This Letter to the Editor was written by Brent Tomberlin, an Alumnus of UNC Charlotte and former Editor-in-Chief of the Niner Times. He writes a short tribute to Roy R. Fielding, SR Lecturer/Dir of Aquatics of Kinesiology, College of Health & Human Services. The Student Niner Media family expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Roy R. Fielding.
My college swim coach died last week. Roy Fielding worked for more than forty years at UNC Charlotte. He taught many classes like scuba and water safety; working with a great number of colleagues and students as part of the school’s Department of Kinesiology. He also coached the university’s men’s and women’s swimming teams for a time. The pool underneath the school’s campus gym is named for him. As many students and swimmers reflected on his passing, they mentioned his incredible ability to encourage them in their endeavors. Many swimmers remembered his kindness and his sarcastic humor. The one big truth is coach was involved in the lives of his students, his swimmers, his colleagues and his family. Speaking for all of us, he helped us move into careers, celebrated accomplishments, wished us well on Facebook and never stopped supporting us. A few examples here to give anyone who didn’t know Coach Fielding a look into his life. Coach took over the Charlotte men’s and women’s teams during the ‘88-89 season. I made the team that year as a freshman walk-on. He treated all of his athletes the same regardless if they were on scholarship or not. He called you out if you were not working up to expectations and he praised you when accomplishments came. For example, when the swim teams returned to campus after the first semester, he met you on the side of the pool with a copy of your semester grades. It was like a scene from “Lord of the Rings.” Some athletes were allowed to pass by him and practice. A few folks were sent home. At the close of the ‘92 season, when the swimming program was canceled at the university, Coach and others organized the last swimming banquet. Coach had taken the time to individually type out, print and tape a message onto those things for the people he was gifting them to. Who does that? When my turn came to be recognized, he presented a plaque from one of the championships meets the teams had been successful at. On the bottom, my taped message simply said, “Bulldog.” Coach knew he could put me in any event and I would not complain. The lesson stays with me today in my life. When tough decisions come, I remember the words and advice he always gave me. He was the same guy in the classroom as on the pool deck. He wanted your attention and he wanted each of his students, as well as swimmers, to strive for excellence and mastery. He demanded something from each of us, but always found ways to keep encouraging each person he came in contact with. His ability to be real. His ability to be honest sticks with me. Even after college, he became my instructor when obtaining a certified pool operator licensure. He was the same, didn’t give me special treatment, and held me to the standard. Hearing the news of his passing was hard. No one is ever prepared. I had to read the Facebook notification a few times to be sure I was really reading what I was reading. The comments which came after the post from swimmers and students were a reminder we all shared the same communal experiences with Roy Fielding. His life was a gift to all of us in so many ways. It was hard to hear of his passing because all of us who knew him to recognize a small chunk of what made the world great is missing.