Happy Birthday to the Great Laurie Lawrence !!!
LAURIE LAWRENCE (AUS) 1996 Honor Coach
FOR THE RECORD: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: Team Coach; 1982, 1986 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Team Coach; Swimming Coach since 1966; Coach of swimmers Jon Sieben, Duncan Armstrong, Julie MacDonald, Glen Buchanan, Justin Lemberg, Glen Houseman, Helen Gray, Steve Holland and Tracy Wickham; Author of Lawrence of Australia, Sink or Swim and Babies Can Swim videotape.
His own voice beams with enthusiasm, pride and with the feeling that nothing easy is worth doing. It is defying the odds…doing the impossible that excites Laurie Lawrence. He is the master innovator. He inspires confidence and belief. No challenge is too great, no task is impossible. Everyone around him soaks in his enthusiasm.
And that is just what Laurie has done – create the atmosphere for his swimmers to succeed. To some people, Laurie Lawrence is a crazy, over-competitive mad man. But his shining side, his greatest asset, is his ability and attitude in helping young Australians achieve their goals. He is the kind of coach who could have coached in any sport and been successful. Lucky for us, he chose swimming. Even from his own competitive days as an athlete playing rugby for his country, it was winning for Australia that counted for Laurie.
Win and produce winners is what he did, and in a way that only Laurie Lawrence could do. His first big charge was Helen Gray, whom he shocked in 1970 by throwing her Queensland silver medal over the fence as his way of saying, “Don’t be complacent. You can be a medalist at the Commonwealth Games if you re-focus, work hard.” She did, winning a silver medal in the 800m freestyle and a berth on the 1972 Olympic Team. His swimmers include Hall of Famer Steve Holland, the skinny little youngest ever world record holder at age fifteen who set eleven world records in the 800m and 1500m freestyles, and was a World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, and an Olympic bronze medalist; Hall of Famer Tracy Wickham, five time world record holder for nine and one-half years in the distance freestyle events, World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medalist; Glenn Buchanan the 1984 100m butterfly double bronze medalist and his teammate Jon Seiben who at the Los Angeles Olympics beat Michael Gross of Germany in the 200m butterfly, setting a new world record; Julie MacDonald, Pan Pacific’s gold medalist and Commonwealth medalist and Australia’s only 1988 Olympic female medalist, bronze in the 800m freestyle; Hall of Famer Duncan Armstrong, Seoul’s 200m freestyle gold medalist and 400m silver medalist and world record holder in the process. There will be others who will benefit from his iron-hard philosophy of success. Said Duncan Armstrong, “He had that gift of inspiration. He could reach into you and you could feel the strength from him.”
Most of Laurie’s Olympic swimmers learned to swim under his guidance and in his now famous Learn to Swim School for babies, pre-school and school-aged children. Laurie personally instructs youngsters in swimming and also specializes in teaching physically handicapped children. Judy Young is one of the swimmers who won the Para-Olympic gold in the 400m freestyle at the Seoul Olympics. His book, Sink or Swim, on teaching babies is a valuable guide for all parents, and he joins Hall of Famer Virginia Hunt Newman, promoting trust and motivation to teach swimming the comforting way.
From being around the Townsville Pool his father ran, and sparked into swimming by the legendary Hall of Famer Jon Henricks, Laurie Lawrence has become a swimming legend and a maker of champions, capable of lifting the spirits of those around him to soaring heights. He is many other things too – extrovert, patriot, poet, humorist, singer and now the most sought after motivational speaker in Australia. His swimmers have set over seventeen world records, and he has coached Aussie Teams to three Commonwealth Games and three Olympic teams. He possesses the qualities with which he works to instill in every competitor: be proud, persist, work hard, stand tall, don’t quit, don’t bend, don’t break, don’t fall.
Laurie was inducted into ISHOF as an Honor Coach in 1996. In 2018, he was present with ISHOF’s highest award, the Gold Medallion. His program “Five Alive” is teaching children all over Australia water safety and to learn to swim. With his outgoing personality and love for life, Laurie is quite the celebrity down under.