From the ISHOF: 1968 U.S. Olympic Women’s Diving Coach; 1972 U.S. Olympic Men’s Diving Coach; 1976 Austrian Olympic Diving Coach; 1980 Austrian and Danish Olympic Diving Coach; 1959 U.S. Pan American Men’s Diving Coach; 1945 NCAA Champion (1m, 3m springboard); As Indiana University’s diving coach his divers captured 16 NCAA, 27 Big Ten and 64 National AAU diving titles; They also won 4 Pan American, 3 World and 2 Olympic gold medals along with 80 National titles between 1959 and 1982; 1973 recipient of the “Mike Malone Award” and 1964 “Fred Cady Award”; founded the American (1971) and the World (1968) Diving Coaches Associations. Hobie Billingsley was voted the “U.S. Diving Coach of the Year” seven consecutive times between 1964-1970. He was also the first “NCAA Coach of the Year”, first presented in 1982. A four-time Olympic Coach representing 3 different countries, his Olympic success was exceeded only by his national success with his divers. Coaching in the premier diving nation of the world, Billingsley has won more individual diving titles as coach than any other person except his own mentor, the late Mike Peppe of Ohio State. Hobie won both the low & high NCAA springboard titles as a freshman at Ohio State before entering the Army Air Corps in 1945. With his best friend from college, the late Bruce Harlan, and later with Dick Kimball, he toured 15 summers, establishing himself as an all-time great comedy diver with water shows. However, it is as a coach, the second diving coach ever hired in college ranks, that Hobie made his greatest mark. Among his Olympians, Rick Gilbert, his first champion and now head coach at Cornell; Cynthia Potter who holds the record for National titles at 28; Jim Henry with 13 National titles; Leslie Bush, holder of every major diving title; and Ken Sitzberger, 11 time National champion. In the 1968 NCAA Championships, Hobie’s divers scored 96 unprecedented points with five divers making the finals on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards. He is the producer of the prize-winning documentary, “Hobie’s Heroes”. Hobie’s greatest pride is in the fact that there are more diving coaches in the high school and college ranks in the U.S. that have graduated from Indiana University under his tutelage than from any other university.
I think I may be able to hold onto this (microphone) because I know if you get too close, you can’t hear it. Everything he said about me was a lie, lies. I am better than what he said. Well, I can’t tell you what a thrill and honor it is to come to talk before this group, because they did give me “Coach of the Year” seven times in a row, and talk a little bit about Doc. We both went to Ohio State and I am going to give myself one hour and that is going to be it.
I am the type of coach that wings it. I have never given a speech in my life where I didn’t wing it, until this afternoon. I am going to read everything I am going to talk to you about, because I can get a good flow and I will be able to cover everything that I want to say. I have a natural tendency to start talking about something and all of a sudden get off on stories, we go an hour on just stories and we don’t learn anything other than the stories.
About three months ago I came here to talk about Doc. He had been selected by an elite group in this town. They had selected four people who had contributed the most to the state of Indiana and Doc was one of them. They wrote me a letter and said “Would you come up and be his spokesman. Tell us all about Doc and you have three minutes.” I read that and thought, “Gee, that is like going to a priest and saying, ‘Tell me about God’ and you have three minutes”.
I wrote a few notes because I knew I was going to have to do it quickly. I had written my notes on my computer, and as I was ready to run out the door, I went over to have the printer print them out – no ink in my printer. I am going out the door, I can’t write it over, so I thought; “hell, I gotta stand up and do it again.” I’ve got to wing it, if they wanted 3 minutes, I would give them 3 minutes. I talked for 3 minutes, and unbelievably, I never got such a reception in my life. I had the Governor of Indiana standing in line along with John Mellencamp’s wife to congratulate me on my great speech. I think it was because it was only 3 minutes long and the other three people had talked about 20 minutes. I never did figure out whether it was because I gave such a good speech or because I gave such a short speech.
When Bob asked me to come and give this talk, here is what he said: “We chose you to talk because you knew Doc better than anyone and you saw the human side of Doc and what made him a great coach, not just a guy who was writing books or watching underwater films. You are the one person who can challenge the coaches attempting to look within themselves to see if, indeed, they are doing the best they can.” He suggested that I also cover how Doc and I put a winning program together.
I am saying a few words about Doc, and I have to include myself. I was there and we were both trying to do the same thing for the team. In doing so some of the coaches may realize the importance of having a good diving program in your schools and clubs.
