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Millcreek Journal

Legendary Skyline swim coach Joe Pereira calls it a career.

Jun 28, 2021 03:27PM ● By Daniel Olsen

Joe Pereira gives instructions to his swimmers during a region meet in 2018. (File photo Travis Barton/City Journals)

By Daniel Olsen | [email protected]

After coaching 20 of the 29 swimming state championships for the powerhouse of 5A, it’s clear that Coach Joe Pereira is no ordinary coach. From the students, coaches, and others involved in Skyline High School, he has made a difference in the community. 

Pereira retired this year leaving a legacy not soon to be forgotten by those in, around or far from the program. 

Former Principal Doug Bingham enjoyed getting in on one fun tradition with the swim team. They made a deal that he had to jump in the pool with the team every time they won state. It became almost a yearly tradition as both the boys and girls won state titles for several years in a row during his tenure.

“I enjoyed watching the kids,” Bingham said. “Swimmers work really, really hard. I liked the relays and speed events. Even the longer races became exciting at the end.”

Pereira was even recognized nationally for his efforts. He was awarded the 2013 swimming and diving Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State School Association. 

“Any time sports teams do well, it brings a sense of pride among the other students,” Bingham said. “Swimming isn't an event most people often go and watch. The student body was always excited. A state title was almost expected for so long. That brought pressure for the team to keep winning. It was a lot of fun. It was great for everyone else to feel that sense of pride”.

It did not take long for Bingham to realize Pereira was special. It didn’t take it long for him to prove it either.

“I watched Joe teach and push the kids,” Bingham said. “During his 10 years there at Skyline, he was very well decorated as a coach. He won regional and national awards as a coach. I remember swim races at state where our kids out-did their very best times. They beat their previous records by several seconds at state.”

The Eagles had several swimmers that went on to compete in college for local schools like BYU and Utah. Some competed outside of Utah as well.

“One of the things that made Joe really good was he was so knowledgeable about swimming and technical aspects of the sport,” Bingham said. “He loved kids, but pushed them. It wasn’t always easy. He is a well-respected and good coach. His dedication and knowledge create winning programs when applying those things that he learned.”

Skyline faculty aren’t the only ones who were fond of Pereira. Rival coaches from Brighton and Olympus high school also had fond memories of coaching against him. Brighton was the main rival during Pereira’s tenure at Skyline. The two powerhouse programs competed every year for the Battle of the Paddle.

While the football rivalry between Olympus and Skyline is a bigger deal (the two battle for the traveling Rock trophy), Olympus’ program improved significantly near the end of Pereira’s tenure.

“My favorite memory about coaching against Coach Pereira was the first time we beat him,” Olympus Coach Tom Thorum said. “We went my first seven years before we finally beat them in a region meet in 2019.”

Pereira influenced not only his own swimmers but those involved with rival programs. Thorum was no exception.

Thorum recently took some of that advice and perhaps built a new dynasty. This year, his Olympus Titans won the 5A state title for both his boys and girls teams. Advice from Pereira will continue to help others aspiring for greatness in swimming long after his retirement.

“We used to get lunch and I would pick his brain,” Thorum said. “He helped me organize a training schedule. I learned to make macro season plans. That’s what he focuses on. He told me that he has his swimmers tie buckets to themselves for resistance. He contributed a lot to our program. There was a lot of wisdom that he shared to help our program. He was always available to offer advice.’

Even after retiring from coaching, Pereira is still as busy as ever at Skyline High School. He is currently teaching summer school and still works with swimmers when occasion permits.

“My favorite years were when we won by one or two points,” Pereira said. ‘The close ones that we lost hurt the most. I remember one year the boys won, the girls were so close but were seeded more favorably. That’s just how our sport goes sometimes.”

While swimming is a challenging sport, Pereira likes to simplify it. When teaching beginners, he first likes to teach them to increase propulsion. Then, he will teach them to decrease drag. Combined, these two keys can lead to a 34% increase in speed. This has helped several of his swimmers achieve success beyond high school.

“We’ve had kids who go to the national team and become members out of our high school program,” Pereira said. “Some swam for BYU and Utah. This area is unique as far as swimming goes. Swimming is a part of their life but not their life. It gets them in the door. Some did well in high school. Other ones weren’t All-Americans but swimming got them into great colleges in a secondary way. Kids call to ask me to help them out and it helps.”

With the Olympics just around the corner, many eyes will be on the swimming events. However, it might not be as much so for Pereira, who has put so much time and effort into swimming throughout his career. 

“I try to detach myself from it,” Pereira said. “Swimming takes a lot of time. COVID was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m trying to stay away from that. I do pay attention to the local kids. Trey Freeman came out of our age group program here. He will be competing in the 400 freestyle for men. Rhyan White grew up from an 8-year-old here to competing in the 200 meter backstroke.”