Interest in the Payson Pikes swim team is waning this year and no one seems sure of the reasons.
“It’s hard to say; we really don’t know,” said EVO Swim School owner David Tait.
“We have a few (youths) on Swim Neptune in the Valley and we changed coaches, but those shouldn’t affect us.”
EVO, a Gilbert-area swim school, contracts with the town to operate Taylor Pool each summer and oversee all the aquatic programs.
First-year Taylor Pool manager Sean Ford, also Pikes coach, is equally as puzzled by dwindling numbers, “There’s no real reason we know of.”
Last week, just 22 youth participated in 11-years-and-older Pikes practices, which are held 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.
In the 10-years-and-younger division, which practices 8 to 9 a.m. four days a week, only 13 are competing.
Those numbers represent a huge drop from when Jim Quinlan founded the team in 1986 and the roster eventually grew to 150-plus youths.
While participation is not what Tait and Ford were hoping for, the pair will continue to field a team that has seven meets this summer.
On June 16, Payson hosts Sedona and on June 30, Prescott visits Taylor Pool. The Pikes will travel July 14 to the East Valley Invitational at Tempe McClintock Pool and on July 21, Payson hosts the Cottonwood Clippers.
The season wraps up July 28 at the Verde Valley Invitational in Cottonwood.
For home meets, warm-up is at 8:30 a.m. and competition begins at 9 a.m.
Although the season is about to officially begin, Tait says he will continue to accept new team members.
The fee is $75 for eight weeks, a team suit is required and fins are needed at every practice.
To register, go to: http://www.evoswimschool.com/arizona/payson.
When Quinlan arrived on the scene in 1986, Taylor was struggling under a hit-and-miss management scheme, partly because the pool was newly built.
Quinlan took over with years of aquatic experience, as a former prep swimmer, high school and club coach and municipal manager.
Prior to arriving in Payson, Quinlan served 10 years as a manager of the Casa Grande municipal pool and for eight years was the boys and girls swimming and diving coach at Casa Grande High School.
He also coached the Central Arizona Dust Devils ASU swim team and was on the Central Arizona College staff.
As a college student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., he was a member of the Bulldogs water polo team.
“Water polo includes my two loves — swimming and basketball,” he said.
The first summer Quinlan took over management of Taylor, he set about scheduling lessons for different skill levels and providing the aquatic opportunities, such as the swim team, most municipal pools offer.
“I was like the ring leader of a circus, trying to get things organized,” he said.
During his second year as pool manager, he helped found the adult aerobics classes that are still offered at Taylor.
“Pam White and Susan Hall were a great help with the aerobics,” he said. “(The classes) became very popular.”
In addition to managing the pool, Quinlan was also responsible each May for teaching Red Cross lifeguard certification classes.
Eventually, he earned credentials to become a Red Cross Water Safety Instructor (WSI) and was able to help many of the guards advance in rank to become swim instructors.
Under Quinlan’s guidance, swim team ranks ballooned to up to 180 swimmers.
“When we held our first practice, we had four (team members),” he said. “Each day, I told the swimmers they had to come back to the next practice with one of their friends. That’s how we grew.”
Quinlan recalls the Pikes swim team as an integral part of many Rim Country teenagers’ maturation and learning process.
“They had to get up early (6:30 a.m.), get out of bed in the summer and accomplish something,” he said. “That was tough for some, but they learned from it.”
Although roster numbers have diminished this year, Quinlan is happy to see the team continue. “It’s something many kids really need,” he said.
In the fall of 2000, after being appointed head boys basketball coach at Payson High School, Quinlan resigned as Pikes coach.
Since, there has been a succession of coaches.