I am going to digress a little bit. In this country, all of the high school and college coaches had diving teams, but they tried to get rid of it. The reason is because they didn’t know anything about diving and they didn’t have the time to do it. When you have 40 swimmers in the pool and only two divers, I think you are going to go with the swimmers; and the only way you could do it was to eliminate diving. The only coach in the country that has had any divers on a college level was Mike Peppe at Ohio State. He ran it all and he won several national championships because of his divers. It is strange that no one else in the rest of the country ever took him on. They never got it.
First of all, do you want to be a really great coach? Have a great athlete. You know, you can be stupid, an idiot, and dead and you still Mickey Mouse your way as a coach. I say that if Greg Louganis or Mark Spitz walked in your door and you coached them, you could be the stupidest coach in the world, not understand anything, and you would still win. Well, that wasn’t Doc’s and my point in doing it. We went looking for the winners. We went looking for the ones that could perform and if they didn’t take first, it didn’t make any difference whether you are the best or the worst, we just wanted to get the best performance out of those kids. That is all we wanted to do.
When Mark Lenzi won the Olympic gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona and I was his coach, he was a wrestler and I made a diver out of him. We did it in three years, two hours a day, and we beat the Kennedy’s and “”. After it was over, we walked along the deck and he said, “What do you think coach, how did I do?” I said “I was just a little disappointed. I am the greatest diving coach in the world and I just proved it, but you didn’t do what you were supposed to do. You didn’t perform the back and inward 3 ½ somersault. I don’t care if you won or lost – you didn’t give me your best performance.”
Wow, that’s a heck of a note, but that was true. That’s the way Doc thought and that is the way I thought. We didn’t care how good you were. The most important thing is the performance and I don’t know how many of you see it that way, but we did. We will take you as you are and because we saw it that way, we treated all of our athletes the same and we never play one against the other. When I look back at it I don’t think either of us were as concerned about making our athletes winners as we were in telling them to be better people and more prepared for life. You would challenge them and give them directions that would make them better at living.
In spending so much time with the athletes under this kind of stress, we learned to really love our kids, and we hope that they would love us too. Some of them did and some of them didn’t, but most of them did; and that made our jobs easier. I think every swimmer in our camp liked him. That wasn’t true with me because we had different personalities. He was at one end of the pool and I was at the other end screaming all the time, yelling and hollering at those kids. When the swimmers had a break in between their intervals, Doc would sit down and talk to them about the way they felt. One day he came up to me and said: “Hobie, what are you doing down there yelling at those guys all the time? Why don’t you try being more like me? Why don’t you read books like, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People?’ Calm down.”
So I said OK Doc and I go out the next day: “Hi guys, hey that’s great; oh, that is terrific; oh, we are just coming right along here.” This went on for about 15 minutes, and then I said: “Excuse me.” Located right behind the 1 meter board there was a door. I get behind the door, and “#%#(@#%!!”: I come out and say “You guys are doing just fine.” I learned how you can take your frustration out on a diver. A kid goes up and does a dive and is under water, “#%#(@#%!!, that was the stupidest dive I have ever seen; you idiot, why didn’t you take up ping pong?” He comes up and I say, “Nice dive.”
Doc and I approached sports in a different direction from most other coaches. Instead of trying to copy what others were doing, or trying to improve the performance of the athletes, we both look at science as the source of making improvement; the changes that could be proven by law.
Doc brought me into this. He has an IQ of 177; I have an IQ of 109. He came up to me one day and says:
“Hobie, what are you doing?”
“Coaching, I guess.”
“Well, do you know what you are talking about?”
“Sure, I grew up with the greatest divers in the world: Sammy Lee, Bruce Harlan, Miller Anderson, and all of those guys.”
“Do you really know what you are talking about?”
“I think so.”
“Do you know who Isaac M. Newton is?
“Well, he is the jerk that dropped the ball off the leaning tower of Pisa.”
“No, that was Galileo.”
“I know Doc, how can I not know?”
“How well do you know?” and he walked away.
One of my divers caught me on it when I was showing him how Bob Webster did an inward dive layout from a movie I had taken from behind the 3 meter board. I said: “Do you want to see a guy that has strong legs, watch this sucker push his legs up; right off the board and never grimace.” One of my divers says, “Wait a minute, he is not doing a push with his legs.”
“Well, what the hell do you think he is doing?”
“He is doing it with his arms.”
He explained that to me and then showed me that if you are standing on the board, and the board is going down because of your weight, then you are actually standing on the board like this, and that by pulling your arms down, decreasing the weight of your body; it would be pushing in one direction, the feet are being pushed in the other direction, and the board does the work for you. Now, when he made that remark, I went “Oh my God, I don’t know anything.” I’m not kidding, it changed my life. I am a Christian, I was reborn, I went that way, and I tell you I took a sport that was so dog gone boring; 8 hours a day, yelling at kids, and when that happened I couldn’t get in the pool fast enough. I had to find out how in the hell it worked and that is how I got it. All because Doc asked me one little question: “Who the heck is Isaac Newton?”
