Ambassador of Learn to Swim Week and former Olympic swim coach, Laurie Lawrence, supports free swim lessons for kids.Photo Contributed
Ambassador of Learn to Swim Week and former Olympic swim coach, Laurie Lawrence, supports free swim lessons for kids.Photo Contributed Contributed

'I could've done a better job': Olympic coach's big regret

Arguably the greatest swim coach this country has ever produced, Laurie Lawrence is the epitome of success. But does this master motivator have any failures? Does he think he could have done a better job with his Olympic athletes? Laurie shares a chat with Matt Collins and opens up about his time playing rugby union for Australia and why he pushed a paralympic swimmer into the pool when she didn't want to swim.

LISTEN: Get the full interview with Laurie Lawrence here:

 

Matt Collins:

You are arguably the greatest swim coach this country has ever seen, but many people wouldn't know you also played rugby union for Australia.

 

Laurie Lawrence:

I loved it, I'll never forget my first game for Australia. It was in Auckland. They had a magnificent team.

 

MC:

It's like a religion over there.

 

LL:

Oh mate, it's more than that

[Both laugh]

 

LL:

Anyway, I wasn't supposed to play but I got a late call up after the great Ken Catchpole pulled out. So when it was time to run out the announcer said 'Catchpole has been replaced by L. Lawrence'. And if you've every heard 40,000 people yell out 'awwwww' at the top of their voice, that's what I got.

[Both laugh]

 

LL:

That was my introduction to international rugby and I played like an old dog.

 

MC:

Oh no

 

LL:

Yeah, but after that I went into teaching kids to swim.

 

MC:

Well that's interesting isn't it, because fast forward to today. There is a lot of swimmers and the nation on a whole who is very grateful you didn't pursue your rugby career and you went into swimming. You are well known as the over-the-top Olympic swim coach. Have you always been that guy?

 

LL:

I believe that swimming coaching is less about teaching and more about being theatrical. We are there to entertain the kids and make them love the sport. Because if they love it they will want to do it.

 

MC:

Was winning important to you?

 

LL:

I always wanted to win. Anything I ever did ever since I was a kid, I loved to win. In fact, when I was a young coach in the early years, I turned a lot of really good kids off swimming because they were getting silver and bronze but they were giving the sport away. But it was because I had such an expectation of winning.

 

MC:

I mean no disrespect, but did that mentality come from you as their coach?

 

LL:

I think it did. Winning was everything to me. But when I saw this happening, I changed my mentality in terms of coaching. I started telling the kids do the best you can. When you are racing, make sure you do your best time. Every time you race, do better than what you did last time. With that, I started to grow and at one point, I put 13 kids on Australian swimming teams.

 

MC:

Wow.

 

LL:

I look back now and think about some of the kids I coached that could have been world-record holders. There is a couple of kids who I coached where I could have done a better job. But you learn as you go don't you.

 

MC:

Well you really do. Not even Laurie Lawrence is perfect.

 

LL:

Can you say that again please.

[Both laugh]

 

MC:

Let's talk about the Kids Alive program, was that your idea initially?

 

LL:

Originally, the Queensland government came to me because we led the world per capita in pre-school drownings. We had 27 kids under the age of five drown in Queensland. We got the drownings down to 13 and then they stopped the program. But then the drowning went straight back up over the next two years. So I went back to them and said 'let me do this again' and see what happens. The drownings dropped back down and that's how Kids Alive, Do the Five begun.

LISTEN: Get the full interview with Laurie Lawrence here: