Recently retired Tooele High swimming coach Mel Roberts made history last month when he was named the National High School Coaches Association’s National High School Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year.
Roberts became the first coach ever to be named Coach of the Year for both boys’ and girls’ swimming, having won the boys’ honor in 2010.
Roberts, 72, retired following the 2017 season after serving as Tooele’s head coach for 48 seasons. He is Utah’s all-time leader with 1,209 career victories between the boys and girls programs. He coached the Buffaloes to 11 team state championships following his own illustrious swimming career at THS, during which he won four state titles.
“We are extremely pleased to honor Coach Roberts as National Girls’ Swimming Coach of the Year,” NHSCA executive director Eric Hess said in a press release. “It’s a pleasure to honor Coach Roberts, who has dedicated his life to the student-athletes at Tooele. His commitment to excellence for his student-athletes, in and out of the pool, makes him a great choice for this honor at the end of an incredible career.”
Roberts told the Transcript Bulletin in April that while winning was important, it wasn’t the single most important thing.
“Like a lot of coaches, when you first start out, you want to win,” he said. “After a while, you started to see it wasn’t the winning that the kids remembered — it was the association they had with each other and things that you taught them that they could use later in life: discipline, responsibility, dedication, setting goals and those types of things.”
And while Roberts did a lot of winning, some of his swimmers’ more modest accomplishments brought him the most joy.
“They progress and their self-image grows and they start feeling better about themselves and that they can accomplish things if they’re willing to work for them,” Roberts said in April. “I get a big kick out of seeing a kid who just qualified for state after he worked four years to get there. You’re glad to see him get some sort of success. Self-esteem is really important.”