Bangor High School boys swim coach Phil Emery will be receiving a prestigious national award later this month in Indianapolis.
The National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association will present Emery its Hall of Fame Award, according to association chairman William Stetson, who added that no more than two individuals receive the award each year.
Emery began his coaching career at Bangor High in 1969 following graduation from Southern Connecticut University where he swam for highly regarded coach Bruce Hutchinson. In 2000, the Southern Connecticut University Alumni Swim Club awarded Emery the Bruce Hutchinson Award for his outstanding contributions to high school swimming.
During Emery’s career at Bangor High, the Rams have won 26 state championships and the 1975 New England championship.
Under Emery’s guidance, the Rams have collected more than 300 dual-meet wins and finished with 21 undefeated seasons. Thirty-nine BHS swimmers and divers have met the standard for All- American consideration while eight Rams have received All American recognition. Thirty-three have been named Academic All Americans.
Robert Hale, who has coached his Greely boys and girls teams to state titles, was also an assistant coach under Emery and believes he knows the reason for the success of the 16-time Maine coach of the year.
“It can be summed up in one word: passion. Swimming for Phil is not for the faint of heart,” Hale said. “Phil doesn’t do anything half hearted or even 90 percent. He is all in. And, he expects that from everyone who decides to become a swimmer or diver for Bangor High. Freshmen sometimes are shell shocked at the beginning but his passion is infectious and soon they, too, are all in.”
Bangor attorney Barry Cohen, a teammate of Emery’s when they swam for BHS, had two sons
who swam for Emery and has officiated high school swimming during the dual-meet season as well as the championship season.
“Phil has a lifelong influence on every boy he coaches. He has the ability to get the most out of each boy, both as an athlete and as a person,” Cohen said. “Although he recognizes that not everyone he coaches will become a state, college, or national class athlete, he treats each boy as a critical part of the group and a contributor to the success of the team.”
Hale said he also witnessed Emery’s belief in coaching all his swimmers with equal expectations.
“Phil had the same passion and drive for his lane-sixers [beginners] as he did for his state champions. He was a teacher first and second and a coach third. No matter what your talent level, ability or background, Phil was invested in you 100 percent,” Hale said. “Everyone earned his wrath and praise equally including me. I still remember my first time at the other end of Phil’s
wrath. I am proud of it and it was an epiphany in my coaching career.”
Hale acknowledged Emery’s influence on his coaching.
“I am not lying when I say I think back to my days of coaching at Bangor with Phil every single day during the season. When I have a decision to make I reflect and say ‘what would Phil do.?’”
Emery’s coaching extends beyond splits, personal records by swimmers, titles, and championships, according to Cohen.
“More than a swim coach, Phil is a mentor to his boys, teaching them the philosophy of life by stressing good sportsmanship and citizenship,” he said. “Testament to the close relationship he develops with his swimmers, many stay in touch with him long after graduation from high school.”
Emery’s name will be engraved on the NISCA Hall of Fame Award displayed at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Recipients of the award had to meet four criteria: 1. Leadership at the national level of interscholastic swimming as well as service to NISCA and/or received the outstanding
service award from NISCA; 2. Outstanding success as a competitive aquatics coach; 3. At least a 20-year career in aquatics including, diving, swimming and or water polo. 4. A 15-year career in good standing with NISCA.