So, I went to scientific journals and books, unfortunately the rest of my colleagues have not and so now we are losing everything because their egos won’t let them go. They are still doing it by trial and error, trying to copy somebody else; so what can you do? Having learned a few things about diving, Doc and I both decided to each write a book. Doc’s book is called “The Science of Swimming”, that book changed swimming programs in the world completely around to another direction because you went with his ideas.
I remember the time he decided he was going to do it. He came up to me, he was excited, and said “Hobie, guess what? I just figured something out. It is going to change everything we do in swimming.” He wrote the book and he makes $100,000 off that book for ten years. I wrote a book too, and I am still writing the book now. I am really getting it done. I am really quick about writing this book. I have been on it for 20 years.
I wrote a book on concepts and principles. In my sport you have to have a picture of what you are trying to do and a principle. The mechanical principle is applied to the concept. It took me five years to draw the pictures, I did them all on my own. I had to draw pictures of guys I had never seen. But, I finally wrote the book. Doc made a $100,000 a year on his book and I made a whopping success of my book too. My royalties were around $48.50 a month. He made $100,000 and I made $48. I would like to think that the reason he made so much money and got so much attention was because he had an audience of 6 million people to go to and my audience is 25,000 people in the entire world.
I think that the strongest trait we shared in coaching was our curiosity. He got me trying new ideas like he was doing and all of a sudden I got curious and then we got creative. I don’t think a day ever went by that we didn’t have some idea on how to do something a little different; some of them worked and some of them didn’t. For instance, he came up and said, “I’m getting tired of using a stopwatch”, so he made pace clocks. He made money on those too. He came up with a drag suit and I don’t know if he invented interval training or not, but I know that it came in about that time too.
I had a couple of my own. I did one I thought would make me a millionaire. I had divers diving into a sand pit. I had nine divers and I had nine kids on crutches. I felt a little bad about that. They haven’t died yet and they haven’t broken their necks, but there has to be a better way. I got this idea. I tell the kids to meet me at the field house Saturday morning and I bring the shovel. We go in to the field house and dig a hole, just like a grave; a big grave. Then I go down to the furniture store and ask if they have any foam rubber I could have. They gave me all I wanted. I went back and filled the hole with foam rubber. But I made one mistake, I didn’t put a liner in the hole first; so they dove into the hole head first and came out looking like they had come out of a coal mine. We found out that we could go in any direction we want to and we landed on our back. It showed us everything and it was a miracle that this worked.
All of a sudden there was something else. One of these divers had a roommate in the newspaper business. He come over and took some pictures of his roommate diving into the hole. It went into the school paper and from there it went into the local paper, The Indianapolis Star. From there it went into the Stars and Strips and from there it went to a guy out in California and he thought that it was a hell of a good idea. He thought he would put it in a package and make a couple of million, but it came from us and it came also from the gymnastic coach at Illinois; we both though of it at the same time.
Do you know what that idea did? It allowed guys to do the Fosbury flop; it allowed pole vaulters to land on their back instead of their feet; all because of a need. I felt pretty good about that. I never made a dime, but I don’t care. If I had known that it was going to work out that way and I had a choice; do you want to be a diving coach or a millionaire? I would have said I will be a diving coach. I couldn’t have cared less. That is not what my life is about.
I still cannot get this country to come around and apply science to this sport; and because of that, we went from 8 medals in diving to 4 medals to 3 medals to 2 medals and to one medal and this time, no medals. Guess how may medals they are going to get in China? In China, are you kidding?
I know that Doc did this and I did too. I gave lectures to coaches in clinics; I did it four years in a row. I would ask them this:
“What are you doing out there today?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what are you doing out there?”
“I am coaching.”
“Well, what does that mean?”
After I prodded them for a while, I finally got the answer I was looking for; “I am trying to make divers.”
Question – What are you doing to make you better? Do you realize how much you get into a drag when you do the same thing over and over and over? When you do that, you feel like a professor who uses the same notes for thirty years. I know it may be insulting to you, but it is a good thing to think about when you get up every day. What are you going to do today, that you can do better than you did yesterday, particularly in a sport? You know you are going to be a lot better coach if you make an effort to be up on current methods that concern training, motivating, communicating, competing, and psychological adjustments. If you make any attempt at all, you can do something with yourself. If you wish to motivate athletes in competition, you should make some attempt to learn how to push their buttons. Do you know how to push buttons? I am in a sport where I can push buttons.
