'Stringy' hangs up his whistle

Long-time swim coach retires to end 49-year career

File photo
Maurice "Stringy" Ervin calls out instruction to the members of the Littleton girls swimming team. Ervin completed the season before announcing he was retiring after 49 years of coaching, 46 of those years at Littlton High School.

Maurice “Stringy” Ervin warned that just because he retired this year doesn't mean you won't continue to see him around the Littleton High School.

“I am not a sit-back-and-rest kind of guy,” the long-time Littleton coach said. “Summers are always about tending the garden and working on my antique cars. But after the summer, I'll stay busy. For example, I'll still be keeping time at the football games plus I'll be around watching swimming. While I did officially retire, I'll still spend a lot of time at the school.”

He said has only been coaching girls swimming for the last few years but recently been looking for the right time to retire.

“I felt I wanted to give up coaching but I didn't want to feel I deserted the swimmers so I was looking for the right circumstances to bow out,” he said. “This year, a lot of things fell into place. There was a strong junior class last season that, as seniors, will provide strong leadership for the team.

“Also, things are changing as the swimmers are going to a different league and other changes were happening in high school swimming. I just felt it was the opportunity I had been looking for so I put in my retirement papers.”

The coach said he wrote a letter to the members of the girls swimming team, explaining his decision before he told the administration he would be retiring.

“I wanted my swimmers to be the first to know about my decision and why I decided to make it at this time,” he said. “Also, I didn't want the swimmers who would be coming back to the team to think I abandoned them.”

Ervin began his coaching career in 1965 at what is now Skyview High School. He was there for three years until his alma mater invited him to return to Littleton High School as a teacher and coach in 1968.

“I was an assistant coach for basketball and football at Littleton. Since the school didn't have a head swimming coach, I volunteered to take the position too,” he said. “I had never competed in swimming and I had never coached the sport so I had a lot to learn. I did a lot of research, read a lot of books and learned right along with my swimmers.”

He coached boys swimming for 40 years and coached girls swimming for about 30 years. He guided Lions teams to seven state boys swimming championships including a string of five championships in a row from 1980 to 1984. Also, under his tutelage, five Littleton teams have won state girls swimming championships. The most recent win came in 2000.

The coach said never cut any boy or girl who came out for swimming on the team, wanting to make sure the team included anyone who wanted to be part it.

“Every team I ever coached and every kid on those teams were special,” Ervin said. “I have great memories about kids and teams I worked with over the years.”

He said it was a special experience when, before he officially retired, a reception held in his honor.

“I guess there were about 300 people at the reception,” he said. “A lot of the swimmers I coached were there and I had a great time chatting with them and talking about our seasons together.”

Ervin coached for 49 years in total, 46 of them at Littleton High. He said the school has been a part of his life almost as long as he can remember.

“My dad was the principal and, as a kid, I probably spent more time at the school than I did at home,” he said. “I think I went to every athletic practice and even was a ball boy for some of the teams.”

Ervin played football, basketball and baseball for the Lions. He went to Fort Lewis College, then a two-year school, to play football. He sustained a knee injury and, when he tried to make a comeback, he reinjured the knee, ending his football career.

He earned his bachelor's degree in English at Fort Lewis, as it morphed into a four-year school, and, after graduation.