For the past 30 years, you could count on two things with Dallastown High School swimming — that it would perform at a dominant level in the York-Adams League and that Rich Howley was the coach behind it all.
Sunday, at the end of this year's team banquet, Howley announced that he was retiring as coach of the Wildcats, along with his position as a technology education teacher at the middle school.
"Basically, it was for my family and time for my family," Howley said about his reason for retiring. "I lived and breathed with swimming and the kids at Dallastown, both in the classroom and in the pool, but now my family and changing dynamics, as far as my kids getting older and wanting to do things, and I want to be part of that."
Howley has been a teacher for nearly 35 years, more than 32 of which have come at Dallastown. During that time, along with being the swimming coach, he also served as a football and track and field coach, but none of those roles lasted nearly as long as his swimming tenure, which is ultimately what he'll be remembered for.
Building a strong program: If there was ever an athletic program that could be considered a dynasty within the Y-A League over an extended period of time, Dallastown swimming is it. In Howley's term as coach, the Wildcats won 50 Y-A League titles — 25 by the boys and 25 by the girls — and a girls' District 3 championship. He also coached six swimmers to individual state gold medals, 40 district champions and more than 100 All-Americans.
"I was blessed," Howley said. "What kept me going so long was I got to walk on the deck and be called 'coach' by my heroes, and that's those kids, and that's kept it going and that's what I'll miss the most."
For the kids: Howley always stressed that he did what he did for the kids. He wanted the lessons he instilled in his swimmers to be passed along to the next generation, in some capacity.
Howley said he informed the Dallastown administration that he would be retire a while ago, but they worked in conjunction with him to keep it a secret from his coaching staff and swimmers until after the season, so that he could tell them personally. Howley told his coaches shortly before the season ended that he would retire and then made the official announcement to the athletes and parents just before the banquet ended on Sunday, so they "could hear it from me and not see it."
His retirement will become official on June 6.
"I am not going to lie to you, I'm struggling," Howley said. "I'm not going to lie to anybody because it is so much of who I am and what I am and what I did for so many years. ... These kids are so much, over the years, a part of my life, and it's hard. But, I told them at the banquet I'm retiring and sort of stepped back a little bit and the tears poured."
Howley said his position has been posted and, while he'll no longer be involved with the program going forward, he does hope that his successor is someone who has a past with the swimming team.
"We're blessed to have a lot of people who have been with us for a long time," Howley said. "...What is special about Dallastown is they've been part of it. We have a lot of former swimmers who coach with us, and if we can keep that continuity I think that's good for the kids too."
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.