SWIMNEWS ONLINE: September 1997 Magazine Articles

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Professional Coaches Were Ostracized


Cecil M. Colwin

Although the FINA rules only stipulated who could or couldn't compete as an amateur, in many countries, the amateur rules were used to exclude paid coaches from the governing bodies of swimming and from official coaching assignments with international teams. This was despite their contribution to most of the sport's technical knowledge, and their development of the great swimmers of this century. Instead, they were often openly criticized for having the audacity to make money out of sport.

In several countries, professional coaches always travelled to national and international meets at their own expense to assist their swimmers. Often their swimmers were handed over to amateur managers on the eve of important international meets, and their coaches weren't allowed near them. When the swimmers did well, some managers were apt to take credit for their success, but when the swimmers performed below expectation, their coaches were blamed. In stark contrast was the progress made in the United States, where career coaches were officially recognized as a welcome and integral part of their swimming organization.

A classic case of discrimination against professional coaches, widely noted in the world media at the time, was the treatment by their national governing body of four of the world's finest coaches, who were chiefly responsible for the dramatic resurgence of Australian swimming at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.

Coaches Sam Herford and Frank Guthrie (both now deceased), and Harry Gallagher and Forbes Carlile were appointed professional coaches, prior to the start of the 1956 Games. In the six months preceding the Games, they trained the Australian team at special camps in Townsville, Brisbane, and Sydney. At these venues, while still in training, their charges continually broke world records. In fact, they practically rewrote a good part of the world record book. But when these much-heralded swimmers arrived in Melbourne for the start of the Games, their coaches were told that "unfortunately, passes to the pool deck could not be obtained for professionals." Neither were they able to stay in the Olympic Village at Heidelberg, and "much contact with their swimmers was cut off."

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