MEMORIES OF GEORGE – HAMMY SMITH
Coach – Lucas SC; Huddersfield; St Petersburg
BSCA – Founding Secretary; Newsletter Editor; Spokesman; Activist; Author
Descriptions – Fearless; Hard Working; Competitive; Articulate; Indefatigable;
George Bole was one of a small number of coaches who in his 50 year long career, transcended the conventional coaching role and yet his name will not appear on any historical list of “top coaches”. He was indeed a very good coach in his Club at Huddersfield and of individuals at the elite level as with Olympian Pam Bairstow and other Yorkshire, National and international representatives but it was in his remarkable fulfilment of a vast range of other roles that he will be remembered by all of those who knew him from the 1950s and 60s right up until he eventually, eventually retired in the 2000. Even then, for a few years he continued to stimulate and provoke when he attended BSCA Conferences along with his lifelong friend and fellow “coaching activist”, Harold Fox, challenging the latest version of “the establishment” to consider new ideas and new ways of doing things. He could be and often was quite exhausting to be with right up to the end of his long involvement in his beloved sport of swimming.
After spending some years both teaching and coaching swimming , firstly in Birmingham and then in Huddersfield, George arrived on the National stage when at the inaugural meeting of the BSCA held during the 1965 National Championships in Blackpool, he was “volunteered” to be the first Secretary of the new Association alongside his Huddersfield colleague Eddie Robinson who was appointed Treasurer. The driving force behind this meeting and the man who also “drove” George to take on that job was the then ASA Chief National Technical Officer, Bert Kinnear (who died just last year and was himself the recipient of a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 Conference).
George very quickly grew into the job and it was soon clear that he had found his true niche and also that swim coaching in Britain had found its first really effective advocate. For most of ten years, he produced a quarterly newsletter as well as contributing a hard hitting yet always constructive article each month in the Swimming Times.
This constant questioning of the status quo and by implication the establishment position, inevitably drew him into fairly regular conflict with the then, mostly volunteer, officers of the ASA. Nonetheless, in spite of many warnings and near threats, he was absolutely fearless in his powerful advocacy on behalf of coaching and coaches. He was also tireless, whether on the poolside, as training marshal or at meetings, developing new policies and at the same time being a full time professional swimming coach. He also wrote a couple of successful books, one on Drills for Swimming and the other on the Coaching of Masters.
After retiring from his job in Huddersfield and following the death of his wife, he moved to Florida where for 17 years he became a most respected and much loved coach at St Petersburg where he developed the leading Masters Club in the United States.
Such was the regard in which George was held there that in 1999 when he suffered from a heart attack at the age of 81, the St Petersburg Club members contributed to the cost of his medical treatment in Florida and also assisted in his returning home where he successfully underwent a triple bypass.
In his later years of retiral, he continued to follow the sport and to support the BSCA. When interviewed a few years ago, he had this to say
“I was convinced that I lived for my sport. But now I know that my passion wasn’t really swimming. I’ve not really missed it, much to my surprise. No. I learned that it was my deep and everlasting love for all those swimmers that had kept me striving for success, not for my own glory, but for them. They are the very salt of the earth. I truly wanted to return their love by making them happy.”
In stature, George was small but in terms of his legacy, he truly was a giant and the coaches of today who take so much of their status and terms of employment for granted should be aware of just how much they owe to this Founding Father of our Profession.
H. Hamilton Smith