I will give a couple of examples: I had a diver that was so dog darn bad that nobody would recruit him. His father was one of my best friends. He called me every night for a year to tell me I had to take his son, I had to. I didn’t want him, nobody wanted him. He was a great acrobat, but his form was just like he had a bad case of rickets. Well, I finally took him because I didn’t like his father calling me all night, I wasn’t getting any sleep.
When I took him, Dick Kimball for Michigan said, “You didn’t take that kid did you?” I said “Well, I didn’t have any choice.” We took him and we straightened him out. Incidentally, he won two NCAA Championships before we were through. What a diver! No, no, what a coach, right? He is diving in a meet against Louganis and he is in 11th place. Doc comes in and says, “We need your diver to come through with about 17 points if we are going to be in the top 10 in the country, do you understand?” “Yes, yes Doc.”
We get down to the last dive and this kid is going to do an inward 2 ½ somersault. I’m trying to think how I can get this kid to do this dive so we can score big on it. I went over to him and said, “Ronny, do you see the guy over there?” and I point right at Kimball. “Do you remember when he called me up and repeatedly said that you would never earn a single point in diving? Was that the truth?” The kid does the dive for 9 ½’s, and goes from 11th to 7th.
I will give you one more so that you don’t think that was just a fluke. I had another kid that was diving at Brown University in the National Championships with 83 other divers. We didn’t have breakups then, everyone diving could compete. So they did all the dives and this kid was a good diver, but he did a front 1 ½ with two twists and he got lost, didn’t know what he was doing. Out of 83 divers, he took 82nd.
You have to change your temperament for each kid to know how to talk to them and to get the best out of them. I could yell at Lenzi like ^@#*&!. Another kid I have to tell the mom and dad that this is not going to work. If you can change your personality to fit your kid, you can get somewhere with them. So I went up to this kid, and he was one of those kids that I have to hit across the head with a baseball bat just to get his attention, I put my arm around him and I said, “Brian, you beat one. I know you are going to do better on the high board tomorrow, right?” He comes in the next day and he wins the contest. I threw my hat down and jumped on it. How can a kid go from 82nd place one day and win the next day?
The next year, same meet, different pool. He gets to the last dive and he has to get 9’s to win. What can I tell this kid? I go up to him, “Hey, Brian, come over here a minute. Remember last year when you took 82nd and then you went to first? There was not one person in that pool or this pool that doesn’t remember that that was a fluke.” I said, “Brian, was it a fluke?” and I walked away. He got madder than hell and won the contest.
I’m going to give you another story before we finish. Another trait that both Doc and I shared was he would tell you how it was straight down the line; he would put it right to you. We needed a new pool. We went to the Board of Trustees, but they took 7 million dollars of our money and built __?__. Doc and I were offered a better job and he sends me over to use it as a lever to see if we could get the pool and a couple of other things that we needed. They said: “Oh yeah, we will do everything that we can, yeah, yeah, yeah.” The minute that we didn’t take the job, we never heard from them again.
Later, Doc and I are brought before the Board of Trustees and the chairman said: “We have two coaches here that have been trying to get a pool for the last 25 years. So, Doc Counsilman, would you come up here and tell us what it is all about. Doc gets up before the Board of Trustees and he starts out with this: “I just want to inform you that you are nothing but a bunch of lousy crooks, liars, and thieves.”
Holy Schmoly, you should have seen those people. They were out of their chairs, but you know, he really laid it on to them and then they say, “Coach Billingsly, do you have anything to say?” I am walking up there and saying, “Oh my God” but I thought “Hell, I’m going to go with him.” So I told them, “I don’t know why I am coaching here. I don’t want to coach for a crook.” We walk out and I put my arm around Doc. Outside we started to laugh and I said “Doc, I think we just got fired.” Well, because we were so outright about how we felt, they got us the pool though it took 25 years. After they get it all built and set to go, he and I both had retired.
We also shared the ideas and constructive information with anyone who was willing to listen. We both gave numerous clinic lectures, coaching camps, etc. We got involved with the coaching organization and followed this as a sport nationally and internationally by attending and serving on committees and panels. This gave us space to offer our philosophies of the sport and to learn from others. We know that no man is an island and therefore, had to learn to get along with our peers who we could help and they could help us. So, I say to you young coaches here, if you are going to get anywhere in the sport, you have to go in that direction. Be happy to get involved. You can’t sit over in a corner and do it all yourself. You have got to be active if you’re going to have any input in this sport and you have to be active further than just your own swimming pool. That was the plan.
