The state championships, coaching awards and widespread praise are meaningful for Scott Walker, but that’s not why he coached Lyons Township High School boys swimming, girls swimming and water polo for the last 24 years.
“The day-to-day interactions with the kids was wonderful,” said Walker, who recently announced his retirement as the Lions’ swimming coach. “Teaching kids to believe in themselves and to do things they thought they could never do is rewarding as a coach.
“The discipline is sometimes not well received, but years later it’s respected. To me, that’s no different than being a second parent. I love it when the kids come back to LT and they understand the reason why we did what we did as coaches.”
Aside from helping his swimmers develop in and out of the pool, Walker built a winning tradition for LTHS aquatics. Under his guidance, LTHS won two state titles, a state runner-up finish, and produced seven state champion swimmers with three state records.
He’s also a three-time Illinois Swimming and Diving State Coach of the Year by the Illinois Swim and Dive Association (ISDA), as well as an ISDA Hall of Fame John Newman Award recipient, presented to a person who has promoted boys swimming in Illinois at all levels through leadership, service and outstanding achievement — the highest award presented in Illinois aquatics.
Walker also was picked as the Landmark’s Coach of the Year in 2016-17 after the Lions won their second straight state boys swimming championship
“Coach Walker will be missed,” LTHS Athletic Director John Grundke said in a press release. “As a coach he stressed the importance of hard work, good sportsmanship, swimming for teammates rather than themselves and doing the little things right every day. The young men and women he coached excelled under his leadership and achieved in the pool, the classroom and the community.”
Over the last three years, LTHS notched their aforementioned pair of state titles and second-place finish in boys swimming. That’s an impressive mini-dynasty considering the high level of competition including perennial rivals like Hinsdale Central and New Trier. But it’s also taken a toll, said Walker.
“When you’re at the level and status of our program, it’s not just a four-month season,” Walker said. “You’re constantly thinking about the program from one day to the next.
“I can’t specifically put one reason for my decision. It’s a lot of things that made sense to me. It’s kind of odd because this is the first time I’m actually making a decision for me.”
The increased free time will allow Walker to address other aspects of his life.
“After achieving each professional coaching goal I’d set for myself, it has come time to think about health and family.” Walker said.
Some people speculated Walker stepped down from coaching the Lions after his son, Spencer, graduated from LTHS in 2018 as one of the school’s best swimmers ever,
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Walker said about his son who is a standout freshman swimmer at Alabama. “However, there are going to be times during the season in which he will be swimming some pretty big meets where I would not have been able to see him swim if I was coaching.
“Other than coaching Spencer in high school, I have sacrificed not watching him swim for 24 years. As a father, I’m not going to miss seeing him swim at the level he’s at now.”
Spencer has the 18th fastest 200-yard backstroke and 31st fastest 100 back time in NCAA men’s swimming this season.
Along with his wife, Melanie, Scott will still coach swimming, too, but in a reduced role with the Academy Bullets Swim Club.
“It’s just something I’ve got to have,” Walker said. “There comes a point in time where I need the kids more than they need me. It keeps me young, honest and on my toes.”