Friendswood's John Little leaves quite a legacy

FRIENDSWOOD — John Little has always had a quiet demeanor and a confident countenance. It is a task to get him to talk about himself, but he is always ready to heap praise on his kids and give them the glory for their efforts.

For 17 years, Little has roamed the pool side at Friendswood with multiple trips to the state swim meet.

John Little is the face of the Friendswood swim program. Though he would never think of such a thing, in light of his retirement, one of the greatest ways to pay tribute to this humble and loving coach is to rename the Friendswood Natatorium to pay homage to the winningest swim coach in Mustang history -- the John Little Natatorium.

Hopefully someone on the Board of Trustees will lead the way to make this happen just like the late Henry Winston deserved to have the stadium named after him while he was still very much alive and could cherish such an honor.

"Being a coach at Friendswood High School has been great," Little recently said. "I have received so much support from the parents and administration and the kids have been fantastic. It is a pretty unique environment. I do not believe there is any high school in the state that I would rather have coached for."

As most successful coaches experience, they have former swimmers they coached that advance to the coaching ranks and Little is no different.

"At the 6A state meet last year, I was looking around and talking to coaches I knew when I realized that out of the 65 or 70 teams which had kids in the meet, five teams had coaches who had swum for me over the years," Little said. "And that made proud."

After so many years at the helm of the Friendswood swim program, Little has a slew of moments he will never forget.

"I have had a lot of memorable moments which is normal for someone who has been in a job for a bunch of years," Little said. "I think every year something has happened that made me so proud. Cole Cragin's National record and selection as National Male Swimmer of the Year was big as were his records which still stand, as was Caroline McElhaney's state records which stood for a number of years."

As Little has influenced thousands of young people throughout his coaching and teaching career, he, too, looks back at those who made an impact in his younger years.

"My high school coach who recruited me out of his swimming class to join the swim team and become a member of the team's 9th and 10th straight state championships," Little recalls. "The Iowa legend Hal Krizan. "The club coach I began swimming with in the summers was another legend Jack Pettinger. I swam with five guys who were Olympians, the best, Jim Montgomery, who won four gold and I think one silver in '76.

"Then working for '76 Olympic Women's head coach Jack Nelson for a few years early in my coaching career, those guys taught me so much and I wouldn't be where I am today without them."

But there was another who impacted his life when he first came to Friendswood High School.

"Another legend, Dr. Myrlene Kennedy," Little said. "She hired me and told me her clear expectations of what she wanted. I hope I did not let her down."

You can't help but marvel at the legendary career accomplishments of coach Little.

He won 31 district team titles while being named district "Coach of the Year" 29 times.

Little's teams captured 19 regional team championships and he was named Region "Coach of the Year" 15 times.

He had 15 teams finish in the top 10 at the state swim meet with two teams finishing as a state runner-up and was named state "Coach of the Year" one time.

Little coached 16 All-Americans and 25 academic All-Americans.

He also coached one National Swimmer of the Year with that swimmer setting a National swim record.

Coach John Little put Friendswood on the state swim map and there is no doubt that he made Dr. Kennedy proud.

Coaches like John Little only come once in a lifetime and there will be multitudes of young people who will look back in their lives and say I am what I am today because of my coach and teacher John Little.