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 Camp.
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 early days.
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.