But, as they say, there often is a fine line between love and hate, and the youngster was able to swim across it.
"I returned the next season when I was 9, and I loved it," he said. "We had a new coach, and I had a new, more positive attitude."
From then on, Smiley excelled in the sport he once hated, a lead swimmer in the summer months for the Agora Club team and then for the team at the Bunny Davis pool, which replaced the Agora Club, and in the winter months for the YMCA and then Danville High.
More self-deprecating than self-promoting, it is a tad difficult to get Smiley to mention his swimming feats. But with a push of the side, he finally confessed that he swam for the Danville High team as a seventh-grader and joined the team as a full-fledged member as an eighth-grader.
"I was on the 200 free-style relay team that was clocked at 1:36.06, a Danville record that still stands," he said in an effort to accommodate a reporter trying to wring information from him.
Lot of the credit goes to his parents
While he and his Admiral teammates put in a lot of meters in practices and at swim meets, Smiley said a lot of credit for their success was directly linked to their parents, and, in his case, that would be Paul and Patricia Smiley.
"Competitive swimming is really a family sport," he said. "Parents not only are at a meet all day long but they also serve as timers and place pickers, watching to see the order in which the swimmers touch the side of the pool, and they also often are involved in checking credentials and handing out ribbons."
But the hard work of both the swimmers and their parents was rewarded after home meets.
"We had cookouts," Smiley said. "We looked forward to the cookouts almost as much as we did getting ribbons."
Meanwhile, Smiley was winning some academic ribbons as well. At the end of his high school career in 2002, his grade point average was clocked at a perfect 4.0, among the top in his class. He was awarded a Mary E. Carr Scholarship to attend Denison University, a top national liberal arts college in Granville, Ohio. The scholarship pays all his bills at Denison. His involvement at Danville High in swimming, the student newspaper and other extracurricular activities, and an internship at The Advocate-Messenger, all sweetened the pot for Denison.
He is a history major with a minor in classical history, which includes studies of ancient Greece and Rome, before 476 A.D. But he also has sampled a smorgasbord of other courses in an effort to be well-rounded. He has taken geology and psychology, and he has studied several foreign languages, including Spanish, Greek and Arabic.
Smiley swam for Denison for two years, but he decided to hang up his competitive trunks after his sophomore year. He's more than adequately filled the time he was in the pool with other interests, including community service.
In the summer of 2004, he remained in Granville to help that city prepare for its bicentennial celebration this year.
"I performed several tasks, everything from compiling histories of 125 historic homes to cleaning very old tombstones with a toothbrush," Smiley said. "I became immersed in the city and its history."
He has decided to be a minister
He has become immersed in something else both historical and spiritual. While reaching out to the past, he has been looking inside himself for his future. He has decided to become a minister, and would be the first in his family to join the clergy.
Smiley, who was baptized a Roman Catholic and grew up a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and has attended a variety of churches, has not decided in which denomination, if any, he will serve. Whatever denomination, he would prefer to serve as pastor of a smaller church.
"When I'm asked that question, I say, 'Christian,'" said Smiley. "All I know is that I want to know more. I plan to enter a seminary. If I'm going to serve God, I need to know him better."