. So we do a lot with that, just talking about it and explaining it. You see I get sidetracked.

What do you see for the future of swimming as far as the direction that it’s, that it might be headed?: Are you talking about globally, you mean?

Right, yeah. Or even how it affects what’s happening locally?: I think for the time being, I mean, locally, I speak mostly to high school swimming, there are more high school swimmers than there have ever been. The number of pools has increased quite a bit. But most high school swimming programs don’t cut. So people who are willing to come out for the teams, the coaches will find a way to make it work, and then the next year, those people the next year bring friends, and so locally, you know, it appears to be very, very healthy.

Aroostook County [is] adding people and programs up there…: They’re tough cookies up there, I’ll tell you what. The people, you get down south and they complain about driving 30 miles to some meet. You take Caribou, you gotta come down to Bangor. You want us to come up to swim you? No, no, you’re too big a team, we’re better off to come down here to swim you. They just do it. It’s just the way it was. It’s like me driving to Quebec. I don’t complain about driving to Quebec to salmon fish. That’s what you gotta do. If you want to go salmon fishing, go up there. The people in Caribou and Presque Isle, they are the best. They just, they make it work. They just accept they’re a long ways away and if they’re going to get involved with stuff, then get used to it, you know. Locally, it’s hard to tell where swimming’s headed. It seems to be very healthy. The college level, quite a few of the Division I men’s programs have been cut. And depending on where we would be talking, the reasons would be different. I mean, the conference which [the University of] Maine is in, which I believe is America East, every school they compete with has a girls program, but I would say maybe half or a little bit more than half have men’s programs. I believe Rhode Island has dropped their men’s program or is going to; New Hampshire, I believe has dropped their men’s program; Northeast-ern dropped their men’s program a number of years ago, um, and Syracuse, I noticed the other day that Syracuse swam Maine down at Providence, and I was surprised Maine beat Syracuse. That didn’t make much sense. Some-body said Syracuse dropped their men’s program, but they’re going to allow the people that were there on scholar-ship, if they want to stay there, they will honor that program until those freshmen graduate. Now some have already left, apparently. And if you look in the conference that Texas is in, Texas A&M, what’s that, the Big 12? I think there are only four swim programs in that confeerence now. What happens is, I’m told, for Nebraska, for example, they dropped their program. Nebraska is basically saying this way, if we’re going to have a program, we’ve gotta be com-petitive. If we’re not going to be competitive, it doesn’t make much sense to have it. In order to be competitive with Texas and Texas A&M and whoever the other two schools, I believe, are in the conference, it’s going to cost us at least $40 to $50 million to have a facility that we could bring people into and say, yeah, our facility is as as good or better than theirs. And we’re not going to do that. And so, you know, that decision was made a few years ago. I don’t know, in each of those different schools, [the] combination of factors. In some places, and this isn’t dumping on Title IX [the Federal gender equity law], I thoroughly believe in Title IX, but what’s happened, and I love football so you’ve heard me talk about football, so I’m not… I don’t want anything to be read into this. If I’m going to say some-thing, I’ll say it. I won’t hide it. Um, but because so many scholarships are given to football players, and you can’t have a competitive football program if they’re not given, it puts the burden on a school to come up with that many women’s scholarships. And if you’re now giving the men’s swim team ‘X’ number of scholarships at the University of Maine, now you have to fins even more places to give women’s scholarships. So what ultimately is happening, and I’m sure every school is different, and the only way you could get the exact answer is to talk to the AD behind closed doors and be sworn that you’d never tell the truth, because who knows, the only way you’d find out is to literally each time talk to the school, but, um, you know, Maine gives scholarships to women’s swimming, but they do not give scholarships to men’s swimming. Because they have to balance football, and this isn’t a criticism, it’s just the way it is, I love football and I think it’s just… And a number of times the NCAA’s tried to say to the courts allow us to separate football and we’ll balance the everything else. This is my understanding, and it hasn’t flown. …

