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Taylor-made tradition

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David Taylor a swim team fixture for 40 years and counting

By Greg Summers

There’s a piece of fluorescent orange poster paper taped on the office wall inside the Lancaster County Parks and Recreation Department swimming pool on Wylie Street.

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Listed below the contact information for a welder and two swimming pool supply companies is David Taylor’s name and phone number.

That’s pretty amazing, since Taylor isn’t on the county payroll. You would think that pool manager Midenna Anderson’s name would be listed first.

But giving Taylor top billing isn’t a mistake, said Lancaster High School junior Taylor Lindsay, a swimming pool employee.

The longtime volunteer coach of the Lancaster Swim Team has been around as long as the pool has, which makes it as it should be, Anderson said.

Most people never notice the quiet and unassuming Taylor. But the kids he coaches and mentors, and their parents, notice him.

“David is awesome,” Lindsay said. “I go to church with him, too. He’s a loyal man and a good coach who works you hard.

“He’s good at it,” Lindsay said. “If you have a problem, he will really work with you.”

At swimming meets that involve more than 200 kids age 6 and under to 18, Anderson said Taylor is a calming force in the midst of a storm.When it comes to swimming, Anderson said it’s almost like she starts a sentence and Taylor finishes it.

“He’s my right arm,” said Anderson. “If I have a question or need help with something, David knows what to do. We never disagree on anything. The main thing about David is he gives it his all and is there for the kids.”

Like Taylor, that made Anderson a true southpaw Wednesday during the opening day of the annual season-ending Aquatics meet.

With youngsters 11-and under from Camden, Chester, Kershaw and Lancaster at the pool for the event, it was busy to say the least.

“I feel out of place,” Anderson said. “I’ve never had a home meet when David wasn’t here. This is where it’s organized chaos, or at least it seems that way. It might not seem like it, but we know what everyone’s job is and where they are supposed to be.”

Taylor has become a calming force for more than Anderson, too.

His ability was evident to Kristie Kennington at the first swim team meet this year. Kennington’s son, Brayden, 4, is one of the youngest swimmers on the team.

Kristie said Brayden panicked in front of the crowd.

“He started balling,” Kristie said. “Brayden thought he had to get on the blocks, which is optional for swimmers under the age of 6. I was running that way when David saw me.

“David waved and said, ‘don’t worry I got him,’ and got over there. I don’t know what David said, but the next thing I know, Brayden is jumping in the water, grinning from ear to ear.

“That says a lot about David as a person,” she said. “You can tell he cares a lot about your child and they know it, too.”         

That type of fish-out-of-water look is something Taylor knows from personal experience. Taylor, 49, started out as a member of the Lancaster Swim team in 1969. At the time, there was no such thing as the Leroy Springs Pool.

“Sometimes, you can just look at a kid and tell what they’re thinking,” he said. “Sometimes a mom can be a little too much mom and that’s where a coach steps in and with a little encouragement that makes a difference.”

When Taylor started on the Lancaster Swim Team as a 9 year old, he said meets were held at the city pool on Market Street. However, swim team coach Frankie Porter practiced the team in the full-size Olympic pool at Springs Park. Taylor still recalls his very first practice.

“That thing had eight 50-yard lanes and she would make us start in lane 1 and swim through to lane 8, he said. “That’s 400 yards. When we climbed out, she would make us start all over again.

“I can remember getting halfway through and thinking I was gonna drown,” Taylor said, laughing. “I have a lot of great memories of those days.”

But Taylor never quit. And it was at those practices and meets, he developed a love for Springs Park. In high school, Taylor spent his summers working there and recalls a time when swimmers had to wait because the pool was at its maximum (500 swimmers) capacity. He also recalls the view of the river from the fourth diving platform.

“It was just awesome,” Taylor said. “Many people might not remember just what a great facility that was. In 1968, the Olympic diving team trained at Springs Park before competing in Mexico. It’s sad how it just slipped through our hands.”

It was also at Springs Park that Taylor developed a love for working with young people as a camp counselor that’s never waned.

Taylor said his one goal is to instill a love of swimming in those he coaches, which includes members of the Lancaster High School swim team.

“It’s an incredibly honest sport ruled by a stopwatch,” Taylor said. “It’s pure as can be; simply put, the winner is the one who touches the wall first. The strongest kid with the best technique is the one who is going to win; that’s just the way it works.”

Taylor now finds himself in the unique position of coaching a second generation of swimmers from the same families. Marley Beckham, who Taylor once coached, is now the head coach with the Lancaster High School swim team.

“That’s pretty cool, when you think about it,” he said. “I think one of the things I enjoy the most is watching the kids develop and grow year by year.”

Married to his high school sweetheart, Beverly, the Taylors have two children, Derrick, 23, and Laura Grey, a junior at Clemson. A training coordinator at Abitibi-Bowater, Taylor also helps with the audio visual ministry at Covenant Baptist Church and is the sound man for the local band, Tetrox.

Taylor said he and band members Brent Whitlock, Wally Thomas and Tim Hallman have been together since high school.

“I’ve been doing that for 30 years, too,” he said laughing. “Time sure does fly.”