Sitting in the lobby of the Cascade Swim Center, Reed Sloss rattles off a list of local high school swimmers to watch this season.
Just as easily, Sloss, who is in his third year as the Central Oregon swimming officials chair, can give a name, event and time from as far back as 17 years ago, like the late Jay Rowan’s 21.85 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle at the 2002 Intermountain Conference Championships.
“I know the sport,” Sloss says. “I’m a numbers guy. I know who all the good swimmers are. These swimmers in high school, it’s really cool to see them grow up in the pool, how they grow into and out of different strokes.”
Originally from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Sloss, 64, has never swum competitively himself.
Like most volunteers, he followed his kids into the sport. Unlike a lot of parents, he has an abundance of free time.
After working for the technology company Intel in Phoenix, Arizona, and then Hillsboro for a total of 20 years, he was able to retire at 46 years old.
“It was kind of like winning the lottery,” Sloss says. “I worked at Intel when it was a really successful, growing company. It’s not that it was easy. There were a lot of 70- and 80-hour weeks. I remind my kids that, yeah, I retired early, but I worked really hard when I worked. But I loved it.”
Sloss turned down a chance to move to England to work for the BBC.
“I worked on some of the stuff that’s YouTube now,” Sloss says. “I did audio and video streaming. I did a lot of different things but that’s what I did at the end. We were basically selling that technology to BBC and they offered me a job, but I was ready to quit.”
Sloss, his wife, Jean, and their three sons, Matt, then age 11, and twins Brian and Jeff, then 8, moved from Hillsboro to Redmond in 2000.
“My wife’s parents live in Eagle Crest (Resort), so we got a place there,” Sloss says. “It was really good because we had our kids late so I was able to watch my kids grow up.”
When son Jeff, the most dedicated swimmer of the three boys, joined the Cascade Aquatic Club (now Redmond Aquatic Club) at age 10, Sloss began setting up meets for the club and recording times on a computer.
“Swimming is one of those sports that exists, at least in the United States, because of parent volunteers,” Sloss says. “With my technical background, I understood how all the software worked, how the electronic timing worked, and it was nice because you’d basically be sitting down watching the swimmers.”
Sloss set up the club’s website and created a program where parents could see how close their kids were to meeting time standards for bigger USA Swimming meets, such as state, sectionals and zones.
At 13, Jeff moved to the Bend Swim Club, and Sloss began volunteering there. Taking a series of tests, he trained to become a USA Swimming-certified deck official, stroke and turn judge, electric timing judge, starter and meet referee. Jean also did electronic timing and worked as a deck official and a stroke and turn judge.
“I was just like all the other parents and then I just got more and more into it,” Sloss says. “I really like the sport. I think some of the kids that swim are among the best. They’re very well-behaved. They’re too tired after practice to get in trouble.”
Even before Jeff Sloss got to high school, his dad began working high school meets.
“They really need people that run club meets to run high school meets,” Reed Sloss says. “It was a need. When you’re retired and you’re not working every day, you can basically invest your time into something that is important for the community. Swimming is the biggest thing that I volunteer for.”
When Jeff graduated from Redmond High in 2010, Sloss did not stop working. Instead, he got more involved, becoming Oregon Swimming’s sanctions chair. All Oregon Swimming meets must be sanctioned by Sloss, who determines if the meet has enough officials so times will count for national standards and the meet will receive supplemental insurance from USA Swimming.
His coverage as the area’s officials chair includes nine clubs in Bend, Redmond, Prineville, Hood River, The Dalles, Madras, John Day, Burns and Lakeview. In total, he oversees 65 officials.
“There are officials whose kids are done (with competitive swimming), a lot of them,” Sloss says. “USA Swimming needs parents to volunteer whose kids swim but beyond that they need people like me that like the sport and continue to work the sport.”
Heather Thomas, coach of the Redmond Aquatic Club Eels for the past 11 years, does not know how Oregon Swimming could exist without Sloss.
“They’d be seriously hurting if this guy wasn’t around,” Thomas says. “I don’t think that the club teams in this area would be able to run meets or do anything because he’s the only one that we have right now in this High Desert area that does what he does, a referee that’s willing to run anything, anywhere. He’ll get in a car and drive to the (Willamette) Valley if they need an official. If they’re strapped, they’ll call Reed because they know he’ll get in his car and go.”
USA Swimming agrees with Thomas, presenting Sloss and Ken Hansen, his predecessor as the area officials chair, with the organization’s Outstanding Service Award in 2014.
Sloss was selected as the meet referee to run the 2018 Oregon Swimming Region XII Senior Championship last March at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
For the past 10 Februarys, Sloss has volunteered at the OSAA Swimming Championships at Mt. Hood Community College, working in whatever capacity needed during prelims and finals for all three classifications (6A, 5A and 4A-1A) on Friday and Saturday. He then travels to Springfield on Sunday for the Oregon Swimming 10-and-under short-course state championships.
“I’m away from home, anyway,” Sloss says of working all three days. “I go wherever they need me. It’s pretty awesome. I like the sport. I enjoy being on deck and watching, especially really fast swimmers, I like seeing records set. And I can give back because I was real fortunate in my career.”
Sloss also trains officials and sets up masters swim meets in Central Oregon.
“I love retirement,” he says, laughing. “Retirement is great. I recommend it for everybody.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, firstname.lastname@example.org