Why I Swim

Several months ago, Martha Joyce asked me to share with my TAM teammates why I swim. That made me wonder, “Why do I swim?” So here goes.


I had my first swim lessons from Lyle Collet at the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco. He later ran the Lagunitas Swim Club near St. Vincent’s in the 1960s and ‘70s. Growing up at The San Francisco Yacht Club, I swam in Belvedere Cove until the Southern Marin Recreation Center pool was opened in April 1955, and my family migrated our swimming activities to the pool. It was there that I taught Red Cross swim lessons as an aid and in the summer of 1958 was hired as a lifeguard. Right, I was thirteen, and soon would be off to Redwood High School, newly opened in 1958, as a member of the first freshman class.


My first competitive swimming was as a freshman at Redwood swimming for Paul Daly who years before had started a swim school on Magnolia Avenue in Kentfield. Early that season, I set the school record in the 100 yd breaststroke at 1:14.8, beating the senior Mike Woodson. At the North Bay League Championship Meet (the MCAL started in the fall of 1959), I placed 3rd. I didn’t know a thing about AAU swimming, but my friends who were swimming for the Marin Pirates invited me to join them, and I did. My teammate and the leader of the Redwood swimmers, Dave Corbet (son of the owners of Corbet’s Hardware in Kentfield) made it so easy. He drove me every day from the Redwood parking lot to Drake, now Archie Williams, to practice with coach Beth Kaufman, longtime member of the AAU Swimming Committee and the originator (Mother) of Age Group Swimming. My mom just had to fetch me at Drake after practice and drive me home to our modest home in Belvedere.


So, the first “why” is because of Dave Corbet.


In 1960 at age 15, I qualified for the Olympic Trials in Detroit. I was the only Pirate to do so. Beth was going anyway, so she suggested we travel on the family plan (to save a little money), and she arranged for me to stay with the Santa Clara Swim Club swimmers including swimming icons like Steve Clark.


I swam in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke, finishing 15th or so.


For this swimmer, as I appeared in the Detroit News on August 1, 1960, it was an infinitely long trip to Rome since I did not make the team. However, all the athletes were such nice people and I made so many good friends that I was hooked on the sport. And a dream was born – to make the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Team.


Once I graduated from Redwood after winning the 100 yd breaststroke at the NCS Championship, I enrolled at Indiana University. There I met Rich Burns, and we became lifelong friends. At the Summer Nationals in 1963, I placed 4th in both breaststroke events. In 1964, I was 2nd in both breast events at the Big Ten championships, made the finals in both breast events at the NCAA Championships, and finalled in both breast events at the Olympic Trials. That was the peak of my athletic career although I did swim my last two years at IU.


Now flash forward to 1996. A few IU swimming alums decided to enter the Masters Nationals at DeAnza College as a team and swim one last time for Doc (Dr. Jim Counsilman, famous coach of IU and Olympic Swimming Teams). The letter arrived right before Labor Day 1995 from Mike Troy, Olympic gold medalist in the 200-meter fly at Rome and a good friend of Rich’s and mine from IU. That was it. I had to at least try out Masters Swimming.


Reason 2, Mike Troy.


In February of 1996, I called Rich to ask about how one actually goes about preparing for a USMS Nationals meet. He convinced me to come by Marin Academy to try a workout or two with TAM. I really enjoyed the team and the workouts but had a hard time finding a lane that fit my swimming -- remember I was very far out of shape. But after about a month, Rich, Gary, and Nancy asked me to join them in Lane 4, where I stayed until the very end at the old MA pool.


Reason 3, 4, and 5, Rich, Gary, and Nancy.


Finally, as I started to feel more comfortable competing, Marie became a real supporter of mine. She encouraged me to reach for higher goals, which I really appreciate.


Reason 6, Marie.


You see it is all about the people. You, my teammates old and young, new and old are the reason I swim. You are the ones that I look forward to seeing in the morning. You are the ones I miss when I cannot swim for whatever reason. You are the ones that encourage me every day to keep it up.


Photo courtesy of Rich Burns. Taken at recent Walnut Creek SCM meet.