Saturday, November 30, 2013
(Last modified: 2013-11-30 13:22:43)
 
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

You might not know it and she sure wouldn’t tell you, but Debbie Lloyd has been one of the most important faces in Cocke County athletics over the past decade.

While certainly many would not consider swimming to be one of our hometown’s most popular sports, it has certainly gained footing over the years. While the travels of the winter and summer months involve numerous trips to the basketball gyms and baseball diamonds, you can always count on a full pool at the Newport Community Center.

Swimming has developed as a competitive sport over the past few years. While it’s a niche sport, it’s given many of our youth in our community a chance to belong to a team and a chance to further their opportunities.

One parent has even told me on multiple occasions that the local swim program has resulted in their child’s advancement in school, by giving them an extracurricular activity that they perhaps would not have in their lives, if not for the local swim club.

The community-based swim club, which competed in summer months, has evolved into one of the better programs across the region. Every summer, the program has taken a number of individuals to the City Championship at UT or the Smoky Mountain Invitational in Maryville, two of the area’s biggest meets.

The club has also evolved into a high school and middle school program over the winter months.
Even when swimming is not in season, there’s not a Tuesday or Thursday at the Newport Community Center at 4 p.m. that you can’t find a pool full of kids honing their skills and getting ready for the
season.

In our community, football sells itself. Basketball has became the ultra-successful sport. Yet all other sports have to beg, borrow and claw their way for anything and everything they get.

Money, community support, facilities to play and practice in - it’s all a struggle for most of our local teams.

Through the summer months, the Rapids swim team is a completely community-based program, and supported by parents and coaches. In the winter, even though the program is through the high school, it remains a club sport - as swimming is not recognized as a sport by the TSSAA.

Despite this, both aspects of the local program have thrived and not much of that would be possible without Lloyd.

Despite having no ties to the area, she has engrossed herself in the community and most importantly into the swimming club. Since moving to Cocke County nearly 13 years ago with her husband Dr. Rich Lloyd, the pastor of First Baptist Church, she has almost single-handedly taken the swimming program under her wings.

The program, fledgeling at the time, has greatly benefited from her vision and leadership. While it has given an outlet for local athletes to compete and shine, it has also given others a chance to find their place in the community during their younger years.

The club’s efforts over the years have been documented in our pages. That is most notably thanks to Debbie’s efforts of keeping us informed in her additional role of publicist. If you’ve seen us at a meet, it’s likely because Debbie has reminded us swimming is just as important as any of the ‘big three’ sports.

Despite the success swimming has enjoyed locally over the past decade, it’s safe to say that it’s still a niche sport. However, those who are involved in the, are woven as a tight-nit family.

When one hurts, they all hurt. When one fights, they all fight.

So how important is Lloyd to the past and present members of the swim club and their parents? Most of them came out on Thanksgiving eve, to say thanks to her.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and the couple’s children now out of the
local program she has scaled back her involvement. Yet still, she’s been involved as a coach and supporter, as she’s fought the battle against the disease.

Now as Lloyd is in the pivotal stages of her battle against cancer, the club came together to say thanks for the dedication she’s shown the program.

While her efforts of lifting the local swimming club off the ground and to great heights might not have been at the forefront of the local athletic community, hopefully we can all make time to thank her for her dedication in improving the club into something we can all be proud of.

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