The legacy of Bloomington High School’s swimming coach began in 1979 and will continue long after his sudden death this week.
Coach Bob Loy was a 1973 BHS alum and was named head swimming coach for both the boys and girls teams nearly 40 years ago under then-Athletic Director Bob Frank.
Current BHS AD Tony Bauman said Loy would do anything for the students who swam for him.
“His method of coaching was through relationships. That’s what has made it so hard ... that his relationships with those families were deep, and he will be missed,” said Bauman. “Really what he has done for the swimming community, the Twin Cities, I mean he’s a Raider graduate ... his loss is going to be felt by a lot of people.”
Among those many relationships is the one he built with Twin City attorney John Pratt and his son, Robby, who both swam for Loy.
Pratt was a junior when Loy started, and said many of the swimmers back then knew he was a great swimmer and were so excited to work with him. Robby swam for Loy the last four years and now attends the University of Kentucky and studies music.
“Bob had been a swimmer himself, many of us knew of Bob. He was older than we were of course, but we knew he was a very good swimmer,” said Pratt. “He just had a way of giving us a lot of confidence.”
Loy used a taper system, which is a system swimmers use where they swim a lot of yards during the season and they reduce the yardage later.
“He had a way of using the taper system so you would drop a lot of time during the championship meets,” said Pratt. “We all swam great for him.”
Pratt said Loy loved all things swimming and helped him get a scholarship to attend the University of Kentucky and helped his son become a state qualifier.
“Bob had the ability to make us better swimmers, but it was the relationship. We were very good friends, and tried to spend as much time as we could together,” said Pratt. “I would stop by swim practice to watch Robby and talk to Bob.”
Loy also loved fishing. Pratt said the last time he was with Loy was when they all went fishing and grilled up salmon for dinner.
“We had a nice big dinner and it was just a nice way to celebrate Robby’s BHS success,” said Pratt. “Robby was a good swimmer, but Bob took him to a different level and helped make him that successful.”
Robby qualified for state in his sophomore, junior and senior years. His senior year he was fifth in the state in the 100 breaststroke, and also was a high school All-American.
Loy had more than 120 students who were all-staters and 60 All-Americans, according to Bloomington High School historian Kev Varney. Loy coached many record holders and state champions, and was named the National Federation of State High School Association’s boys swim coach of the year in 2009.
Through all the years and records, the legacy will remain in the hearts of many. Pratt said Loy was just one of those people who was always there for you.
“He didn’t have to cheer loud for you, or yell at you ... you just wanted to perform well for him,” said Pratt. “He was there for you when you did well and when it didn’t go as well as you would’ve hoped. He was an even-tempered, easy guy to be with and a good friend.”
One time, Robby choked on a turn and had to stop in a big meet.
“He choked, had to stop and finished the race eventually, but came back not an hour later and qualified in the 100 breaststroke and that was Bob helping him and getting him ready to swim that breaststroke,” said Pratt.
In 2017, Loy retired from his head coaching role, but still stayed in an assistant coaching role. He never missed a season since 1979 and planned to continue this year. During retirement, he continued to serve as diving coach for the BHS Raiders, and he coached for the Bloomington-Normal Swim Club. He also was an Illinois State University alum.
BHS counselors will be available to offer support for coaches and student athletes during this time.
Loy was just at Normal Community Saturday for the sectional meet that finished the girls’ season. He and the BHS swim community were transitioning for the boys’ season that begins Nov. 16. Bauman said his passing is a tragic loss for a lot of people.
"I hope his family knows the impact that he has had in so many peoples’ lives,” said Bauman.
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