Rick Carroll

Rick Carroll

In the late 1960s, the North Penn School District (NPSD) board members, administration and community members broke ground on the new North Penn High School (NPHS) in Towamencin Township. This state-of-the art building would feature a planetarium, a television production studio and a six-lane indoor swimming pool and separate diving well. During the construction, a NPHS teacher called his best friend and college roommate to tell him about the building. And, that one phone call brought "Mr. Carroll" to North Penn.

Rick graduated in 1958 from Taylor High School (now Riverside High School) located south of Scranton, PA, as a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball. Rick attended East Stroudsburg University (ESU) where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Health and Physical Education and Recreation in 1962. While at ESU, Rick captained the baseball team and served in leadership roles in several ESU student organizations and clubs including the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and Sigma Pi social fraternity. He was also elected vice-president of his senior class.

Gainfully employed right out of college, Rick began his teaching career outside of Allentown in the Easton Area School District in 1962. In addition to teaching Physical Education, he began his coaching career as assistant coach for the baseball and swim teams. But, that all changed with that one particular phone call in 1970 from Jim Wilde, a NPHS Physical Education teacher and coach. Jim told Rick about the new building, highlighting the new pool, and invited him to come down to Lansdale to see if he was interested in working at NPHS.

Rick visited the new facility and was immediately impressed. He submitted an application and was hired as an aquatics teacher, the head coach of the Boys' Swimming and Diving Team and the Director of North Penn Community Aquatics program.

This new position was a tremendous opportunity; however, Rick had never swam a competitive race in his life and had never been a head coach of any sport, yet alone swimming. In his typical humble and humorous way, he once said "I think I got the job because I was the cheapest applicant." So, he researched other programs and watched and learned as often as he could. He was mentored by Easton head swimming coaches Dan Charney and Martha Barnett. He hit the ground running in 1971 and began to build the foundation for both the competitive and the community powerhouse aquatics programs that North Penn is known for today.

Photo of Cindy Louden.

At NPHS, Rick had a unique classroom: an indoor swimming pool. Here, he was responsible for teaching basic swimming skills to the sophomore students and varied aquatic games and activities for the juniors and seniors. The Elementary Aquatics program for students in third and fifth grades in all 11 elementary schools was also instituted. When Mr. Carroll talked to you, he talked to you. He was always genuinely interested in all students, not only in their progress in learning how to swim, but in what type of person they were becoming. He set a high standard of expectations for their behavior. He taught them how to act responsibly, to use manners and to show respect for themselves and each other. And in turn, he showed the same to each of them. Rick was recognized for his impact as a teacher with the Lansdale Jaycees Young Educator of the Year Award in 1976 and the NPHS Teacher of the Year Award in 1977.

Rick not only impacted his students but also his fellow teachers. He was a role model in education. He willingly talked about teaching philosophies, greeted everyone in the hallways with a handshake or a smile, and was always available to lend an ear or a hand when someone needed it. When he officially retired from North Penn in 1998, he may have left the building, but the impact left on his students and athletes still pulsates throughout the high school today. One of his former swimmers and current NPHS teacher and NPHS/North Penn Aquatic Club (NPAC) swim coach, Brian Faikish, said, "Mr. Carroll was and has always been a mentor to me in the pool as a swimmer, as a coach and as a teacher. A lot of who I am in my capacity at NPHS, I owe to him. He was and still is a great communicator, motivator and a role model for his students and coworkers in and out of the classroom."

For the community aquatics program, Rick designed a learn-to-swim program for the younger students of the community. He also established NPAC, the competitive arm of the community program. He invested 28 years to building the success of the program and most importantly, building relationships along the way. Because of Rick Carroll and his staff, so many children of the North Penn community not only learned important, lifesaving swimming skills, but often fell in love with competitive swimming for life. For his efforts, Rick was recognized by the American Red Cross for 40 years of service as a water safety instructor.

For the NPHS Knights swim team, Rick was the founding father of the "Tradition of Excellence." The team lost its first ever dual meet to Methacton, but the Knights went 8-4 in that first season and never looked back. Upon his retirement from coaching in 1988, Rick had guided the Boys' Swimming and Diving team to 17 league titles (one for every year he coached), nine District One titles, nine undefeated seasons and two back-to-back Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state titles in 1975 and 1976 and runner-up in 1977. Their dual meet record was 213-14 during those 17 years with Rick at the helm. His swimmers received 19 All-American selections and over 50 All-State selections.