Now, let’s look at Doc when he first came to Indiana from Cortland State in New York. When he showed up at Indiana in 1958, he walked into a pool that was 100 feet long, 7 feet deep and 4 lanes wide. It had a diving board coming off the side of the pool with a 7 foot high ceiling from the tip of the board and the only equipment he had was a bunch of kick boards which were used to see who could throw them the furthest. The kids would throw them from one end of the pool to the other and when one would go straight, it would often go through a window, breaking it, which resulted in nearly all of us freezing half to death during the winter. The water bugs were so big in that pool, they were huge.
With a very small budget, he couldn’t afford to buy weights. We had a budget that was unbelievable. I think that we owed them money for our budget. He wanted to have a weight program and didn’t have any, so he went out and got a bunch of empty one gallon tomato cans, poured them full of cement, and took a pipe and stuck it in there and he had weights. Our office was a closet, that’s what we walked into. That is the way he started.
He also didn’t have any good swimmers, so he immediately brought in a bunch of students he had coached in Indianapolis. When they got settled, he immediately informed them that their goal was to beat Michigan, which was the Big 10 ambience. Coming out of our obscurity that year, his team lost to Michigan by 26 points; which was the same number of points that were made by Michigan’s divers. I wonder why Doc hired me to be a diving coach. Well, I just told you; he wasn’t stupid. He knew that he needed to cover that weakness, that Achilles’ heel in his program.
I am saying that for far too long, the greatest weakness in many high school and college programs is their diving programs. Up until 1994 swimming coaches and learning institutions didn’t have diving coaches because they didn’t want to spend the time with them. Now, it is clear that the coach is the one who is responsible for the success of the swimming program and much of the success depends on the makeup of the coach. If you have lousy facilities and a lousy environment, a coach with any knowledge should be able to raise those kids up by the heels and get them to the top of their performance. That is exactly what Doc and I worked with when he came to Indianapolis. We were there, but this, and this, and this was a joke. Alright, let’s see what kind of a coach Doc was. Let’s talk about him because that is what I wanted to tell you about anyway.
We were good friends, but we were more than just good friends. I coached with him for 30 years, but you have to realize that we weren’t in love with each other. We were good friends. You know why we were only good friends? I was competing against him and he was competing against me. If he wanted to take the team to the beach, he would only take 20 kids. He wanted to take all the swimmers, but I wanted my divers to go too. Because of that we never lost respect for each other. He hardly ever said “no” to me, maybe one out of ten times he would say “no”, if even that.
Not until I retired did I realize it was a love affair. He would call me up all the time and invite me over to his house. We would just get into it and I found out that he was probably the best friend I had. We were not very sociable; we didn’t have time for that. I didn’t know one person in town that I could go to if I wanted to go out and have a beer, and I don’t drink. If I wanted to go out some place, I didn’t know anybody but Doc.
I remember I lost my keys one time and I wanted to call back to Bloomington and have someone get them for me, and I didn’t know who to call. He didn’t have anyone either. We were so blasted busy doing what we were doing, we just didn’t have time to make real good friends. We had a lot of other kinds of friends, but not the kind that you like to run around with. I just wanted you to know our relationship, I would die for the man; and I think that he would have done the same for me.
He was a unique coach. What made him unique? He was so different in many ways than other coaches in competitive swimming. He was personable, but not personal; and because of his genius, no one ever really got close to him. Doc was a master in the sport and he was a master in intelligence too, but he was also a master of how to handle kids. He had a way about him that would draw those kids around him. When he came into the pool and sat down, they would be running around like crazy just to sit down next to him and talk. He had that ability. He had an uncanny way of working with kids and I used to marvel at it. I would sit down to see how he was doing it and it was a great thing to see.
Let’s look at the great coaches of the middle of the last century. There were three: Bob Kiphuth at Yale, Matt Mann at Michigan, and Mike Peppe of Ohio State. Those three guys won the majority of the national championships for over forty years, but what did they contribute to encourage the growth of the sport? Kiphuth wrote a book on exercise. If you read the book now you would laugh, but he wrote it and that is better than anyone else, because nobody wrote anything. Peppe wrote a book on diving that offered next to nothing that would help. They coached their own way throughout their entire careers with little or no change.
They were outstanding coaches because of their great personalities and they knew how to recruit. They sort of guided their swimmers. Mike Peppe was a diving coach as well as swimming coach. They pushed their swimmers through the program and did it on what they knew, which was the same as they had taught 20 years ago. I know – I was there. All three of these guys are my friends. Kiphuth tried to get me to go to Yale because I wanted to go to Divinity School and I didn’t get in because the war started and I would have had to wait 5 years.
So they guided swimmers through their years of competition, offering little that was different in the sport. Kiphuth breathed on the fact that you could do exercise because in those day everyone believed that weight training was bad because it tightened the muscles of the swimmers and made them muscle bound. Twenty years later coaches found out that you need to develop strength to be a swimmer. They also thought that the further you swim – the faster you swim. I am not trying to put them down. Their coaching was really directed toward their own careers and they gave little back to the sport in terms of change and improvement.
