Jan. 21, 2010
IOWA CITY, IA – When Glenn Patton arrived at Iowa in 1975 as the new men’s swimming coach, it was the fateful beginning to great changes in the Iowa swimming program. However, before he could rebuild the team into a Big Ten power, he wanted to rebuild the Fieldhouse pool.
“When I got here,” Patton remembers, “we didn’t have lane lines, starting blocks, backstroke flags or electronic timing equipment. We had nothing as far as equipment goes, so we had to buy a lot.”
In addition to the practical things necessary to run a proper swimming team, Patton knew that to build a good team, a good looking facility was imperative. Patton wasted no time making his team understand the kind of work ethic he expected.
“The paint was coming off in the pool, it was an awful color. It just looked really downtrodden. I got some guys to donate money for us to buy paint. I had our team spend Labor Day weekend painting the pool.”
The iconic painted windows, which are painted to represent each team in the Big Ten, were also part of Patton’s Labor Day makeover.
“One of our guys, John Downer, noticed that there were ten windows and thought of the idea of putting a sign up for each team in the Big Ten. There were only ten teams in the conference back then. Since then, it’s obviously been redone, but the original idea came that weekend.”
Other improvements came later, including deepening the pool in 1979 to make it safer for the divers. The pool’s ten lanes were too narrow, so they changed it to eight. Money donated to the program led to the construction of a ten-meter diving platform, a very important improvement since it is an Olympic event.
However, out of all these improvements Patton saw early in his Iowa career, the most positive improvement was the team’s pride in Iowa swimming.
“When I got here, the group of athletes that were here had no pride in the program. They wouldn’t even wear Iowa swimming t-shirts. We spent Labor Day weekend painting the pool, and by the following Tuesday, their pride in Iowa swimming had changed just by the bonding of painting the pool together. The sense of togetherness, making the pool look nice, made their attitude change. It made them more conscientious about working harder, showing up to practice on time. Those things had slipped when the program wasn’t very good.
“It’s that kind of work ethic, volunteerism, and contribution that does something towards building pride and confidence and making you feel good about the program. Sometimes we spoil our athletes too much. I think there’s something to be said about some good old fashioned hard work.”