Nick Hoffmann was looking for a change and a challenge.
He found both with the Frankfort High swim team.
Hoffmann, a senior at FHS, joined the team this season, and his high school swimming career comes to a close this weekend at the Region 3 meet in Russell Springs.
It was in the past year he traded ice for water.
“I played ice hockey in Lexington, and I was on a team that traveled all over the country,” Hoffmann said. “I wasn’t going to get a scholarship; there was no reason to play competitively, and I thought I’d try something new. I wanted to stay in shape, so I picked swimming.”
And even if it was for just one year, Hoffmann has been giving the sport his best effort.
In his first meet Nov. 30, Hoffmann swam the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 38.99 seconds and the 50-yard freestyle in 43.97 seconds.
In a meet at Scott County Jan. 19, his time in the 100 breaststroke was 1:26.63 and in the 50 freestyle it was 34.13.
“I’ve actually enjoyed it,” Hoffmann said. “For a long time I was going to the pool every single day to practice.”
Even with the improved times Hoffmann doesn’t see himself advancing out of the regional meet.
“I don’t think I’ll place very well, but I think I’ll have fun,” he said. “My last competition I placed sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke. I’m not in it to win it, I’m in it to have fun, something people don’t do anymore.”
But why pick an activity that’s so strenuous and work so hard at something that’s going to be over so soon?
“I like to challenge myself,” Hoffmann said. “I’m in the Civil Air Patrol, which is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, and I’ve been to Ranger School, which teaches search and rescue technique, a couple of times.”
Hoffmann had a little bit of swimming experience prior to this season, having been a member of the TNT swim team for one year when he was 8 years old.
He also spent some time on the FHS golf team, but it was ice hockey that dominated his athletic endeavors during much of his life.
“I started playing ‘NHL 2002’ and I thought that looked cool,” Hoffmann said. “I wondered if I could learn to do that.”
He attended some skating clinics when he was 7 and at 8 started playing in a developmental league.
“When I was 12 some traveling team started looking at me and recruited me,” Hoffmann said. “The year before they were the Buckeye Regional champion. (The region encompasses Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.) The next year they didn’t win the championship, but my first game playing as goalie I ended up with a shutout and we won 12-0. It was awesome.”
Hoffmann attended Mitch Korn camps, where he had one-on-one time with the goaltending coach of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
“It’s extremely expensive,” Hoffmann said of hockey, “and the only rinks are in Louisville and Lexington. Every other weekend you were traveling to Chicago, or Nashville, or Ann Arbor, Mich.
He stopped playing about a year ago.
“I don’t miss the traveling, but I miss playing competitively, and I made some good friends playing hockey.”
The work ethic he had playing ice hockey he now uses for swimming.
“Nick pushes himself as hard as anyone that I have watched swim, and not just in the water,” said Kelly Caldwell, who coaches all three local high school teams.
“At the beginning of the season I wanted to do some dry land training and I told the swimmers that I wanted them to do pushups and lunges prior to getting in the water. Nick is the only one who continues to arrive at the pool and get dressed and do dry land work before he gets in the water.
“When the pipes broke and the city schools were closed, Nick went to the Y to swim on his own. One day a woman at the Y told me that a young man swam that morning for three hours. It was Nick.”
Next year Hoffmann will be attending Eastern Kentucky University, where he’s been accepted into the honors program.
He recently became second lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol, which he’s been told is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout, and he plans to participate in the Air Force ROTC at EKU.
At Frankfort High Hoffmann is involved with several groups, including the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Spanish Honor Society, Earth Club, Interact (Rotary) and Frankfort Science Academy, and for three years he was part of the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education.
One short chapter of his high school career comes to a close this weekend with the regional meet.
“There have been a few swimmers who have been brave enough to start swimming with no prior experience after coming to high school,” Caldwell said. “Many get disillusioned when it is much harder than they thought it would be and most quit.
“Austin Tucker (a senior at Western Hills) is one of my favorite kids in the category of starting swimming in high school. Austin started as a freshman and has been a warrior each and every year. I really admire both of these guys because of their tenacity, determination and drive to be the best swimmers that they can be.”
All the work has helped prove a theory Hoffmann has.
“Everything physical is all mental,” he said. “I think people can do whatever they want to do.”