Last Lap: Reflections from Retiring Swimming and Diving Coach Barry Parenteau

After 43 years and 241 combined wins, the second-generation coach has a lot to be thankful for
October 10th, 2018 by 

Barry Parenteau in the Holy Cross pool
Photo by Tom Rettig

It was a fall day in 1975 when Barry Parenteau found himself alongside his father, Paul, in the office of then-Holy Cross Athletics Director Ron Perry Sr. ’54. The elder Parenteau was head coach of the Holy Cross men’s swim team and Barry was a volunteer assistant, expecting to talk about practice schedules and travel logistics for the upcoming season.

“Mr. Perry handed my dad two pieces of paper — one of them was the men’s schedule and the other was the women’s schedule. And my dad looked at [Perry] and said, ‘I’m good, but I’m not that good. You’ve got the men swimming against Brown and the women swimming against Smith and Dartmouth. I can’t be in two places at the same time. So Mr. Perry looked at me and said, ‘You wanna coach?’ I said, ‘Sure.'”

The brand-new women’s team needed a coach and Parenteau’s short answer launched a long career stretching from his role as coach of that inaugural team to his retirement this June as head coach of the men’s and women’s teams and director of aquatics at the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex.

Much has changed on campus over Parenteau’s 43-year tenure, most notably for his teams the on-campus arrival of a state-of-the-art swimming facility in 1983. Until then, both practiced in any nearby community center or school pool that they could rent for an hour or two.

“Our campus is on top of a gigantic hill, so we could point out [to recruits] all the buildings downtown where we practiced,” Parenteau recalls with a chuckle.

And while the campus and athletics have grown in many ways, the program’s — and Parenteau’s — commitment to excellence held steady. His 241 combined wins as men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach are ranked eighth among all coaches in Holy Cross history. Add to that a slew of school and Patriot League records and the teams’ consistent classroom excellence as measured by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. Parenteau, for his part, marks the passage of time by the student-athletes who have graduated, the successes they have enjoyed after graduation and the number of former athletes to whose weddings he and wife, Dale, have been invited. One such was held this summer in New York, where two of his former team captains, Joe McShane ’10 and Erin Meegan ’11, tied the knot. “To get invited to someone’s wedding is an honor,” Parenteau says. “When kids you coached have been out of school for eight years and want you and your wife to be at their wedding, that’s pretty special.”

The student-athletes who swam for Parenteau feel the same way.

“He cultivated an environment where you immediately felt like you were part of a family — his family,” says Coleen Lynch ’95, a swimmer who was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year, won six individual titles at the league championship, and is a member of the Patriot League’s All-Decade and 25th Anniversary teams and the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame.

“There have certainly been times where life got busy and you’re not as connected to campus, but whenever you stepped back onto the pool deck or ran into him at a Holy Cross function, you felt like you never left. He was the same exact guy who was there for you years earlier and always thrilled to reconnect and introduce you to the next generation of student-athletes he was proud to be guiding.”

Casey Sherman ’19, a record-setting diver and NCAA Zone A Diving Meet qualifier, has known Parenteau since she was 7, when her club team was competing at the Hart Center pool. “I have early, fond memories of meeting Coach Parenteau at these meets. He was a fixture at the pool, always smiling and welcoming,” she says.

Born to It

Although no longer wearing a whistle, Parenteau plans to be on campus this season when the Crusaders hit the pool: Wife Dale will still be running the timing table and his oldest daughter, Laine, is helping run the Hart Center pool.

That sense of family is fitting, considering that Parenteau, the son of Lorraine and Paul Parenteau — for 31 years the men’s swimming coach — was practically born to it. His father, a U.S. Navy hard hat diver during World War II, swam for the Ionic Avenue Boys Club in Worcester for legendary coach Carnie Noel, and was involved in numerous swim programs in and around the city before becoming Holy Cross’ head coach in 1965. The two Parenteau boys, Barry and Mark, grew up around the pool or at Lake Quinsigamond, where their father was a lifeguard.

“We were always around the water,” Parenteau says. “You go to meets and watch kids swim and the next thing you know you’re swimming as a 7- or 8-year-old.”

