Our Good Man Watson

Our Good Man Watson

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

It is rare that one coach has the opportunity to coach one Olympian or one world champion, but it is exceedingly rare for one coach to train many over the course of his career.

But that is exactly what Coach Don Watson did so magnificently in a quiet, little town in the state of Illinois.

Watson who rose to the height of pool swimming in the 1960s and to similar heights in open water swimming in the 1970s was recently voted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Coach.

The author of the book, The Hinsdale Swimming Program, was also the coach of professional marathon swimming legend John Kinsella, Olympic medalist John Murphy, world professional marathon swimmer Sandra Bucha and swimmers from all walks of life including British Petroleum CEO Bob Dudley and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dr. George Tidmarsh while heading the swimming program at Hinsdale High School in Illinois, U.S.A.

In his humble part of Middle America, Coach Watson produced many national individual and team champions.

Coach Watson was recognized domestically early on, receiving the 1970 Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association, the 1978 Coach of the Year by the International Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, and the 1979 Glen S. Hummer Award for making the greatest contribution to the open water swimming in the United States. But only most recently has been been so honored internationally.

It was in 1970 where his coaching influence was most felt domestically and internationally. John Kinsella was the recipient of the 1970 Sullivan Award which is awarded to the top amateur athlete in America. After training hard in Hinsdale and representing Hindale Swim Club, Kinsella set 3 world records and won 6 individual national senior championship titles.

He was inducted as an Honour Administrator by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 2013 and will be honored at the 2015 International Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Santa Clara, California as an Honor Coach.

His pedigree in the distance swimming world goes back to the 1940s when he completed 3 swims of 22 miles each in the Mississippi River in 1946, 1947 and 1948, but it is his coaching and administrative career that is most illustrious:

*Coach of the 1970 Sullivan Award recipient, John Kinsella
*Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association in 1970
*Coach of the Year by the International Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association in 1978
*Recipient of the Glen S. Hummer Award in 1979
*6-time international USA Swimming Team manager from 1989-1995 at 6 major international competitions
*Director of University of Texas Swim Center from 1981-2005
*Manager of Longhorn Aquatics Swim Club: 1981-2005
*Conducted over 45 major swimming championships
*Coach of Hinsdale High School Swimming Team from 1965-1980
*Coach of 5 Olympic swimmers winning 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze medal from 1968-1972
*Coach of swimmers setting 3 world records and 5 relay world records
*Coach of world championship swimmers winning 5 gold and 1 silver medal from 1973-1979
*Coach of 6 swimmers winning 13 national championships and setting 6 national records from 1970-1976
*Coach of 3 swimmers winning 3 gold and 1 silver medal at the Pan American Games

Air Force Academy graduate and Olympian Bob Nieman says of Watson, “We were all so fortunate to end up in this little suburb of Chicago that ended up being the most progressive swim program in the state. His over-distance training was something that everyone started doing eventually. He was into the short-rest interval things to build capillaries. He was really ahead of his time. What Don did was take competitive people, and create this crucible that was the workout program. He created great swimmers. It was a combination of knowing what he was doing and paying attention to the details.”

Don Watson is shown above with Ned Denison, Dale Petranech and John Kinsella at the 2013 International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cork, Ireland.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones