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NAHSSL  Brief  History                                   3-1-11

 

Prior to the formation of a high school swim league, there were very few (if any) dual swim meets in the Madison County area.  The high schools in the area had some quality swimmers who swam year round with various year round swim programs, but no real school/team unity until several weeks prior to the High School State Swim Meet.  If you weren’t a year round swimmer, you were basically left out of most area high school swimming programs.  County schools such as Buckhorn and Hazel Green were given a lane or two at the Natatorium to use for practice.  But, without quality coaching, leadership, direction, or swim meets, these schools lost 50% of their swimmers within a month.  This had been the trend for the past 15-20 years in North Alabama.  It was this exit of swimmers that I was looking to stop, by starting a program whereas all high school swim teams, large or small, weak or strong, could compete.

 

 

In August 2008, I visited the Natatorium and the high school swim practice of Buckhorn & Hazel Green.  At the first practice that I attended, there were some 30 kids spread across 3 lanes.  Over the next 2-3 weeks, I saw this practice get tossed around from 3 lanes to 1 lane, and the number of swimmers drop from 30 to 15.  Why the exit of swimmers?  The biggest reason I received was “there are no swim meets until mid-November”.  We needed some type of competition during the three months leading up to the State High School Swim Meet.  High School Swim Teams needed swim meets and newspaper publicity just like all the other sports.  Thus, I wanted to start a League of High School Swim Teams in North Alabama for the purpose of dual swim meets.

 

 

After discussing this idea with Jenny Barrett (Buckhorn HS Swim Coach), I approached Randolph Swim Coach, Marvin Chou who thought this was a great idea.  As it turned out Marvin was our North Alabama Representative to the Alabama High School State Swimming Committee and he quickly became my consultant as I felt it best to have every idea approved thru him.  Marvin liked my idea a lot, but at the same time he had no time to see it thru.  My deal with him was simple:  I would do the leg work and recruit teams, if he would get the idea approved on the State level and work to reduce the red-tape rules that had suffocated High School swimming for the past 20 years.  He agreed, and thus I was on my way to starting the North Alabama High School Swim League.

 

 

My first order of business was 2-fold.  I had to recruit member teams, and I had to find pools for swim meets.  I quickly found both to be very tall mountains. 

 

 

First, I approached two swimming pools in North Huntsville that were under used, and worked thru red-tape to get both to become our first source for swim meets.  After doing some research, I found that the Huntsville City Schools could easily host their meets at the Richard Showers Pool on Blue Springs Road.  These teams (Huntsville, Grissom, and Lee)  had to fill out paperwork and be the host team.  Then, I met with officials at Alabama A&M and after months of negiotiating, brought together Madison County School officials with Alabama A&M officials.  In essence, Madison County Schools (Buckhorn, Hazel Green, Madison county, and Sparkman) would use the A&M pool for daily practice plus swim meets.  The first year we had 55 swimmers from the four County schools.  (The second year, we had 72 swimmers.) 

 

 

Now, that we had two pools for swim meets, we needed swim teams.  My first thought was that we had 5 initial members in Randolph, Buckhorn, Hazel Green, Madison County, and Sparkman.  But we needed about 10 active members.  I felt like we could get the big three (Huntsville, Grissom, and Bob Jones) to join after we had 7-8 smaller teams so the League would have strength in numbers.  In late November, at the North Alabama High School Swim Invitational at the Natatorium on Drake Ave in Huntsville,  I approached every high school swim coach with an invitation to join the League.  I was promising smaller, quicker swim meets, with dual meet scores.  They were accustomed to 5-hour swim meets, and liked my idea of a schedule with 2-hour swim meets.  Very quickly I received verbal approvals from high school swim coaches at Lee, Florence, Gadsden, Westminster, and Catholic.  In mid-March of 2009, I had my first meeting (at my home), attended by representatives from seven schools plus Huntsville and Grissom.  As it turned out, I was leader of the first North Alabama High School Swim League.

 

 

We were on our way.  First, I sent out an email to about 20 high school teams in North Alabama.  I was looking for verbal commitments.  I had to receive a promise that IF they were signed up for a swim meet, they would attend.  I had to have a solid commitment from each team who wanted to join.  There would be no entry fees or other requirements to join.  I thought, “My neck was on the line now, so I had to produce.”  After receiving commitments from 14 high schools and securing the 8-9 nights for swim meets from Richard Showers and A&M, we were on our way and the initial 2009 season was born.  The North Alabama High School Swim League was born with 14 first year members for the 2009 swim season (Buckhorn, Hazel Green, Sparkman, Madison County, Randolph, Westminster, Catholic, Huntsville, Grissom, Lee, Butler, Bob Jones, Florence, and Gadsden High Schools).   All that was left were details such as type of swim meets, scoring, number of teams involved in each meet, a swim meet schedule, etc.  I drew up everything, and then was Meet Director at each swim meet since this was a new avenue for even the most seasoned swim official.  And so the League was born.  We had swim teams, swim meets, newspaper publicity, dual meet scores, etc.  We had swim meets for every type of team, large or small, weak or strong. 

 

 

After putting together a Board of nine parents (from nine different schools), the League quickly had a great future.  The Board took over the League for the 2010 season, and the League added Scottsboro, Cullman, and Hartselle High Schools.  My hope is that this League will still be available one day for all those 4 year olds who learned to swim this year.

 

 

Glenn Carr

 

NAHSSL Board

2009 - 2012