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SWIMMING: A fond farewell to Hugh Roddin

After an amazing 46-year coaching career, legendary Hugh Roddin hanging up his whistle

Longtime Roosevelt Coach Hugh Roddin has spent that last 46 years near the pools in Wyandotte.

Roosevelt high school has gone through many changes since it’s opening in 1923, but there’s one thing that’s been a constant for as long as most can remember. But that has now changed.

Longtime swimming Coach Hugh Roddin is retiring after 46 seasons of coaching.

Roddin, who announced his retirement at the end-of-year swimming banquet to his girls’ swim team, began coaching in Wyandotte in 1967; before there was even a girls’ swim team.

In the early 1970’s, a couple of girls asked Roddin if they could swim on the boys team and he said yes. The next year a girls’ team was formed at the school and had a separate coach.

In 1976, Roddin took over the girls’ team as well and coached both teams until giving up the boys’ team in 2008.

During his career, Roddin, a Woodhaven resident, taught physical education at Roosevelt and has subbed in the school district since his retirement in 1998.

Coaching swimmers has been nothing but wonderful memories over the years for Roddin, who believes swimmers are generally good students.

“I enjoy the sport,” Roddin said. “It’s gratifying because most of the kids that swim are just good overall students.

“They work hard in the classroom and they come in with a very positive attitude.”

Although he has had almost endless amounts of swimmers of the years, two in particular stand out for Roddin as the best swimmers that Wyandotte has ever had.

Ken Johns swam on Roddin’s boys’ team and went on to be a successful college swimmer at Lehigh University. He’s now an engineer in Colorado.

Emily Kreeger set a school record in the backstroke in 1992 before going on to swim at Yale. She is currently doing her residency in surgery.

Long before he started coaching high school swimming, Roddin swam himself in high school. He was an All American swimmer at his high school in Brooklyn New York before receiving an athletic scholarship to swim at the University of Maryland.

And even thought coaching takes up most of his time, Roddin still finds time to compete in Masters swimming.

“Part of my love for the sport is the fact that I do it myself and I did it in high school and college and I still compete in meets,” he said.

U.S Masters swimming is nonprofit organization that became popular during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Currently with more than 60,000 members, swimmers can join at age 19 and swim in age groups broken up in five year increments.

The organization holds two national championships a year, one in a 25-meter pool and one in a 50-meter pool.

This year, Roddin traveled to Greensboro and Ohama to compete in both and came back a champion.

Roddin not only won five events in each of the meets, but set two national records for his age group, in the 100 and 200 meter butterfly.

A unique occurrence played out in a special way for Roddin when his son Jeff also won the 100 butterfly for his age group in Nebraska.

Swimming is almost second nature to Roddin’s family and Jeff joined him at both national championships this year, along with Roddin’s wife and daughter-in-law and the four swam a medley relay together.

While the relay swims are special to Roddin, the thing he remembers most from the meet is that it was where his granddaughter took her first steps.

Master’s swimming has allowed Roddin to meet many people over the years. He found out just how small the world is when he became friendly with one swimmer he met, and found out he graduated from Roosevelt just a few years after Roddin graduated high school.

Jeff and Roddin’s daughter Jill were also high school swimmers and swam for the Warriors in Woodhaven, competing against their dad’s team.

Roddin described the experience as, “four years of fun.”

One memory that stuck out for Roddin was during his son’s freshman year when the Bears hosted Woodhaven.

Per usual with swim meets, the visiting team chooses what lanes they would like to swim in; odd or even. For whatever reason, almost all teams picked the odd lanes, but that particular meet, Jeff asked his coach to pick the even lanes.

When Jeff told his Dad they had chosen Wyandotte’s usual lanes, Roddin simply told his son he was ready for him.

Before Jeff’s first race, Roddin poured a bucket of ice into his son’s lane as a fun, family joke.

Swimming with his family over the years has been very satisfying to Roddin and it does not look like his legacy will be forgotten any time soon.

Jill has 10 and seven-year-old sons and Roddin’s wife recently asked the 10-year-old if he thought his younger brother would swim.

He responded with, “Well, let’s see. My grandfather and grandmother both swim. My mother and father are both swimmers. My uncle swims. I swim. You think my little brother has a choice?”

Both boys are now involved with swimming.

Family swimming is something Roddin has seen quite often over the years. Coaching in such a close knit community, he sees countless swimmers come out and finds he has coached their parents.

A few years ago, he typed up “Wyandotte family ties,” a seven page document off all the family combinations he has coached for over the years.

Roddin is still in contact with quite a few former swimmers. Just the other day he received an email from a former swimmer who told Roddin he was still swimming and let him know how appreciative he was of his time at Roosevelt.

Roddin holds Saturday practices, where he has been known to jump in the pool with his team for workouts. Over the years, former swimmers of his have shown up before the current team and swam a workout with Roddin.

“All these little things add up to a very pleasant experience I’ve had over the years,” Roddin said.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the kids. If they weren’t really exceptional kids, I don’t think I would have been able to hang on this long.”

One thing Roddin loves about coaching swimming is that he believes everyone gets something out of it and you do not have to be a state champion to get a lot out of it.

As everyone knows, all good things must come to and end and Roddin will no longer be deck side come girls’ swim season next fall. Although he had anticipated it would be his last season, Roddin kept quit about his decision until the end-of-year banquet was wrapping up.

“At one point you gotta give it up,” he said “I kind of thought this year would be it.”

Current swimmer Clare Sutka described her coach as the only man in the world who could make a room of girls cry that quickly.

Roddin said he thought his team would be sad, but was not expecting the reaction they had.

“What I said to them was that … I couldn’t have asked for a better group to finish with,” Roddin said. “Their chemistry together as a team was just so, so good. And they were very responsible. We had a successful year.

“But I’ve had years where we hardly won a meet and I would have considered it successful because of what the kids got out of it, and what I got out of it. The record doesn’t always indicate success.”

With his decision to retire, Roddin plans to enjoy his new freedom and of course, continue swimming. And while he won’t be making the calls for the Bears anymore, he still plans to be at their meets, cheering them on.

Coaching in Wyandotte for so many years has given Roddin so many memories he will never forget and he says he has enjoyed the community over the years.

When Roddin first came to the area, several other school districts reached out to him for coaching jobs, but Roddin chose to stay in Wyandotte.

“I liked it where I was,” he said. “This is fine. This is where I want to stay.”





Last Updated: 12/14/2012 3:14:24 PM EST

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