Pete Rile enters another year as coach
When Pete Rile became the coach for the Whitehall swim team, the Berlin Wall would soon fall, signaling the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Milli Vanilli ruled the charts, and The Simpsons were about to air their first half-hour episode.
That was 1989, and Rile had just started his coaching career at Whitehall High School. Since that time, many of those countries of Eastern Europe who were under the grip of the Soviet Union, are now part of the European Union, Milli Vanilli would be exposed as frauds, The Simpsons have aired their 629th episode, and Rile enters his 29th season at the helm of the Whitehall swimming program.
A lot of water under the bridge, indeed.
Over that time, Rile said that the kids change, along with the times they grew up in, but the constant over those years has been that the swimmers at Whitehall remain great kids.
“Their attitude, their sportsmanship, they make it fun to come back,” said Rile.
While the girls have been swimming competitively since 1969, the boys’ program has experienced some lapses since their inception in 1964. The boys have now had a string of 12 consecutive seasons of competing, and that streak continues this winter with the largest number of boys suiting up during Rile’s tenure.
Rile has complied an impressive coaching record since his debut, leading the girls to 289 wins. If the girls approach the same success that they had last year, there’s a good chance he’ll reach 300 wins this season. He’s also piloted the boys to 69 wins since 2005-06, giving him a total of 358 wins for his career.
However, numbers just tell a fraction of the story. Rile said that he’s been surrounded by good people, including coach David Seeloff. He and Seeloff, who serves as the program’s historian, have been together for 27 years. He’s also coached a number of talented swimmers, including Mina Feyrer who went to the PIAA tournament in 2013, finishing sixth in the 100 butterfly. That was the highest finish by a swimmer in Rile’s career. Feyrer finished seventh in the same event in 2015. Val Nordqvist, who swam in the mid 90s, was another outstanding swimmer who qualified for states. Brooke Gilson was yet another swimmer who got to the PIAA championships, finishing eighth in the 500 freestyle.
“For us to get up to states and swim, all those things, are memorable,” said Rile.
Rile also credits the outstanding support from the athletic department as a reason they’ve been able to keep the waters churning at Whitehall. He said that whatever they’ve asked for, the AD’s office helps them out.
“They support us greatly,” said Rile.
Rile said that the faculty also lends support to the student-athletes, cheering for them at the various swim meets.
He’s also received support from parents as well, and that’s helped him remain dedicated the sport.
“They have faith in us to do good for their kids, and we have faith that they’ll keep us informed and talk to us, and get through problems together,” said Rile.
Rile spends a lot of time coaching, and that means time away from his family. Rile said that his wife, Donna, has been truly supportive through all the years, joking that his time spent at the pool has saved his marriage numerous times because of all the hours he’s put into coaching.
“She’s been behind me,” said Rile. “She know that when we married, I’ve been married one year longer than I’ve been coaching, and knew that I coached elsewhere before coming here, the Allentown Y and summer league programs, so she knew that I was always a coach.
“She is great in the send of letting me coach and letting me do what is important.”
With so many years to reflect upon, Rile said that there isn’t just one memory that stands out, but an array of achievements or incidents that have helped shape his coaching career. One of those was a meet against Upper Perkiomen that when they printed fake free tickets so people could come watch the meet, a little promotional wizardry since they don’t charge for their meets.
“We came in, and we were getting ready to start the meet, and the deck was full, and the whole seating area was filled with people,” said Rile. “We had so many people, they had to go on the other side of the pool. It was the biggest crowd I ever saw here; it was noisy, it was fun.”
He also pointed to their consecutive district championship seasons in 1995 and 1996. There were also runners-up the two years before that run.
One thing that’s alluded Rile since he first stepped into the building was defeating Emmaus, a long-standing nemesis even before his career began. They’ve come close twice, both exciting meets, but that prize still awaits.
Rile said that every year something pops up that makes the season memorable. Who knows, maybe this year it will be taking down that green monster.
While the world has revolved and changed, Rile has remained steadfast in his commitment to the program and the coaching of kids. That has never changed.