 Barry and Paul Parenteau consult during a meet

Barry and Paul Parenteau consult during a meet. Photo courtesy of Holy Cross Archives

Following graduation from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Parenteau went to Bridgewater State College, where he held school records in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events. After earning a degree in special education, he returned to Worcester to work in the city’s public schools and volunteered to help his dad coach on The Hill. Parenteau coached the Holy Cross women as a part-time job, continuing to teach special education in Worcester schools, until 1983 when he was made full-time aquatics director of the new swimming and diving facility at the Hart Center. He took on coaching duties for the men’s team following his father’s retirement in 1996.

Despite being made head coach at such a young age, Parenteau was prepared.

“In college, I wrote a lot of my own workouts. I knew how to get myself in shape and I knew how to get other kids in shape,” he says. “As I watched kids swim and get faster, I started looking for ways to make them better — better start, better turns, better technique. That’s the thing about swimming — you can always improve.”

The pressure, he says, came as the program began to grow, and as more talented swimmers chose to enroll at Holy Cross.

“As you got more and more talent, you put pressure on yourself to become a better coach,” he notes. The challenge? “Push them a little further without ruining it,” he says. “Swimming is a grueling sport … you’ve gotta have some fun with it.”

It was an approach his student-athletes appreciated.

“As a coach, Barry was always pushing us to do better and at the same time wouldn’t let us take ourselves too seriously — which made for a fun environment with lots of laughs,” Lynch says. “He always had faith in his swimmers and divers — even when we didn’t! His positive encouragement absolutely pushed me beyond my own limits.”

The record books bear that out, with multiple examples of Holy Cross swimmers meeting and exceeding challenges over his tenure, the latest being this past season, when Sherman earned her third straight trip to the NCAA Zone A Diving Meet. At the 2017 Patriot League championship meet, the men’s and women’s teams broke 15 school records.

But Parenteau never forgot that academics came first. Under his watch, the Crusaders had hundreds of student-athletes named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, and his teams repeatedly earned Division I Academic Progress Rate public recognition awards from the NCAA.

“We never wavered on [academics],” he says. “Kids came to Holy Cross because of its academic reputation. Then they came to play a sport … everyone was there for the right reasons.”

“Barry never lost sight of why we were all at Holy Cross — and that was for an education, for an overall experience that would send us out into the world to be men and women for others,” Lynch adds.

“Athletics was a big part of that, but it wasn’t the only reason we were there. He appreciated that and was supportive of the academic side of life on campus and making sure we were focused on those goals as well.”

The Next Chapter

 Parenteau stands before the flag at the start of a meet; behind him is former assistant coach Jeffrey Barlok, who was named Parenteau's successor

Parenteau stands before the flag at the start of a meet; behind him is former assistant coach Jeffrey Barlok, who was named Parenteau’s successor. Photo courtesy of Holy Cross Athletics

Swim seasons are long: five months of six- to seven-day work weeks, and that’s not counting all of the preseason training and prep. The arrival of assistant coach Jeffrey Barlok two years ago and well-performing teams eventually gave Parenteau the peace of mind to retire, knowing the programs were set up for success. He announced his retirement in June, and Barlok was named the new head coach in July. The teams began their first season under Barlok in late September and will conclude in late February.

“You don’t have days off once the season starts,” Parenteau says. “I got a little run down and figured it was time to pass it off to someone else. The program is as strong as it’s ever been — it was time to step away and I am thrilled that Jeff got the job.”

“It is an honor to be taking over squads that have been run by a legendary coach,” Barlok says. “Coach Parenteau has taught me a lot about coaching and life these past two years, and I intend to carry on his philosophy of being thankful for every day and appreciating what we have. The program is in a good place and poised for greatness. I look forward to leading a group of young men and women with such talent, both in and out of the pool.”


