Longtime Perkiomen Valley coach Graham stepping down

GRATERFORD– An amazing era of swimming is coming to an end at Perkiomen Valley with the sudden resignation of Jack Graham, an 18-year veteran head coach of the boys and girls program.

Graham was all set to coach again this winter, but decided that it was most important to spend more time with his seven-month-old twins, Jack and Lila.

“It really just came down to a conversation with my wife last Wednesday night,’ Graham said. “And on Thursday I resigned. That was the most difficult conversation of my life with Larry Glanski (Perkiomen Valley Athletic Director). I told him, ‘ Sorry, I can’t coach this year. Sorry to leave you in the lurch so close to the season.’

“But I told Larry to let me tell the team first on Monday before he announced I was leaving because the water polo team was competing at states and I didn’t want to cause a distraction.’

Graham departs after seeing his boys team go on an amazing run. The team finished undefeated in dual meets for the third straight year, stretching its undefeated dual meet streak to 49 dating back to the early 2010 season. They won their fourth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference title, and their third straight Ches-Mont League title.

Graham leaves the Vikings with 299 combined wins, six PAC-10 titles — four for the boys and two for the Vikings girls — and five Ches-Mont titles.

In 1998 he guided his girls team to a District I runner-up finish as well as a seventh place finish in the state. In 2004 his boys were the District I runner-up.

“I was planning to coach the season and was putting the pieces in place,’ he said. “I was delegating some of the jobs that I used to do to parents to take some of the load off. I went to the rules interpretation meeting and did all the testing that you need to do. I was lining up the staff and motivating the kids, telling them that I was getting ready; all those things that you need to do. But family events sort of got in the way. I need to spend more time with my kids.

“I never coached since my kids were born, and I only know how to coach one way and that’s all or nothing. And if I can’t give it my all, I can’t do it. I loved being a coach and I gave it 100 percent. And I want to give being a father 100 percent.’

But it is a tearful Graham walking away from the Perkiomen Valley teams that have meant so much to him for nearly two decades.

“I hope that I created a program in which kids were apart of something bigger than themselves. I think I have accomplished that. It is time for me to devote 100 percent of my energy to my wife Kate, and my two beautiful babies. I think I leave the program in really good shape for whomever takes my place. I expect that PV swimming and diving will continue to excel.’

It will take some time to get used to not seeing Graham urging his swimmers on and then seeing his big smile glancing up at the scoreboard to check out his swimmers times.

“It’s definitely going to be different without coach Graham,” said PV senior Kyle Dix, one of Graham’s premier swimmers for the past three years. “There’s going to be some minor changes, but nothing big.

He formed the program, set the swimmers mind-set and set the tone for 18 years.

“We owe it all to coach Graham. In swimming, you’re only as good as your coach. He taught us how to be good swimmers, how to race, how to compete. He taught us not only how to be in the pool, but also out of the pool. He wouldn’t admit that, say it’s all on us, but we owe it all to coach Graham. He helped us unbelievably.”

Brian Zeigler has been Graham’s assistant coach, and his right-hand man for the past seven seasons and swam on the Vikings team from 2001-2005.

“He is a great motivator. Swimming for Perk Valley High School was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Coach Graham created a culture of hard work and dedication. He taught us that if you work hard, you will be successful.

“I loved swimming for Coach Graham at Perk Valley. So much so that I never left. I helped run the scorers table in 2006 and 2007, and jumped on as an assistant coach in the 2007-08 season. He inspired me to start coaching aquatic club swimming at PVAC (Perkiomen Valley Aquatic Club). I wanted to instill in others the love of swimming and the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself in others. Without him I never would have reached my swimming goals or started coaching young athletes, and in turn, high school swimmers.”

No successor to Graham has been named yet.

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