The International Swimming Hall of Fame Grande Dame is a
woman who has been involved in swimming for a long period of time in her life.
She is seen as a mom, a helper, an organizer, a promoter, a worker, a teacher,
an authority, a friend, an enthusiast, and a counselor. She conducts herself
with pride and a sense of humbleness. Marge Counsilman fits every one of these
qualities and more.
ISHOF Grand Dames have been city mayors, Olympic champions,
water show performers, presidents of organizations, event coordinators, coaches,
chaperones, and volunteers. Marge has been a business coordinator, bookkeeper,
proofreader, student, restaurateur and a swimming coach’s wife, mother of four
kids, and housewife.
When Marge married James E. Counsilman in 1945, she married
into swimming at the same time. Jim soon received a doctorate degree (hence the
name “Doc”) in exercise physiology at the University of Iowa and became the
first person to study, research and apply scientific principles of physiology to
swimming mechanics, training and technique. He wrote books on the subject,
invented training equipment specific to swimming, developed training and stroke
films and coached swimmers from beginners to Olympic champions. In every step of
the way, Marge consoled, assisted and supported Doc’s work and became as
important to Doc’s success as Doc himself. In so doing, swimming and swimmers
benefited from Marge Counsilman’s over 60-year partnership with Doc.
In the 33 years Doc was coach of the Indiana University
Swimming Team, Marge was an important part of the overall success of the team.
She was the team’s surrogate mother. She was a source of emotional stability
during a swimmer’s tumultuous time of competitive swimming. She hosted dinners
and gatherings at her home and became famous for her homemade lasagna. She ran
the swim meets, including the Indiana State Championships, staffed the scoring
table and kept the records. If Doc was away, Marge took over. “Little did an
Indiana swimmer know that when he joined the IU swim team, he was also joining a
family,” said IU diving coach, Hobie Billingsley.
Marge ran the 16mm stroke film and pace clock business from
1959 when the first pace clock was sold until 1974 when the business became
incorporated. At that time, she became secretary-treasurer of Counsilman Company
until the corporation dissolved in 1990. The company also sold isokenetic
machines – accommodating resistance equipment.
In the five books the Counsilmans published, Doc wrote the
technical matter and Marge wrote the text including choice of words, use of
commas, semicolons and dangling participles. Books include The Complete Book
of Swimming, The Competitive Swimming Manual for Coaches and Swimmers, Beginning
Skin & Scuba Diving, and The Science of Swimming. They were published in 28
languages. From 1977 to 1991, Marge also helped to run the Counsilman Stroke
Between family, team and businesses, Marge’s life was
always extremely busy, but always fun. From 1994 to 2001, she owned a restaurant
in Bloomington, Indiana and staffed it with her kids. Marge did everything from
scrubbing the floors and cleaning the ovens to keeping the books. She didn’t
make any money because she gave away too many meals to friends.
When Doc was elected as the first president of the Swimming
Hall of Fame beginning in 1964, Marge was right there to assist and provide
advice. Marge supported the Hall of Fame Dames with her membership in those
For the past three years, Marge has been taking courses
toward an undergraduate degree in English, with a creative writing emphasis. “I
should live so long,” says Marge.