Written by Greg Sukiennik for the Fall 2018 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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Lecture: Peter Phan on Theology of the Church in the Age of Migration
3/28/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Peter Phan is the inaugural holder of the Ignacio Ellacuria Chair...
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Ovid in the #MeToo Era
3/28/2019
Classics
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall 210
Open to Campus Community Only
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/28/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
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175th Jesuits and Music Concert
3/29/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Many Holy Cross musical ensembles and performers will join...
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MID Club
3/29/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/29/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/30/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
3/31/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Lecture: Cornell Historian Derek Chang on Asians in the Jim Crow South
4/1/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Conference on Liberal Arts Education
4/1/2019
Political Science
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
What is the role of Great Books in a liberal arts education? Are...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/1/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/1/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


53rd Annual Hanify-Howland Lecture
4/2/2019
Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture
Holy Cross Campus
The 53rd annual Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture will be held April 2, 2019 in the...
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Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/2/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This two-day conference highlights a new, historically-sensitive...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/2/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Assumption College Graduate School Info Table
4/2/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Stop by the Assumption College Graduate School Info Table...
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Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/2/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/3/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/3/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Conference: Readings from the Roots, on Bible Translation and Its Impact
4/3/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Readings from the Roots is a new, historically-sensitive translation...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
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Ira Sukrungruang
4/4/2019
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Thursday, April 4thIra Sukrungruang (multi-genre)READING 7:30PM...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/4/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/4/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


MID Club
4/5/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/5/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Rodin:Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/5/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/6/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/6/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Rodin: Truth, Form, Life/Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections
4/7/2019
175th Anniversary
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The inaugural exhibition of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery...
See More >>


Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/8/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/8/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting (Event canceled)
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/8/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
Open to the Public
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/8/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
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Hester/Craig Debate
4/9/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
Is theistic belief rational in a scientific age? Listen in on a conversation...
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COPE Well Week
4/9/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/9/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/10/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


City Year Info Table
4/10/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Stop by the City Year Info Table for learn more about this...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/10/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Lecture: Glenn Loury on the Ethics of Affirmative Action Policies in Higher Education
4/11/2019
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences,...
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Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


COPE Well Week
4/11/2019
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/11/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


MID Club
4/12/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/12/2019
Theatre
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
LOBBY TABLE - Once in a LifetimeBy George S. Kaufman and...
See More >>


Once in a Lifetime
4/13/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Once in a Lifetime By George S. Kaufman and Moss HartApril 4-6 &...
See More >>


Holy Cross Jazz Ensemble Spring Concert
4/16/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
An evening of Big Band Jazz music that plays from the Classic to the...
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American International College Graduate Programs Info Table
4/16/2019
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the American International College Graduate Programs...
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Community Dance Workshop with Ronald K. Brown
4/22/2019
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Holy Cross Orchestra Concert
4/24/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
The Holy Cross College Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s...
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Manusripts, Inscriptions & Documents Round Table Discussion
4/24/2019
Classics
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Haberlin Hall 219
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
O'Neil Hall 112
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 154
Open to the Public
See More >>


Academic Conference
4/24/2019
Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to the Public
See More >>


175th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt
4/25/2019
Featured Employee
Outdoor starting at Hogan
This Scavenger Hunt is being put on by the Mission and Identity Subcommittee...
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Perkins Human Services Agency Info Table
4/25/2019
Center for Career Development Categories: Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 1
Stop by the Perkins Info Table to learn more about this agency...
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H-CLEF Concert
4/26/2019
Music
Brooks Music Center CONCERT HA
Join the Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble Federation for an evening of silent...
See More >>


MID Club
4/26/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Holy Cross College Choir Concert
4/27/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Giacomo Carissimi was the first great composer of oratorios,...
See More >>


Chapel Artist Series Organ Concert - Pavel Kohout
4/28/2019
Music
St Joseph Memorial Chapel St Joseph Chapel
Pavel Kohout, OrganistInternational Concert Organist, Prague,...
See More >>


MPE Meeting
4/29/2019
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(09)
Open to the Public
See More >>


Dance Concert
5/1/2019
Theatre
O'Kane Hall Fenwick Theatre
Dance ConcertMay 1 at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PMFenwick Theatre – 2nd...
See More >>


Romantic Exile and Transnational Celebrity
5/2/2019
English
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Omar Miranda, assistant professor of English at the University of...
See More >>


Food Truck Festival
5/3/2019
Featured
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Outdoor Oval
Join the Office of Student Involvement for a Friday Night...
See More >>


MID Club
5/3/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Sanctae Crucis Selection Committee Meeting
5/9/2019
The Sanctae Crucis Awards
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


MID Club
5/10/2019
Classics
Fenwick Hall 420
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>

See All