I call Jim Whytlaw the “papa smurf” of Missouri swimming because not only does he have the white hair and the wisdom, but he also sports a red shirt and blue Crocs on deck often and that is where my “child of the 80‘s“ brain goes when I see him wear them. Jim has been a high school coach in Springfield for 37 years. Before that he was an all-conference diver at BYU way back when competitive diving was still done from docks and bridges instead of springboards and platforms. Jim announced his retirement from coaching last night. I found the link on USA Today! I guess it is big news even outside of our little SW Missouri fish bowl.
Jim has had a lot of great teams at Glendale High School. His Win-Loss record is nearly impossible to fathom: 810-58!! His Falcons have finished in the top 4 at the MSHSAA meet 9 times. This year was their highest finish ever for boys and girls. Both teams were second place at the big meet, with an impressive move-up for the boys and a tremendous nail-biter for the girls. The girls’ championship came down to the last relay, where Glendale was edged out by three tenths at the end of one of the most exciting meets I have attended.
Jim has been an NFHS Regional Coach of the Year three times, and in 2008 he was chosen to be their National Coach of the Year. His local accolades are too numerous to list. He has been at the heart of swimming in Missouri for decades. There are pictures of several of Jim’s State Champions and All-Americans on the wall at the John H. Foster Natatorium that most of the teams in SW MO share for practices and meets. In the last few years of his career, he also helped Marshfield High School to start a team by just adding those responsibilities to his already busy workload.
It is easy to say that Coach Whytlaw has touched the lives of many students and swimmers who have gone on to become successful people when they go out into the world. He is a man who understands the place of athletics within the scholastic setting, and is not afraid to speak up to do what is right for kids. I pick on Jim about being old, only because he has become a good friend through coaching and he is quick to make those jokes about himself. He has never had any problem keeping up with us whippersnappers who weren’t even alive yet when he started teaching math.
Congratulations, Jim. May your retirement be as relaxing and rewarding as your coaching career was productive. It has been a joy and an honor to get my butt kicked by you for the last third of your career!