There was so little growth in competitive swimming, for instance: Johnny Weissmuller set the 100 yard freestyle record in 1929 at 51.00. The record held for twenty years until Ford of Yale came by and did a 49.7. Then someone did a 49.6 It will never be broken again until Dick Cleveland came along at Ohio State and did a 49.2. I was there and it a was questionable start. “Take your mark & bang.” You know that today we have people like Forbes Carlile, people like him were the ones that had curiosity and said: “There is a better way.” And they were not afraid to give it to the world and so we lived off of that and now we have people coming behind us, now recognizing it and doing the same.
I grew up with a kid that was interested in airplanes and he was on the swimming and water polo teams in Erie, Pennsylvania with me. We used to sit under a street light at night and look at books he had on Germany and Japan, it was during the 2nd World War. He turned out to be the greatest technician in the history of warfare in the world. He was the best since 400 B.C. He developed the F-16 fighter, which they use to this very day. He wrote the manual for the marines. His manual was used to fight both the wars that we have just been in and that is why they lasted 100 days. They did it his way. I went to school with this kid and I brought the book with me. It is called “Boyd”, get it, it has a lot to with just exactly where we came from. You will see a guy from absolutely nowhere with a brilliant mind and a great concept. They hated him for doing it and they gave him all the awards, but they wouldn’t make him a General. It is a terrific book.
Like most great coaches, Doc was committed to swimming and contributed his whole life to the sport. He was fortunate to have a family that supported him throughout his career, especially his wife Marge who is here today. She helped him in such ways as helping write books, hosting cookouts for the team, tutoring those having difficulty with classes, and many other things. In doing so, her help made it possible for Doc to do more important things in his program. Boy, there is nothing like having a great woman behind a man that needs help. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury. My wife hated diving.
Doc liked a good fight. I don’t think you can be a coach unless you get your dukes up all the time. He was a very competitive person. He coached with great passion, which helped to motivate him every day that he was at the pool. He was always thinking. In the thirty years that I coached with Doc, he never missed a practice or was late for a workout. He always showed up about a half hour early, put the workout on the blackboard, and then he would go over it with the swimmers when they showed up. During this time he often gave them news, told a joke, or something funny to get them in a positive mood for practice. He often took off his belt and chased them all over the pool in order to get them in the water. If they had a real good workout, he gave them jelly beans. He took a sport that is as boring as hell and made it exciting for the swimmers.
I would go up to the swimmers and say, “What are you doing, just going back and forth, back and forth.” He would come right back at me by saying something like, “What are you doing, just going up and down, up and down.” His coaching was seasoned with the greatest gift of all, a sense of humor. He used to call me the funny man. I’m not the funny man, he was the funny man. He was the one that could get with his kids and tell a joke and they would laugh. I would tell a joke and they would sneer at me. Some of you were at his retirement party. I had all these jokes made up to introduce everybody and you should have seen this guy die. I know they put Christ on the cross, but this was worse. I mean I went down, big time. Mark Spitz finally got me out of the whole thing and I told jokes all evening and all I get is a sneering contest. There was nothing I could do about it, because it was already set up.
Doc would sometimes come down to the end of the pool where we were diving and he would be in a bathing suit. He would get up and do a couple of dives. He was the worst of the worst! You’ve never seen anybody who could get tangled up the way we would and we would die. We would just laugh until we started crying. He was terrible, but he did it because it jacked us up and he was interested in what we were doing.
He was a tremendously loyal guy, particularly to his kids. We went to the Big 10 Championships one time and a couple of coaches just unloaded on Doc. He kept quiet and didn’t say a word. He had this book next to him and he kept opening it up like this and then he would put it down. I am right next to him going, “Take it easy Doc, let them say it, don’t say a word.” He just kept letting them talk and looking at the book. Then all of a sudden, someone said something about one of his swimmers; he jumped up and was about ready to take them all on. He was ready for battle. He could handle what they were saying about him, but he could not let them criticize one of his kids.
Later on, I went to see what it was that was in the book that he kept looking at. It was Rudyard Kipling – “…If you can keep your head when all of those about you lose theirs,” and that is how he was able to move himself through it. I remember how well controlled he was, because he went through some tough times. When he started winning, he made a lot of enemies; but he knew how to handle those that cried, and gain their respect. I can’t tell you how delighted I was to work with that man. Doc never talked about his kids behind their backs and some of you do that a lot. “Oh this kid isn’t doing worth a crap,” and you go extremes about what this kid did. I don’t think you are going very far as a coach if you pull that stuff. If you have got problems, you keep them in the family. You solve the problems. Don’t go throwing them off to somebody else.
