Neil Romney brings enthusiasm to his post as the new Director of Competitive Swim for the Hannibal YMCA.

Neil Romney comes to Hannibal with more than 30 years of coaching experience including half a dozen sports. 

His enthusiasm appears as high as ever.

The new Director of Competitive Swim for the Hannibal YMCA focuses on each athlete achieving success under his watch.

“What I emphasize about everything is it's not place, it's improvement,” Romney explained. “That's the beauty of coaching an objective sport. Nobody can argue that you improved if you drop two seconds over the same distance. Unless you're wearing a motor, that's improvement.” 

It's with that attitude Romney comes to America's Hometown from Pine Dale, Wyoming, where he most recently worked for an ice rink. Desiring a return to full-time coaching, the opportunity in Hannibal proved too good to pass up.

Romney, whose first day on the job was July 10, fills a role for the Hannibal YMCA Hurricanes swim team that was in flux following the departure of Josh Crum last December only months after he took over as aquatics director and head swim coach.

For the first time, that job has been split in two.

Since January, marketing director Kayla Williams has assumed the responsibilities of aquatics director, managing the pool schedule, private and group lessons and lifeguarding.

With the help of interim coach Amelia Johnson and a supportive group of parents, the swim team remained afloat the past six months despite the absence of a full-time leader.

Romney, now charged with leading the Hannibal Hurricanes team through its practices and meets, works alongside Williams to maintain the stability of the program.

“Before in the past, the aquatics director has always been the head swim team coach, but we decided to make that change and have someone just aquatics and just swim team,” Williams said. “Now having two heads in there will help grow certain programs because I can bounce ideas of him and vice versa.” 

Romney began as a swim coach in 1990 and has since coached children and adults alike. The year-round nature of swimming is what he asserts sets the sport apart from any other.

“All the other sports I was coaching were seasonal,” Romney said. “That was great as long as it lasted, but three months on and nine months off, you don't ever develop that same level of working together and understanding and trust. You're not in a position to influence them as profoundly.”

While Romney is still putting names to faces, the new coach encourages athletes on the squad to commit to a 12-month regimen with the Hurricanes.

“Every individual chooses how much he or she wants to participate and how much to invest,” he said, “but we want to move the average level toward more committed practice because that's where they develop the skills that distinguish them from the average recreational swimmer." 

With that being said, he added, “We're thrilled to work with them at whatever level they're available.”

Children between the ages of 5 and 18 are eligible for the swim team. Approximately 35 individuals are participating this summer in regularly-scheduled practices and meets. Two of the team's end-of-summer meets, the Ozark Championships and River Country Championships, are slated for the next two weekends, respectively.

Due to renovations of the Hannibal YMCA pool, the swim team has practiced at the Hannibal Aquatic Center this summer thanks to an agreement with Hannibal Parks and Recreation. The YMCA pool is scheduled to reopen the week of Labor Day.

Even when the team returns to its home pool, Romney said he will utilize methods he calls “creative coaching.”

“You may change the nature of how the practice runs based on how many kids you have in a lane and how capable they are,” he said. “We have to be flexible. We have to be creative.”

Romney's sales pitch is simple for families who may be interested in signing up to join the swim team.

“We offer a level of participation for anybody interested in a structured, instructional program,” he said. “Our first goal is to equip kids with swimming skills that make them safe in the water, confident in the water and efficient in the water.”