Can We Be Frank?

Busch Frank 08 NCAA

Guest Commentary By Bob Heimbrock

Ten years ago this month, Frank Busch began serving as USA Swimming‘s National Team Director, providing the overall vision and leadership for the sport’s top coaches and athletes. Under his tenure, USA Swimming won 31 medals at the London Games (2012) and 33 medals at the Rio Games (2016). In both of these Summer Games, USA Swimming’s successful campaigns represented 30% of Team USA’s total medal count.  His success was founded in his early days as a young teenage coach.  This commentary looks back at those days and his career.

Can we be Frank?  Technically no unless your name is Frank. I think we should be more like Frank: Put others first, service above self. The Frank I’m referring to is Frank Busch Jr. Former head coach of Men’s and Women’s Swimming at the University of Arizona. He was also the former head of USA Olympic Swimming before retiring back to Tucson and working for the Jim Click Foundation. He does a lot of work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I’ve known Frank as a big brother for as long as I can remember. He was ten and I was three when he came to our house and asked my mom if she would like him to take me out Trick-or-Treating before he went out with his friends.  He was good early.

Frank Busch

Photo Courtesy: Brookwo0d

Like many of you, we grew up with the local swim club as the center of our world. Frank’s dad built the entire neighborhood called Brookwood and, its heartbeat, Brookwood Swim Club. Brookwood was a unique place. Frank’s dad was in construction and wanted a big pool. He told the bulldozer operator to start digging and it ended up being a 125 foot pool, just under 40 meters. Brookwood was in the newly formed Northern Kentucky Swim League (NKSL). The other seven clubs were all 25-meter pools. The 8 & Unders hated our pool. All eight teams were in Northern Kentucky, across the Ohio River within 8 miles of Cincinnati.

Brookwood had a lot of characters too. It seemed like everybody had a nickname. Names like Spoody, Rudy, Heimy, Osto, Pete, Weasel, Menks, Doc, Dolly, Whistle, Booger, Pig, Antwoman, Wolfwoman, Wart, Rip, Belmont, Snort, Sugar and the list could go on. We’d go down the hill to the club and stay all day. Morning practice followed by fun time, then lunch, then fun time, then afternoon practice, then you’d go home for dinner.

Frank became swimmer/coach at sixteen. He coached on and off depending on how much his dad needed him in the construction business. Of course, he was always a very good swimmer. His senior year he finished second in the state in two individual events. He went to Loyola in Chicago to swim and play water polo. There he met the love of his life… and if you know Patty, you can see why. They married after his junior year and Frank realized he needed to come home and start making a living. He finished college at Thomas More College.

Frank coached at various places. The new Northern Kentucky Piranhas, which called Brookwood home, then the Cincinnati Marlins. Then he was head coach at the University of Cincinnati before taking the job at Arizona. Over his 22 years at UA, he was NCAA Coach of the Year multiple times. In 2008 both his men and women won the NCAA title. Then he moved on to become the head of USA Olympic Swimming in Colorado Springs. He led us through multiple successful Olympics before retiring back to Tucson. A lot of us worked at Brookwood as lifeguards, coaches, and whatever Frank told us. When he’d come back to Kentucky, we’d usually have a party with all the NKSL swimmers and one friend said to me that Frank is the only guy that would get a party from people that he paid $2 an hour.

The Recurring Mantra For Frank’s Teams Was:

  • Show up – that’s deeper than it sounds.
  • Pay Attention – ditto
  • Tell the Truth – what a concept!
  • Give your team the effort it deserves – that will stick in your mind when you are dogging a practice.
Frank Busch -SWTV

Photo Courtesy: SwimmingWorld.TV – Peter Bick

You can see why Frank is a popular choice on the speakers tour and why a successful man like Jim Click would want his help in his foundation.

Through the years Frank and Patty had five great kids. It’s inspiring to see how they all know what a special man their dad is. His boys are still Cincinnati Reds and Bengals fans…..poor guys.

Frank is in Loyola’s Hall of Fame and in the UA Hall of Fame.  Frank turned 70 recently and he and Patty will have their 50th anniversary next year.

Last month an Oxford psychology professor wrote that a successful life needed you to have 150 friends and 5 friends close enough to give you a kidney. That’s thought provoking, right?  If you’re Frank Busch, I’m thinking those numbers are more like 15,000 and 500. He’s touched so many lives.  If you offer him a kidney, or your right arm, he’d just say. “No, I’m good.” Yes you are Frank Busch, yes you are.

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