The sport of swimming is officially coming to both Jefferson City and Capital City high schools next school year.
The Jefferson City School District posted job openings earlier this week for a head coach and an assistant that will oversee teams from both schools.
The two sides will practice together but will be compete separately. Diving is not included in the plan.
“We are prepared to launch and start swimming next school year,” Jefferson City School District athletic director Ehren Earleywine said. “… We will probably have our coaches in place, hired, interviewed, all that stuff, within the next month. Let those coaches start recruiting kids locally, trying to formulate the team and put together some summer workout plans to get ready for the fall season.”
Jefferson City School District superintendent Bryan McGraw brought the idea to the table earlier this year.
After surveying students at both the high-school and eighth-grade levels, the school district decided to proceed with the idea and came to an agreement with the Knowles YMCA as the host site.
“The response and the interest was enough for us to solicit us taking the next steps,” Earleywine said. “The administrators at the YMCA were agreeable, and in fact they were excited, because they have the Barracuda Swim Club and so many of those kids would love to swim for their respective high schools, but we just haven’t had anything.”
There were questions early on about how popular the sport of swimming would be and whether the addition would be worth it.
But after the survey results and early interest in the coaching openings, the skepticism turned into excitement.
“It’s been a little surprising, to be honest,” Earleywine said. “I’ve grown up in Jefferson City, been here most of my life, and I have just never heard a lot about swimming, don’t know a lot of people who swam, don’t know a lot of people who are interested in swimming. But apparently there is a pocket of people, a niche of people that I didn’t know about, that have significant interest and buy in with swimming programs, so I am excited about that.”
While the two teams will be working with each other at practice, it is not a co-op situation.
Jefferson City and Capital City will practice at the YMCA simultaneously, but the Cavaliers and Jays will compete as separate programs.
“Those two coaches will service both our our high schools,” Earleywine said. “So at practice, you’ll have Capital City swimmers in X, Y and Z lanes and Jefferson City swimmers in A, B and C lanes. And they will all get coached by the same coaches and they’ll all practice together, but when we compete, those scores will be separated.”
This makes the coaching search unique and important, as the candidates have to be equally invested in each team.
“We just have to make sure that the person we hire as the head coach and assistant coach are neutral, they are not biased to one school or the other and give the same amount of attention to both kids,” Earleywine said. “I don’t think that is going to be hard to do because that coach’s success, when the swimmers are successful for either school the coach is successful. There’s a direct correlation for them to be invested in the process.”
Early interest in the coaching search has been positive.
“I was so encouraged to know that not only would there be warm bodies interested in coaching swimming but that there were people that have significant swimming experience,” Earleywine said. “We anticipate hiring people that know swimming well, and have had a lifetime in the pool, and already have a connection with the kids in the community as a result of being connected with the Barracuda program.”
Jefferson City and Capital City are now the fifth and sixth schools to offer swimming in the Central Missouri Activities Conference. The others are Battle, Hickman, Rock Bridge and Sedalia Smith-Cotton. Helias is currently the only CMAC school to not offer swimming.
“The conference has been very hands off in terms of what each school wants to participate in,” Earleywine said. “And I think it’s just because we are so well aware of each one of our schools restrictions and limitations, so there has been no pressure from the CMAC for us to add swimming.”
The MSHSAA boys swimming season is in the fall, while the girls season is in the winter.