The other thing he was good at was that he was a super salesman. He had a way of being able to talk to you and sell you something without fifty phone calls a day like someone trying to sell you insurance. He knew how to take a person and say, “I want you know that Indiana is a fine swimming school, but it also has a fantastic business school and you are only going to be here for four years. When it is finished, you are going to go out in life, and this is the school that you can go to and still enjoy a marvelous swimming program. I really think you should consider that.” He just had that knack. He could talk them into it and I think that was a lot of our success. You know that in order to have a good program, you have got to know how to recruit kids to it; but some of you go pretty far off the line.
We were very careful when we brought in recruits. We let the swimmers and divers be part of it, but there were conditions that had to be met. No drugs, no drinking, no sex, none of that. We brought these kids here to give them a good impression of what we really are. So when they came here, what they saw is what they got.
Doc was emotional, he just didn’t show it. In thirty years, I only saw him cry twice; once was when his son was killed. I was with him after that happened, I went to him, and I hugged him for a long time. He cried and cried what a terrible thing it was; it was a tough, tough time. The other time he cried when he had a team that had no chance in hell of winning the Big 10 Championship and he won it. I’m going to tell you that story because I think that I had something to do with that. He was talking to the kids and he says: “You know we have to face the fact that we just don’t have the team here this year that can win the Big 10.” He went on and on and then he says, “Hobie, do you have anything to say.” He had just swum the English Channel, so I get up and say a few words; “You see that guy over there? (Pointing to Doc) Here is a guy that came to me one day and said he wanted to swim the English Channel and I said you are out of your mind. What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy? He just said that he was going to do it.
He found the time every day to go out and train, every solid day. He found this cold water and he would swim there as he prepared for a year. I told him that I knew of no one who prepared for a year to do something that no one his age had ever done before. When he swam the channel, he ran into the tide and all that stuff. It took him about twice as long as it took a normal person. I swear to God that he would have died before he would quit. He was that stubborn and that determined to do it. Imagine a guy that old dedicating himself to doing something he believed he could do.
You guys can do it just like he did it, start preparing to win the Big 10 Championships right now. This is October and you have until February 10th of next year to prepare. If one of you breaks the chain you will probably lose. Every one of you, when you want another beer, or you want to go and stay out late at night; just remember you are breaking the chain. You are the weak link. If you want to do that, go ahead; but you are going to stick it right to him, right to me, and right to the school. It is up to you. You make up your mind now. If you don’t want to do it, then why don’t you get the hell out of here and we will get somebody in here that can take your place.”
A couple of the swimmers came back and said, “You know, that talk was exactly what it took for us to win.” I feel pretty good about that. I made a contribution to the swimming team. That is the kind of man that it takes to be a winner, someone who it will give their all, and do it all the way. If you are going to spend seven or eight hours a day at the pool, why don’t you do it right; instead of screwing around and doing the same thing over and over again; why don’t you do something about improving?
The one thing that I liked about him as a coach is that he really respected me as a coach and what I was going to do. He gave me a lot of latitude. When I started, I had four divers on the team. I started working them out and they didn’t like the way I was doing it; so they formed a coalition. They came to me and said they didn’t like the way I was coaching them and that if I kept doing it they were going to quit. I said, “You can’t quit.” They asked why not? I said, “You are not allowed to quit. Get out of here, I don’t need you, get the hell out of here.” I went to Doc and told him I had a small problem. “I don’t have any divers.” He said, “What are you hired for?” “A diving coach?” He said, “Yeah, you handle your problems and I will handle mine. He comes back to me the next year and says, “Hobie, I’ve got a problem, last year we got beat by 26 points. This year we’ve got a team that can win, but I need one point from diving. You need to get one diver for a third place.” I’m on my way over to the school paper to advertise in the newspaper for a diver when I run into a member of the team. He asks me where I am going, and I tell him. He says, “I know a guy who is a drunk, he drinks a six pack a day and smokes about 4 packs of cigarettes, but he can dive, if you need someone really bad.
So, I find this kid and take him in the pool; I didn’t vomit, but I was close. At least he could do a list of dives. I said, “If you go to this meet, I will give you a varsity letter.” He looks at me and says, “Are you kidding?” I say, “Nope, we need you.” The night before the meet he gets a toothache and has a mouth out to here. We take him to a dentist who says that we can shoot it with Novocain or he can pull it, but if we pull it, he may get sick. I turn to the kid and say, “Terry, it is up to you. I don’t care what you do, but even if you die, I am going to put your body up on the board and push you off. Now, do you get the point?”
