Preparing The Next Generation Olympians With Legendary Gold Medal Coach Laurie Lawrence

Laurie's squad COVER
LAURIE LAWRENCE AND THE NEXT GENERATION: Master swim coach Laurie Lawrence and his "Next Gen" team from Banora Point in NSW. Photo Courtesy Hanson Media.

An Invitation To An Olympic Master Class From Legendary Gold Medal Coach Laurie Lawrence

There is always a sense of excitement, anticipation and a certain smell whenever you roll through the doors of a Laurie Lawrence Swim School.

It’s a name synonymous with Olympic gold in Australia and saving kids lives – teaching young Aussies how to swim with his award winning safety program KIDS ALIVE DO THE 5 ringing in their ears and for some taking them on the ride of their lives.

At 80 years young Olympic gold medal coach Laurie Lawrence has never lost the energy, the drive and the enthusiasm of a 40-year-old Laurie who prepared a teenage Jon Sieben for the journey that would lead him to Olympic gold in 1984.

And coaches who attended this year’s SWIM Coaches and Teachers Australia “SwimCon Unleashed” on the Gold Coast had the opportunity to see the master in action, up close and personal when he opened his doors for a special session with his emerging squad of youngsters.

Laurie Lawrence coaching

PRECISIONED TIMING: Laurie Lawrence on deck at Banora Point. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

A session to observe and listen to one of the most iconic voices in Australian swimming history – a rare opportunity to see the master in action and he didn’t disappoint.

The bus left Sea World at Southport on the northern end of the Gold Coast at 5.30am for the 40 minute trek south across the border to the small northern NSW village of Banora Point and the Laurie Lawrence Swim School.

These coaches all wanted to witness this master in action as 30 youngsters aged from eight to 12 swam their laps in regimented lane order and Laurie didn’t disappoint.

Dressed in an Olympic polo shirt signed by some of the greats including Australian Olympic champions John Konrads and Bob Windle and two time US Olympic gold medallist Brian Goodell, he was in his element.

The ring master in his tent – in charge of a show that he had presided over on so many early mornings on a path that has produced a who’s who of Australia’s greats.

Laurie, prancing up and down the deck of his five-lane 20m indoor pool, sidestepping his assistants and turning to chat to parents watching the morning proceedings, Laurie directing traffic.

It was clockwork timing to perfection, precisioned coaching as “Gen Next”  listened to every word from Laurie, carrying out his instructions to a tee.

Jon Sieben wave with gold LA

OLYMPIC GOLD: Jon Sieben shows off his Olympic gold medal from LA in 1984, Photo Courtesy: Russ McPhedran (Hanson Media Collection).

Lawrence singled out one father, nursing a baby as his wife watched on, saying: “Your daughter (in the pool) has got a motor…..you have got to give her an opportunity…

“You had an opportunity..she’s got to have one…and seriously she’s got a motor your kid….I understand the logistics and I understand the problems….but the most important thing is to keep her interested which is what you are doing with her surf competitions….she’s got a motor and she loves the ocean…maybe the 5 and 10km open water…..we’ll see….”

On the walls surrounding the pool were signs of encouragement and motivation:

  • NEVER FORGET HOW YOU BECAME GOOD
  • THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND GREAT IS A LITTLE EXTRA EFFORT
  • BE PROUD, PERSIST, WORK HARD, STAND TALL, DON’T QUIT, DON’T BEND, DON’T BREAK, DON’T FALL

Laurie arrives up on the viewing platform, photos of his good kids who became the greatest Olympic champions Jon Sieben and Duncan Armstrong, hang proudly on his wall of fame.

“Kids will get there if they hang in and if they’ve got good technique…you cannot have a kid go to the Olympic Games if they can’t swim properly..that’s the secret, they must learn to swim properly,” said Lawrence, who explains the session the kids are doing and points to the pool below.

“We are trying to teach these kids to have a bent arm swimming backstroke…when they start we might let them pull and turn their hands over and not quite get the bend but she should be getting a bit more push there….rolling into their turns and streamling.

“Kids have got to be persistent and the parents have got to be persistent…….if you don’t get good technique early in all strokes you are not going to keep up.

“You will teach them about persistence; you will teach them about goal setting; you will teach them about disappointment…and overcoming those disappointments….so you are not going to be mentally challenged as you get older….but you’ll have kids who have been through the tough times… missed out here and missed out there…but those who make it…now that’s rewarding.

“These kids come four times a week……for an hour-and-a-half..and two of those kids have won National Championships…….in a 20m pool..going no where else..”

As the session winds down Laurie ushers one young girl to the side of the pool, standing on a bench (flippers and all) as she delivers a speech about swimming with Laurie Lawrence…a swimming experience and a life experience about training and goal setting , a youngster fulfilling her dreams to make the Australian swimming team – dreams that start at 4:45am most mornings.

Everyone claps as she steps back into her lane, ready to finish off her session before her father takes her to school.

You get the impression these kids are in the best of hands, on the border of South East Queensland where there’s an Olympic scent in the air…with Brisbane handed the 2032 Olympic Games.

“You can smell it…..” says Lawrence…and you get the feeling these kids can smell it too….and as we leave the pool Laurie proudly unveils his Winter Warriors star chart with three boys who never missed a session from May through August..and there perched on the front counter is Laurie’s latest book…..OLYMPIC GOLD!

The countdown is on…..

Winter Warriors

WINTER WARRIORS: Three graduates of the Laurie Lawrence Winter Warriors program. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

 

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