Future Republic High School swimmers had their first opportunity to meet their new head coach last week. Incoming swim coach Steve Boyce met with potential swimmers and their families to begin the process of organizing a team for competition in 2019-20. Boys swimming is a fall sport and girls swimming is held during the winter.
Because fewer schools participate in swimming and there are fewer facilities to hold practices, schools often share a swim coach, even though they compete against each other at meets. That will be the case with Republic, which will share Boyce with Springfield Glendale and Ozark, where he already coaches. All three teams will train together at a facility in east Springfield.
Activities Director Trevyor Fisher said the time was right to add swimming as an official sport as it remained popular among younger students in Republic.
“I think with the support that we have at the youth levels, the middle school levels, it’s been on the radar for a few years, and with this being my first year [as activities director], we thought it would be a good transition to get it going. I think we have the support within the community and it will be exciting,” Fisher said.
Boyce said the first meeting in Republic was meant to allow families to “learn a little bit about expectations and try to get some people who can organize… and figuring out how they’re going to have to drive from [Republic] over to the natatorium at Chestnut and 65. Carpooling and helping each other out… is going to be a huge deal for us.”
Boyce grew up in Oklahoma and swam competitively in high school and at Drury University. He moved to Springfield to be near his wife’s family and has continued to coach, first at Glendale, then at Ozark. His assistant coach, Robert Muench, has been a longtime proponent of swimming in Republic.
As a student in Republic, Muench “had tried to get a swim team started back when he was 14 years old,” Boyce said. “He was the first coach of the Republic aquatic team, the summer league team, so he got that started and ran it for a number of years with his sister. We’ve been together like ten years now. It’s kind of coming full circle. For him to be finally getting the swim team started in Republic, I think, is pretty darn cool.”
Swimming is different from most other sports, according to Boyce, because schools only compete at the varsity level.
“Even as a freshman beginner, you’re on the varsity team and you compete against the varsity kids, and sometimes that’s okay, and sometimes you’re going to get beat up pretty good. But that’s how it works,” Boyce said.
His biggest challenge at the start, he believes, will be letting people know the team exists. Without an indoor pool for training at the high school, it’s not obvious that swimming is a potential activity for students.
“Getting people to realize that there is a team is hard to do. You really have to work and recruit people and get people to come out and give it a try,” he said.
His goal for the first couple of years in Republic is to get enough swimmers to compete in all the events.
“We see schools in the area that…even struggle to put together a relay. Sometimes they can’t get four kids. My real hope is a dozen kids on each side, where we can pretty much fill a lineup and spread them around and we can be competitive in that facet,” he said. “I hate to give away points because we didn’t have the bodies to put in the races. Then it’s my job to make sure they’re ready to race.”
Getting ready to race means a lot of training, and that’s another thing that sets the sport apart.
“It’s a training sport. It’s not a fun ballgame sport. If you’re not doing the training, it becomes obvious,” Boyce said. “But also, I think for the kids over the years it can be a lot of fun. Being part of a team is great, and I want kids to be connected to their school.”
“Just because we’re new, we don’t want to be at the bottom of the barrel. We want to succeed. So that’s the first thing is get the bodies out here where we can make an opportunity to have some fun.”