‘Stringy’ Ervin still at helm

Coach enters 45th year with Littleton swimmers

Coach Maurice “Stringy” Ervin calls out the warmup exercises he wants the Littleton High School girls swim team members to follow as they prepare for a Dec. 2 dual meet. Ervin, an LHS graduate, started coaching swimming for the Lions in 1968 and is still at it.
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Maurice “Stringy” Ervin said he was happy in 1968 when his alma mater, Littleton High School, offered him a position as a teacher and a coach. He never imagined he would he would still be coaching in 2013, however.

“I am still at it because I love coaching and I love the kids,” Ervin said.

Ervin attended Littleton High when his dad was the principal there in the early 1950s. Maurice Sr. nicknamed his son Stringy after his favorite philosopher, William Stringfellow. Maurice Jr. said his dad had the nickname picked out for him before he was even born.

As a Littleton student, Stringy played football, basketball and baseball for the Lions and received a number of college scholarship offers. He made the decision to attend Fort Lewis College to play football. A knee injury sidelined him and, soon after he returned to the field, he reinjured the knee, ending his football career.

“That was about the time Fort Lewis became a four-year college so I stayed on and earned my bachelor’s degree in English,” Ervin said. “I got a job at Highlands High School (now Skyview) as a teacher and assistant coach in baseball and football. In 1968 as I completed my third year there, Littleton asked me to come back to LHS and I accepted.”

Stringy started off as an assistant coach in football and baseball, plus, since the school didn’t have a head swimming coach, he accepted that position as well.

“I had never competed in swimming and I had never coached the sport so I had a lot to learn,” he said. “I read a lot of books and I learned right along with my athletes.”

He said he learned a lot from the books by Olympic and Hall-of-Fame swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman.

He also received one-on-one advice from the long-time Indiana University swim coach and eventually Counsilman recruited some of the Littleton High School swimmers Ervin had coached.

He guided the Lions to seven state boys swimming championships, including five in a row from 1980 to 1984. He has coached his girls teams to five state titles, the most recent coming in 2000.

An Ervin trademark is the purple-checkered pants he wears at state meets. He said he still has them and wears them because polyester “stretches and doesn’t wear out.”

Ervin retired from teaching after 33 years in 1998 but stayed on as the school’s swimming coach. He coached boys swimming for 40 years before hanging it up five years ago. He has coached girls swimming for about 30 years now.

“I get up every morning at 3:45 a.m. so I can be here for morning practice and seldom leave school until 7 p.m. When I was doing that for both swim teams, it was the winter and spring seasons,” he said. “I felt I needed to slow down a little so I gave up coaching the boys.”

Chuck Leggett swam for Ervin when he was at Littleton High School in the 1980s.

“Coach Ervin was great, not just about swimming but about school and helping us make good decisions,” the Centennial resident said. “He was a big influence on me and I am glad I got the chance to swim for him.”

When he isn’t coaching swimming, Ervin is a classic car collector.

“I have a restored 1931 Chevrolet that has won just about every award it can win,” he said. “I also recently have acquired a 1920 Chevrolet which is one of only about 300 of that model still in existence. The car has been driven less than 11,000 miles.”

He said he likes cars of all kinds and from all eras. In the summer, he usually goes to car shows. Frequently he takes one of his cars to the show.

“Coaching girls swimming fits well in my schedule,” Ervin said. “It is in the winter and, after the season, I can start getting the garden and flowers ready and go back to working on my cars. It is a good schedule and, as long as I am healthy enough and it is still fun, I’ll probably stick with it.”