Raytown High School’s Jim Aziere said he hasn’t been a swimming coach for 43 years for the accolades or awards – although there have been more than he can recall.
While they are nice to receive, he does it for something much more meaningful – his swimmers.
“Coach Aziere is one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met,” said Raytown swimmer Blake Tuder, who recently won two individual and two relay medals at the Class 1 Missouri State Swimming and Diving Championships in St. Louis. “He teaches us about so much more than swimming – and he is the best swimming coach ever! He’s like a father to us. He cares for us when we’re competing and when we’re in the classroom or in our community.
“I wouldn’t trade my last four years at Raytown High School for anything.”
Aziere began coaching at Raytown in 1974 and his teams have reflected their coach in the way they have excelled in all phases of life.
Between 1974 and 2017, Aziere’s Raytown boys swim teams were 515-86-2 in duals, including 10 undefeated seasons. He had 13 individual state champions, two state record holders, three All-Americans and 57 all-state swimmers.
He will join fellow area high school coaches Bob Glasgow (wrestling) and Lori Hanaway (volleyball) as inductees into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony Sunday at Stoney Creek Conference Center in Independence.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to be a part of this Hall of Fame class,” said Aziere, who also serves as an alderman in Raytown. “I am so honored to share this award with Bob Glasgow and to be able to have the opportunity to talk about all the fine young men I have coached, and how special the Raytown School District has been to be for many, many years.”
He started his prep coaching career at his alma mater, De La Salle Academy. But it was not with the swimming team. He was named head football and soccer coach.
“I didn’t like soccer, but I was appointed head coach. A fellow coach told me soccer was un-American, but soccer had taken hold in Kansas City in just two years,” Aziere said.
That winter of 1968, he introduced the first high school soccer league, the MO-Kan League, in the metro area. A year later, De La Salle High School won the state football championship, and his track team became a Missouri powerhouse before the academy closed in 1971.
Aziere was looking for a job, and a longtime friend and former coaching associate at the University of Kansas, Bob Timmons, told Aziere he enjoyed coaching swimming more than coaching track – although he is renowned as one of the top track coaches in Jayhawk history.
“Bob Timmons told me he liked coaching swimming more than track. That was good enough for me,” Aziere said. “I knew nothing about strokes, starts and turns, but training was my forte. So we all learned together.”
From 1984 to 1997, his girls teams were 141-38 in duals, had one state champion and six all-state swimmers. His water polo teams were 278-64-2 and produced three All-Americans.
Aziere co-founded the Missouri High School Swim Coaches Association, and organized clinics for Missouri coaches for more than a decade.
In 1982, he was invited to attend the Unites States Coaches College in Colorado Springs, and a year later was the first high school coach to speak at the World Swimming Coaches Clinic in Las Vegas. His presentation, “The Organization and Administration of a Swim Team” was republished by United States Swimming from 1984 to 2000. Aziere also served as assistant coach for the U.S. Junior National Water Polo Team.
Coaching was not Aziere’s only passion. He wrote “Law in a Free Society,” a high school social studies course that gained national attention, and presented that course at the National Social Studies Convention in Chicago.
“I’ve been a lucky man and have been associated with many great people along the way,” Aziere said. “Sunday is going to be a special day for me and my family. And it’s going to give me the opportunity to brag about the Raytown School District and all the great kids I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”