He walks out at 12 o’clock with blood running all over his face and he is diving against the Big 10 champion from Michigan. He got beat by 200 points and when he got through; he stood in front of a group of people and says, “I was robbed.” I was the only one not laughing. I said “Terry, I want you to remember that today you are #1.” He changed his life around. You know what he does today? He is a diving coach.
I have a list of things here you should do to be a good coach. There are 62 of them. I would like to read a couple to you now and then I will shut up, and then you can go and do something religious, take up a collection, or get out of here. Approach your problems with the right attitude. You know that your attitude is everything. Don’t just sit back and think things are going to automatically happen. You have to get off your duff and make things happen. Some coaches have worn out the seat that they sit on every day when they are coaching. When I coached, we had no chairs on the deck. You are going to make an impression on those kids whether you like it or not, why not make it a good impression?
I used to drink a beer once in a while, and I smoked. I walked into Indiana University and those things were gone. I never stepped in a bar for 17 years. I wouldn’t tell dirty jokes. If you want to really ruin a trip then tell them a dirty joke. You are going to hear nothing but dirty jokes all the way there. You are going to set an image of yourself, why not set the best one you’ve got. If you are expecting it from them, then they are going to expect it from you. Don’t get personal with them. If they come to you for something, then you can talk to them about it; but you stay out of their lives. I think if you will do this that you show pride and respect for what you are doing. You have to be willing to take on all obstacles and face them until they are conquered. If you happen to hit a wall, figure out how to get by it. Try going through it, over it, around it, under it, or anything; but there is a way and you have to find that way.
Here is how learning works. Doc had three, but I have four. The first is, you want to be curious about something, then you get confused, and then you are frustrated; when you get frustrated you start to learn. I remember when I was retired and someone asked me what I had enjoyed the most about my career as a coach. After thinking about it, I said: “It was the struggle, the fights, the determination, the stubbornness and the refusal to quit.” I am not interested in how many National Championships and all that stuff. Your greatest memories won’t be from a gold medal.
I remember one of my greatest moments was when I saw a kid take 24th at the national Championships, do you know why? It was a maximum performance. He did it and I remember I had a couple of winners, 1st and 2nd, in that meet. He came up to me and asked why we were making a big fuss about him. I said; “That is the greatest thing I have ever seen.” He couldn’t dive worth a lick and look what he did. I think you have got to go a little bit further than your heart, you have got to go to your soul.
You have to be honest with yourself about why you are really coaching. I know I did when I had the best divers in the world and they turned me down as an Olympic coach. I cried on a park bench and thought; “Oh, to hell with this. I don’t want to go through this pain. I don’t need this, I deserved that and they didn’t give it to me.” I am talking to myself and out of nowhere a voice came to me and asks, “Why are you coaching? If you are coaching to be big and famous, then go on home and cry in your beer and forget it. Let the kids go to the Olympic trials.”
Then another voice came to me and said; “Are you coaching because of those kids. Do you want to make them the best you can make them? If that is your duty, then go out and do the job like you are supposed to.” I think somewhere along the line you may get to where I was in that situation. It is a marvelous thing to go through, but at the time it is happening it is very frustrating to you. It is not how many times that you get knocked down, it is how many times you get up; but you have to get yourself in the position where you can get knocked down in the first place. Some of you many never get into that position, so I have a different point of view for you. How successful you want to be is entirely up to you, there is nothing stopping any of you from becoming a really good coach if you want to be. But, you had better get yourself in gear so you know what you are going to do, and stop watching television and having a couple of beers because that is not the way you are going to do it.
I never went to Doc’s house once when I could find him watching television, unless he was watching movies; and I mean swimming movies. Do you want it that bad? Yeah, I did. Not because of winning, I was changing lives. When I retired I wondered how I could find out how much good I did? Then I thought I could tell by the number of Christmas cards I get. I coached over 400 kids, and I got three cards. That is not the way to see it. I had more kids that became diving coaches than all the other college coaches in the country combined. I told them all the time, “You want to be a diving coach, are you insane?” Do you want to go through what I did? You would have to be nuts.” Yet, do you know what? They wanted to be just like me, what a compliment. I remember talking to Dicky Morris, “I am not what you think I am, I wish I were, but I’m not. I have problems too.” Do you know what he turned out to be? A Navy SEAL, that was even better.
I think it is marvelous that we are in this sport. You know, mine has not gone scientific, but swimming has. You have figured it out and you have had some good leadership to get you where you are today. You listened to your leaders, and so I salute you for what you are trying to do, for what you are doing, and I am glad that you came from 34 different countries to listen to me talk. Thank you, I appreciate it.