Boys’ Swimming has been Deerfield’s most successful team ever since the team’s inception back in 1921. With 21 New England Championship titles, seventeen of them in a row from 1974-1990, and numerous runner-up finishes, Deerfield swimming has been a force in New England swimming for almost a century. No other team has ever held a New England record in each event, a clear example ofDeerfield’s ability to develop every type of swimmer.
Deerfield owes its success to Mr. John A. Pidgeon, head coach of the boys’ team from 1949-1957. Deerfield’s fourth swim coach, succeeding John H. Jones (1943-1949), Craig Colgate Jr. (1937-1942) and Michael J. Kennedy (1921-1937), CoachPidgeon helped Deerfield swimming continue its rise to the top of the league, after the league had diminished during World War II. Today the Most Outstanding Swimmer is awarded the John A. Pidgeon award as a tribute to the important role Coach Pidgeon played in boys’ swimming at Deerfield.
When Coach Pidgeon retired from Deerfield after the 1957 season, his successor, Lawrence M. Boyle, had some big shoes to fill when he arrived in the summer of ’57. A graduate of Bowdoin, where he was a diver and helped lead his team to two New England College Championships, and having just served in the US Army as a commissioned officer, Coach Boyle was ready for the challenge. In his first season, Mr. Boyle led the boys’ team to a solid 8-1 record, the only loss coming to Dartmouth, and first place finishes at both the Trinity College Championships and New England Championships. Although his accomplishments go on and on, including awards for the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA), what Coach Boyle did for Deerfield is best summarized by a letter put out by the New England Prep School Swimming Association before the 1982 New Englands at Suffield, where the streak of seventeen New England Championships began:
“It doesn’t take long for a spectator at the New England Championships to notice one striking fact: the dominant swimming power in this league for the past eight years has been DeerfieldAcademy. At the center of this green shirted aquatic phenomenon, one finds an extraordinary gentleman. Who is that silver haired mentor who looks like an Army colonel, responds with the quick wit of a JFK aide, and coaches like a philosopher? Larry Boyle has been guiding the fate of Deerfield Swimming since 1958 and the New England Preparatory School Swimming Association has been much richer for it.
A more complete profile of the perfect boarding school educator-coach than that of Larry Boyle would be difficult to find. He has taught Latin, served as director of admissions, been a dormitory master, and coached three sports. His distinctive voice can even be heard drifting down to the faithful from the announcer’s booth atDeerfield’s home football games!
While his swimmers regularly blaze into the record books, they are seen as people, not numbers, by Coach Boyle. Swim practices are learning experiences where young men strive to find their own character strengths. Good times are goals that, while important, are secondary to the development of good persons. Such attitudes from this man show why he is seen as a “philosopher” by his charges
We in the New England Prep School Swimming Association would like to express our thanks to Larry Boyle for showing clearly that educational excellence and swimming excellence are very compatible.”
When the great streak ended in 1991 with a 2nd place finish at the New England Championships, Mr. Boyle received a letter from Andy Lowe, head coach of Suffield at the time, which said the following:
“Deerfield should be most proud of its “victory” this year—a victory of pride over pretension, resolve over resignation, and the primacy of process over ends. Gracious in victory and in near-victory, your teams have always displayed an impressive, indefinable quality manifested in all they do at the Interschols. But I think that this year it was even more evident than usual—and for that reason you can consider your team a ‘champion’”
-Andy Lowe, March 1991
With Mr. Boyle’s retirement in 2002, after 45 years of service to the Academy, 3rd in duration only to Deerfield’s famous headmaster Frank Boyden, Mr. Boyle’s idol, and his wife Helen Childs Boyden, John Burke took over the reins. Dr. Burke, who is a teacher of Latin and Greek at Deerfield, has trained many New England Champions and helped his athletes break multiple school and pool records across New England. Dr. Burke is proud to be a part Deerfield’s great swimming tradition and is eager to sustain its excellence into the future.