Jay leaves Barracudas but stays in the hearts of his swimmers
For a farewell speech, Howard Jay used only a few words to sum up his 20-year tenure as head coach of the Sopris Barracudas.However, the large turnout of former and current team members, parents and friends with whom Jay’s spent time during that two-decade span were anxious to pick up the slack.”Thank you for being a surrogate father to all our kids,” said Bob Noone, whose children have been involved with the Barracudas for more than 10 years.Family and love and support kept popping up in comments from people who spoke about Jay throughout the evening – only when tears didn’t interfere with their words.
“He is almost like a fatherly type of character. I think he’s that way for most of us – a lot of us,” said Ali Schaiberger, who’s been coached by Jay for nine years.”He was never just a coach to us. I’ve always called him Howard. He’s two things in one.”Jennifer Betts, whose Barracuda career also concluded this year, agrees.”I’m just going to miss how much he’s a dad to us,” she said of Jay. “It was like having a second father.””There’s been times that line blurred between man and coach, and they’re both wonderful. He’s influenced us so much,” said Emily McDonald, an 11-year competitor for Jay.
“What I’m going to remember the most is he sits down and talks with you – good or bad,” McDonald continued. “The most prominent memory that I have is him sitting by the pool and just talking with him. At first after a race, he’ll talk about swimming, but if you hang around him long enough, he’ll talk about life.”It’s the life skills Jay talked about throughout his coaching career with the Barracudas that Mark Williams, a former coach, said makes Jay special.”What I take away from Howard is the life lessons he taught to the kids. He put them on the right road. Everything was always positive. I never heard a word out of Howard that was not positive.””(Howard) taught our kids they could do anything,” remarked Jim Conway, a former longtime board member of the club.Sierra Grove, 15, has been a member of the Barracudas more than half her life, and has spent eight summers rising at dawn to make team practices. “It wasn’t a big deal,” she said, “because Howard makes it fun.
“When you wake up at 6 in the morning (practice) was just a great place to go. Everything about it was a great experience. It was something you just wanted to do.”Grove plans to continue with the Barracudas next year, but will miss the special touch Jay brought with him to the pool.”His personality is amazing. Everything he does is great – not just in swimming, but in life. He’d teach you how to be a great team member and how to be more outgoing and meet new people. It wasn’t just about the swimming.”While swimming brought them together, it was the association Jay built with the athletes and families over the last 20 years he’s been most thankful for.”This is not about me. It’s about you guys,” he said. “What’s important is we’ve all become a little stronger as a family.”
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Longtime Roaring Fork Valley golf club professional Doug Rohrbaugh is playing in this weekend’s Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan.