|Blazers' coach named Missouri Valley Swimming's|
Howland was selected for the honor during the MVS Fall Meeting, which took place on Oct. 1 at the Lawrence (Kan.) Indoor Aquatic Center. MVS is a local swim committee and a subsidiary of United States Swimming. It encompasses all of Kansas and most of Missouri, as well as portions of Texas and Oklahoma.
In August 2010, Howland was hired by the Johnson County Park & Recreation District to lead the Blazers following the retirement of longtime coach Pete Malone. Now in its 37th season, the Blazers is a competitive swim team with over 500 swimmers participating throughout the Kansas City area.
"It looks like we made a good transition," Howland said. "The timing of it (the award) was cool because in the summer, my wife and I went through the process of finding and buying a house because we like it here and we like the job. This was kind of affirmation that we're doing the right thing by putting down roots. Not a day goes by that my wife and I don't notice something new that we like about the area. Professionally, it's great because people in Missouri Valley Swimming look to the Kansas City Blazers for leadership, not just athletically, but also in legislative issues or designing the schedule and so that means I've got some credibility with the coaches here."
After one year, Howland says he finds himself very involved in the direction of the local swim team as well as MVS.
"It's a unique situation to follow a guy who was here 35 years, so trying to win over the local swimming committee and the Blazers faithful was job number one. Interacting successfully with the athletes and getting results was the best way to do that. I inherited some great athletes with good training backgrounds, but we got three additional high-school-age kids qualifying for Olympic trials next year in Omaha and many additional junior national qualifiers. I also feel that across the board, we also got real solid results."
He speculates that "the bulk of this award" came from the team's performance in mid-July during the United States Swimming Speedo Championship Series, Columbia, Mo., more commonly known as "sectionals."
"We won the meet and we usually win the meet, but we also did it in the fashion where a lot of coaches and officials were talking about how the Blazers were swimming very well and they seemed happy doing it. That seemed to be a recurring comment.
Howland came to the Blazers from Conejo Simi Aquatics in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and prior to that from Pilot Aquatics Club in Knoxville, Tenn. He has a long list of accomplishments in the swimming community achieved during his 28 years as a coach. These include placing a gold medal winning swimmer on the 2000 United States Olympic Team, and placing many swimmers on teams for the Pan American Games, World University Games, Goodwill Games, and National Junior teams. He is also a two-time head coach of the United States National Junior Team, and was an assistant coach for the United States Goodwill Games Team.
"I'm really happy to be here and embracing life in Kansas City and I feel like I'm going to do a better coaching job every year, so that's the only reason why I had a little bit of trepidation about winning the award this year is because it's only going to get better," he said.