The legendary coach received numerous honors and recognitions for his lasting legacy in North Penn Swimming. In 1988, his final year as head coach, he was awarded the Pennsylvania High School Swim Coaches Award of Excellence and in 2007 he received the Jim Barniak Award from East Stroudsburg University which recognizes an ESU graduate for exceptional achievements in athletics beyond graduation. He has been inducted into the PA Swimming Hall of Fame, the NP-Souderton Hall of Fame, the NP Alumni Athletic Association Hall of Fame, and the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame. However, one of the biggest honors for Rick was to have the NPHS natatorium that he spent so much time in dedicated in his honor in 1999. Although the pool that Rick came to know as "home" no longer exists at NPHS, when it came time for the installation of the new pool in the fall of 2005, its name unquestionably remained the Rick Carroll Natatorium.

Although victories were abundant during Rick's career, it wasn't always about winning for Mr. Carroll. He loved the personal aspect of coaching swimming and being able to individually motivate each one of his swimmers to succeed. Rick and his staff based the success of the program on personal improvement, not necessarily a win for the team. He and his staff hammered home this phrase to his teams: "Pride in Excellence and Performance." He inspired his swimmers to believe in and to take pride in themselves, their team and their program.

Photo of Cindy Louden.

For Rick, there are so many great memories during his time on deck at North Penn. But, one of that does stand out involved current NPHS Athletic Director, Bill Bartle (NPHS '78) when he was a senior captain for the team. During the 1977-1978 season, a fellow teammate was paralyzed in an automobile accident. Unbeknownst to Rick, Bill promised his teammate he would win two events for him at states and he did just that winning the 100 freestyle and the 200 individual medley in his honor.

Aside from coaching swimming, Rick was also instrumental in the administrative leadership and officiating aspects of the sport. Throughout his career, he served as the Bux-Mont Swim League Chairman, District One Swimming Chairperson, President of the PA Aquatics Council, and the PA State Representative for the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA). He also was a PIAA official for over 40 years in football, baseball, basketball, track & field and of course, swimming.

Yet, the memories in the water are not always the ones that stick out for Rick. He takes great personal satisfaction of the successes of his athletes outside of the pool. "It's the best feeling in the world to have them come back and thank you for something you did for them or said to them. But, I didn't do it alone, I had a great staff with me along the way," said Rick.

When he sees them out and about, he always has a smile, a hug and genuine interest in how they are doing in life.

Although not an alumnus of NPHS himself, Rick and his wife Anne Louise have three children who all graduated from NPHS: Rac '84; Leigh Ann '86; and Brad '87. Anne Louise also taught English and was Department Chair at Penndale and Pennbrook from 1980 to 1999. Nowadays, Rick and Anne Louise split their time between Harleysville and their home in Florida. They are also great supporters of their eight grandchildren and often travel in the tri-state area to support them as they participate in the sports they love. When not watching his grandchildren on the field, court or pool, Rick is an avid golfer, and gardener and a member of Silver Sneakers.

Rick Carroll was a trailblazer for the North Penn aquatics program and a true symbol of North Penn pride. As one of Rick's former swimmers, coworkers and friends, current NPHS Athletic director, Bill Bartle, said "Rick Carroll's name is synonymous with North Penn Swimming. You really cannot say one without the other. He built the excellence that is the program that we know today both in the community and beyond. But more importantly, the impact he had on his students and athletes is immeasurable."

Selma Robinson (NPHS '75), another of Rick's former swimmers, coworkers and friends, says, "As time passes, we truly begin to understand the impact that Rick Carroll has had on the swimming community in the North Penn area. His legacy lives on through tens of thousands of swimmers that have participated in the North Penn Aquatics programs. Rick Carroll is an honest to goodness living legend!"

As he looked back on his time at North Penn, Rick has humbly said, "It wasn't a one person show, so many other people were there along the way to offer guidance, support, loyalty and dedication. But that is what our program was all about - a tradition of excellence... together."