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From Olympic Coach & Glory to Greater Things

“Whenever I hear of an infant drowning, I shake my head. It really upsets me. I get bloody angry. It doesn’t have to happen”                                                                         

Like most Australian Sports lovers I watched the live television coverage of the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. In particular, I took note of the Australian Olympic swimming Coach Lawrie Lawrence’s remarks at the press conference after his star pupil, Duncan Armstrong had won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 200 metre men’s freestyle.

It was then Lawrie announced that he could no longer afford to continue elite swimming coaching once the Olympics were concluded. The story of my dealings with Lawrie following this announcement formed the basis of an address I was invited to give in Brisbane in 2002, to the Business & Professional Women’s Association (worldwide membership of approx 10 million members, founded in America early last century). I hoped it would demonstrate, in an entertaining and informative manner, the benefits of planning, organization and management. To begin I ran a replay of the final 50 metres of the Olympic 200 metre freestyle final.

Attitudes – The Essence of Success

A John Hay Presentation

BPW Annual General Meeting Dinner – 2002

Good Evening Ladies,

My story tonight deals with the dilemma of a man considering a midlife career change. The impact of this issue on his life, and that of other Australians is now part of Australian community folklore.

When the Australian Olympic Team returned from the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, swimming Coach Lawrie Lawrence returned to work at his learn to swim school at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane.

His life and fortunes were about to change!

I first met Lawrie when calling at his home two days after his return from South Korea. His star pupil Duncan Armstrong had won the 200 metre men’s freestyle Gold Medal in world record time from a field which included the reigning Olympic champion Michael Grosse and the world record holder Matt Biondi from the United States of America. Upon  locating Lawrie’s swim school at the rear of his house, I sat on a sloped grassy knoll overlooking the pool and waited. At the time he was conducting a kiddies lesson at the shallow end. 

During the next 30 minutes I was mesmerised by the sight of Lawrie working his magic with this bunch of tiny tots.  Some had the giggles and a few looked quite nervous. Lawrie was wearing a large mexican straw hat, as he called out to the children.“C’mon kids we’re diving for spanish gold.” The gold being nothing more than a handful of river stones he had plucked from the garden. By cleverly appealing to their imagination he was able to coerce the kids into lowering their heads under the water to enjoy -rather than fear the experience. Great psychology.

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