Photos by Barb Hunter
Posted September 19, 2016
PLEASE NOTE: Another photo gallery and a video of the ceremony follow this article.
The Mike Slagle Aquatic Center was dedicated in an emotional ceremony Thursday, Sept. 15 at Plymouth High School.
“We’re here tonight to honor a coach, a teacher, athletic director, a mentor, colleague, and – probably most importantly – a man we can all call friend,” said PHS athletic director Gale Grahn. “Mike Slagle, we are dedicating this to you tonight.”
Coach Grahn and other friends of Coach Slagle led the campaign to honor the longtime swim coach and athletic director, who died in 2015. In May, the Plymouth School District Board of Education approved naming the Plymouth High School pool in his honor.
The name change includes lettering in the main pool area plus duplicate bronze plaques about Coach Slagle on the pool deck and outside the balcony, installed by Marshall Sign and unveiled at the dedication during a swim meet with Grafton, where his daughter Nikki is a swim coach.
“Mike was a man who poured his body and soul for 36 years into the Plymouth School District; a good majority of the time was spent in this facility,” Coach Grahn said, before noting that Coach Slagle still would be the first to wonder about all the fuss.
Assistant Superintendent and former PHS Principal Dan Mella noted that Coach Slagle was very humble. “He didn’t want everyone knowing all the great things he did,” he said.
Mr. Mella said Coach Slagle was the hardest-working person he’s ever met. “He was here before the kids on swim days, he was here after everybody on meet days, and on any sporting event and half the days that weren’t sporting events.”
He also was very accepting and didn’t pass judgment on others, which was one reason his swim programs were so robust.
“He wouldn’t admit it, but he was an absolute role model for so many people. We emulate the things he did and we try to be like him, but in reality we’re just trying to live up to something we’re probably never going to get to,” Mr. Mella said. “He was one of a kind.”
Superintendent Carrie Dassow said Mike Slagle quietly took her under his wing when she was a new teacher. “Over the years, Mike used that quiet leadership to mentor, guide and build one of the best coaching staffs and swim teams in the state.”
She listed his many accolades and also noted how he touched the lives of many students, their parents and other adults in our community and throughout the state. “There are not many places in this building that I can be without thinking about Mike’s influence, but this place – the pool – is a place where his presence will always be felt and his influence will reach the furthest,” she said.
Nikki Slagle Donnelly said her family is deeply moved by the honor. “To us, this more than just a hole filled with water,” she said. “It’s a symbol of togetherness, a commitment and of being a part of something bigger than yourself.”
She said the naming is fitting for someone who gave so much to this school and this pool. “Our family eventually realized that if we wanted to spend more time with Dad, we’d have to spend more time at the pool,” she said. “And we gladly did.”
Humble as he was, this grand gesture would have touched his heart, she said, recognizing the many former PHS swimmers in attendance. “Thank you for giving my dad the enjoyment of watching you learn and grow over the years.”
She concluded her comments the same way her father ended his pre-meet pep talks: “Believe in yourself – and swim fast.”
Donations will be accepted through October. Money not needed for the signage and ceremony will be used for pool upgrades, such as a new sound system, new team benches, and other athletic needs, Coach Grahn said.
Checks (payable to Plymouth High School) can be sent to Plymouth High School, c/o Gale Grahn, 125 Highland Ave., Plymouth WI 53073. Online donations can be made through the Plymouth Education Foundation; visit its Donate for Good site and select the Mike Slagle Aquatic Center where it says "I want my donation to be designated toward..."
About Coach Slagle
Coach Slagle was hired by the Plymouth School District in 1979 as a science teacher and coach of the boys and girls high school swim teams. In 1997, he became athletic director, a position he continued to hold after his retirement from the classroom in 2013 until his death July 13, 2015.
As swim coach, he led teams to 26 conference championships and coached five All-American swimmers and one state champion. He received the 2013 National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Outstanding Services Award and was 2014 Wisconsin State District 4 Athletic Director of the Year.
He also received the UW-Stevens Point Alumni Outstanding Coaching Award and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association and Service Award, and was selected three times as the WISCA Swim Coach of the Year.