Transvaal coach Zvi Katabi
Coaches provide the continuity in any sport, although they seldom get credited with the success of their charges. They bring decades of experience, knowledge and passion for their sport to bear on the raw talent of their athletes, without whom the swimmers would have little chance of realizing their own potential as competitors.
Each aquatic sport included in this website has its own specialist coaches, although swimming is an element in all of them, except diving.
Some coaches like Graham Hill who coached Chad le Clos, are well known, while most remain unknown. Newspapers were inclined to report the achievements of the athletes, and seldom mention their coaches.
This is a small tribute to some of the many hundreds of coaches who helped the athletes achieve their ambitions.
South African swimming coaches are usually independent entrepreneurs. They often build their own pools and generate additional income by managing a Learn to Swim program in addition to elite level coaching. Swimmers are usually free to join whichever club they wish. There is also a growing number of lager set-ups, like the TUKS Aquatic club, which associated with the University of Pretoria. Schools like Westville High near Durban have developed entire aquatic centres, where coach Graham Hill develops Olympic champions like Chad le Clos. Swimming has become big business in South Africa.
While most coaches remain largely anonymous, and the performing athletes become famous, some South African swimming coaches have become well known on a national level. In the 1920's Jimmy Green of Pretoria (seen below with Olympic medallist Jennie Maakal) who was often mentioned in the press and Rachael Finlayson of Durban coached the 1928 Olympic team to a bronze medal, and the Durban Beach baths were eventually named after her. In the 1950's and 60's Peter Elliot was well known locally in Port Elizabeth for producing national champions like Geoff Grylls and Brian Elliot.
There have many foreign coaches in southern Africa. Larry Laursen came from the USA to coach in South West Africa (now Namibia) in 1966, while Frank Gray was recruited from England by the South African government to coach in Kimberley, where he became famous as the coach of Karen Muir. Cecil Colwin is described as the 'first professional coach in South Africa', while Jonty Skinner has become a USA Olympic coach.
In Rhodesia coaches like Sid Gibbons, Frank Parrington and his wife Lillian, who was a British Olympic swimmer, produced many South African champion swimmers. Their son David Parrington is a US Olympic diving coach. Other foreign coaches operating in South Africa included Dutch coach Clara Aurik in Cape Town, Australians Bob Campbell in Pretoria, Terry Gulliver and Jim Spring, and Karoly von Törrös of Hungary who coached Sarah Poewe in Cape Town during the 1980's.
Water polo coaches are usually seen in the team photographs from schools, universities, provinces, clubs and Springbok water polo teams.
For more information about water polo coaches please visit the South African Water Polo history Facebook group of Nico Lamphrecht. The articles Schools and particularly on Rhodesian schools water polo also have numerous team photographs.
Diving was usually part of the 'aquatic carnivals' and has traditionally been a part of the national aquatic championships. For many years Rhodesia fielded unbeatable divers in the South African championships due to superior coaches like Sandy Morganrood. Below is Ernst de Jong with American Olimpic diver Keith Russel. de Jong was a member of the South African contingent that went to Oklahoma University in 1953, and the man behind the de Jong diving school in Pretoria.
Since synchronised swimming was introduced in South Africa in 1968.a number of coaches and clubs have been active in the sport, although none have ever achieved international success in the sport.
Amanda Norrish (above) was a US and world champion from California who visited and coached in South Africa in 1976. Early South African synchronized swimming coaches include Elaine Buck, Barbara Dowell, Dot Schoombee and Roma Schkolne.