To come back to your original question, a lot of… Well, wrestling, a lot of schools that used to have w

restling have lost wrestling, so it’s not just swimming. And part of it is just the economy putting a big burden on everything. It’s hard to tell. I think swimming’s alive and well. It’s hard to tell if it’s going to continue to grow. I would like to think it is. But you know, when I first started coaching, soccer didn’t exist in this area … Indoor track didn’t exist in the northern part of the state. Um, and a lot of the people that would have their kids in soccer programs would have their kids, before soccer and hockey started, would have their kids in swimming programs and because if they weren’t basketball players, it was the only show in town. But now, you know, a lot of the kids do soccer year round, they do some of the other stuff year round, but you know what, we’ve still got as many kids as we’ve ever got, we just go find ‘em someplace else. I think it’s alive and well.

Now, if you asked me where high school sports could go someplace down the road, I mean, 20 years from now, somebody might decide, 10 years from now, we’re not going to do high school sports. We’re gonna have the model they have, I think, in Germany. I’m not sure that’s [where] it is, but you’re going to have town teams. Almost like you’ll have a town basketball team, a town football team, and it’ll be all the kids the right age from Bangor or from Brewer or wherever. And the community would sponsor it, whether it’s through recreation or AAU or something like that, I don’t know. But that’s the way it could end up, X number of years down the road.

Education is everything, I mean. People will say… Well, years ago, I had a mother call me one time. Oh, she was going to let her son swim, but she didn’t think the time that he would be spending on swimming was appropriate because it was all about academics and stuff. A year later she wrote me the most wonderful letter I have ever gotten in my life. And I have it someplace, and she said, “Phil, I can’t tell you how wrong I was. My son gets up up every morning, he’s perky, he’s excited, his room is organized now and it never used to be, he comes home talking about the swimming and the buddies he’s got, and his grades are as good or better than they ever were. He just manages his time better.” And, learning is about doing things. Whether it’s academic doing, which is very, very important, whether it’s confidence you build when you… When kids are in the pool, their personalities change. A lot of these kids are very shy and quiet and stuff like that, and it builds… There can be an individual in every club swimming an individual sport, but I think to win a state championship I’ve gotta have more swimmers than a basketball team has gotta have basketball players. It’s still a team championship and everybody’s gotta work together and, of course, you’ve got the relays where everybody has to do their fair share, so it’s not like somebody passing the ball … on the other hand it’s certainly about teammanship and if you were in here during any practice you’d see the kids working together. So you take a kid hitting the paper route. That’s a job, it teaches responsibility, but it’s a learning experi-ence. So learning happens 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I mean, when people say, school’s about learning, I can tell you life is about having confidence. If you’re not naturally a good student, as I wasn’t — I was OK, but I got my con-fidence through things I learned through swimming and then I worked backward.

You’ve been at this 41 years now, what do you see as your future in swimming? I mean, when you started 41 years ago, you had probably an idea of what you were going to do…: I was going to do it for one year. I didn’t have a degree in education. I was going to do it for one year and then I was going to go to graduate school. I had been offered an assistantship at San Diego State, I was going to get my master’s in oceanography. That [offer] was from a professor I had when I was down at Southern Connecticut. He had gone to San Diego State to teach, and I asked for a recom-mendation. He said, “Not only will I give you a recommendation, I will offer you an assistantship. You’ll teach labs and stuff and get your tuition for free.” So that’s where I thought I was headed. One year turned into 41 years.

So what do you see now? As far as the swimming, I mean, the coaching will just go until I know it’s time and I’ll stop. But I still enjoy it as much as I ever did. Um, you know, I say I’m taking it one year at a time, but I’ve always taken it one year at a time, in a sense. But I’m involved, you know, like I say, I’ve officiated the NCAAs for years, and I work… involved in the National Swimming Coaches Association — I’m an officer in that — and I’m involved in all aspects of the High School Swimming Coaches Association, so… But other than that, outside of swimming, … I’ve got two daughters, two sons-in-law, four granddaughters. I’ve got plenty of things to keep me going. I love to hunt, fish. There’s not enough hours in the day. I don’t worry about keeping myself occupied.

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