June 10th, 2011

Hyland's Heroes: Ray Stoess, Jr.

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Ray Stoess, Jr.
photo courtesy of Desiree Stoess

Swimming volunteer has grown closer to family, community

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes"- a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero? Send your recommendation to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

There may not be a person in Kentucky with a larger wealth of knowledge for swimming than Ray "Bucky" Stoess, Jr.

A competitive swimmer all of his life, Stoess is a nationally certified swim official by both USA Swimming and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA), conducts timer/judge clinics to teach others how to use high-tech meet management software, is the current director of swimming for the Catholic School Athletic Association (CSAA), coached the Sacred Heart Model School swim team for eight years (where he won three city championships), coached Seneca High School's swim team for several years, and just finished serving two terms as general chairman of Kentucky swimming, which is the governing body for all of competitive swimming in the state.

And that's not even his day job.

A husband, father of four, and namesake of his own Louisville practice - Ray H. Stoess, Jr. Attorney at Law - Stoess has served in some sort of volunteer capacity, held some sort of office or committee position, and worn all sorts of "hats" since the early to mid-1990's on the side, in essence proving to be one of the most resourceful and loyal members of the swimming community to ever stand poolside.

"(Those jobs) don't pay at all, but I guess there's a lot more to life than what you get paid for," said Stoess. "The driving force (for me) is really two things: one, I love competitive swimming. It's probably the best extracurricular activity for kids. Number two, volunteering has given me a lot of chances to spend time with my own kids. It gave me a chance to be down there right where my kids were swimming and participating, which has made it very worthwhile."

Stoess, who swam at Lakeside Swim Club from the time he was six years old, competed at the collegiate level during a two-year career at LSU. He would later transfer to the University of Kentucky to finish his degree, but his competitive days seemed to come to a close in Louisiana.

But when his first daughter was born and got into swimming at the age of three, Stoess dove back into the world of competitive swimming and has yet to come up for air since. All four of his children attended Sacred Heart Model School through their respective elementary years. His oldest two eventually decided to attend DuPont Manual. Stoess' only son will begin his sophomore year at St. Xavier High School following Summer break.

But it is Sacred Heart where Stoess says his family really laid its stock in terms of academics and athletics. His youngest child is the last remaining Stoess legacy at SHMS and is in sixth grade.

"Simply stated, we felt like Sacred Heart Model School was the best school in town," said Stoess. "We looked a lot and there are a lot of good schools out there. I have to give my wife the credit, because she's the one who did all the groundwork for looking at all the schools, but we felt like SHMS was the best place for our kids to go educationally, spirtually, and was a really good environment for them."

"I've always said that it's like we purchased an insurance policy with Sacred Heart Model School," Stoess continued. "That was our insurance that our kids were going to get a good, fundamental education from all aspects."

Because of his family's connection to and affiliation Sacred Heart, and instant association with the Louisville Catholic school community, Stoess has been proud to be such a vital cornerstone of the CSAA City Swim Meet - an event that has grown by leaps and bounds since Stoess first took over as the organization's swimming director.

Today, the CSAA meet draws 900 swimmers (grades 1-8) during a one-day set of events at the University of Louisville's Ralph Wright Natatorium.

"I have to give Jim and Gary Frame a lot of credit. They set the thing up from the get-go and organized it really well," said Stoess. "It's quite an undertaking, but it's a lot of fun. It's what I call 'grassroots swimming,' because we have some very novice swimmers in the meet up to some state-champion swimmers that swim in the meet. It's really great for the competitive swimming and Catholic school communities to have an event like that."

Stoess, who was known to teammates and friends by the nickname of "Bucky" for the first 28 years of his life, still finds ways to stay active, fit, and involved with swimming for himself. His participation with Swim Louisville Masters - a group of adults who meet to swim for fitness and/or competitively - allows Stoess to be an advocate and ambassador for local and national swimming on virtually every stage possible.

But it is volunteering and his work with kids that has given Stoess the most satisfaction. And while there is not one, specific moment that sticks out in his mind as a time when Stoess realized and recognized the significance of his hard work, there have been plenty of opportunities for him to remember why he does what he does.

"There have probably been several of those moments," said Stoess. "When you watch not only your own kids, but other kids' effort. Swimming is unlike most sports. There's no one to pass the ball to who's going to take the shot and no one to kick the ball to that's going to score the goal. When you're in a swim meet, you're an island. You're out there on your own and no one does it for you. That's what stands out to me. Watching the individual achievement out there reaffirms to me why this is what I want to be involved in and with."

As mentioned, Stoess' fourth and youngest child is down to her final years at Sacred Heart Model School. So what does the future hold for Stoess once the legacy chain ends at SHMS?

Said Stoess: "I really haven't crossed that bridge yet, but I know for sure that for the next two years, I'll be helping run the CSAA city swim meet. I would never abandon completely. When I do leave, I'd want to make sure that someone came in trained and prepared. Things don't last forever. I'll probably always stay involved with swimming, but if my kids aren't there it probably won't be quite as much. I've been doing it a long time....I've got chlorine in my blood."


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