Terry Laughlin, Founder of Total Immersion, Passes Away at 66

Terry Laughlin, who created the technique-focused swim training system known as “Total Immersion,” passed away Friday, Oct. 20, after complications with prostate cancer. Laughlin was 66 years old.

Laughlin is survived by his wife, Alice, and daughters Fiona, Carrie and Betsy. The family announced his death Monday:

“After living with metastatic prostate cancer for two years, Terry passed away on Friday, October 20th, 2017, of complications related to his condition. 

“He displayed his characteristic optimism, wit, and passion for life—and swimming—until the very end. Our family is in mourning and we ask that we be given time and space to grieve a beloved husband and father privately.”

Laughlin had already become a successful high school and college coach when he founded Total Immersion in 1989, and seven years later, he released a book entitled Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster, and Easier, which has become one of the most popular training books in swimming.

Laughlin’s system is designed to teach efficiency in the water through balance, streamline, reducing drag and conserving energy. His methods have been especially geared towards Masters swimmers and triathletes, who he argued would reap the benefits of getting through their swimming section with a low heart rate. While his system was somewhat controversial, Laughlin’s principles of efficiency have also been adopted by coaches of age group, collegiate and elite swimmers.

In lieu of flowers, Laughlin’s family “will be accepting donations for the Total Immersion Swimming Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the company.”

Read more about Terry Laughlin and Total Immersion by clicking here. SlowTwitch.com also reported Laughlin’s passing.

74 Comments

74 comments

  1. avatar

    So sad to hear. I have learned to swim and love swimming because of the techniques Terry taught. What a sad time for the swimming community

  2. Andy Lai

    So sad😢, I read through his two books and DVD in 2011. RIP Terry.

  3. avatar

    Terry was a mentor and friend since 1995. I was invited to work with him on a Total Immersion Clinic in Tempe AZ, the first to include other coaches. I worked in his program for 9 years while coaching Masters full time in Oakland CA. I learned so much from Terry and other coaches in the program and I will always be grateful for the many opportunities he gave me. He filled my toolbox and allowed me to travel the US teaching TI. He was a teacher at heart and gave freely to any swimmer who asked a question. I will miss him, and be forever in his debt. May you have an eternity of Happy Laps Terry.

  4. Brian Stack

    Terry was a mentor and friend since 1995. I was invited to work with him on a Total Immersion Clinic in Tempe AZ, the first to include other coaches. I worked in his program for 9 years while coaching Masters full time in Oakland CA with the Manatees. I learned so much from Terry and other coaches in the program and I will always be grateful for the many opportunities he gave me. He filled my toolbox and allowed me to travel the US teaching TI. He was a teacher at heart and gave freely to any swimmer who asked a question. I will miss him, and be forever in his debt. May you have an eternity of Happy Laps Terry.

  5. avatar
    Ray Bosse

    A great friend, kind man, and someone I could talking swimming with for hours. His ability to make any swimmer he was working with feel good about themselves and feel successful was priceless.
    I will miss him. RIP Terry.

    Ray Bosse

  6. Brian Kellar

    A great friend of swimming.Did and ocean swim with him this past summer in Rockaway Beach.

  7. Paula Moore

    So sorry Betsy Laughlin🙏🏼💕

  8. avatar
    katycoachswim

    Pete Hugo and I spent a week with Terry at New Paltz becoming TI instructor-certified in 2001(?), had a blast, loved time with him biking in the “Gonks” and spending time with him and Fi at their then-new house. What a loss. Condolences and prayers for his loving family.

    • Cheryl Lisy

      You lent me that Total Immersion book to read and I got so excited that I drove all the way to IN to attend that clinic. Although the clinic was not taught by Terry and I never met him, he greatly influenced my swimming life. I didn’t actually become a swimmer until I went to that Total Immersion clinic and started to embrace the technique aspect of swimming. RIP Terry.

  9. Tom Cooney

    When returning to swimming after a very long absence, the first thing I did was watch Terry’s videos. It allowed for a smooth, smart, reentry into the pool. Thanks, Terry!

    • avatar

      Same! I took a month and just read/absorbed the book, didn’t swim just drilled, learned balance, feel and a love for the water again. I was 40, fat, out of shape and depressed. I owe a great debt to Terry Laughlin and Total Immersion.

  10. avatar

    sorry to hear of passing – such an influencer.

  11. Maxim Hayan

    RIP Terry: you have learnt so many people to truly enjoy swimming!…

  12. Frankie Koh

    Rest in peace .Mr Terry you are always remembered in our memories forever and ever .A great TI innovator and mentor to us .🤧

  13. Jim Booth

    I hope our species can return to the Sea. Thanks Terry for helping us get there.

  14. avatar
    David

    Yes. Sad to lose Terry.
    I have benefited very much in his amazing swimming technique.
    He will be greatly miss by all of us.
    May God’s peace and comfort be with the wife and children at this moment of time.

  15. avatar
    David Low

    Yes. Sad to lose Terry.
    I have benefited very much in his amazing swimming technique.
    Will miss him greatly by all of us.

    May God’s peace and comfort be with the family at this moment of time

    David Low

  16. John Razi

    A gem..of a man !!!! Wellspring..of oceans..of hope !!!!

  17. avatar
    willer

    Bad news, RIP, TI student, Malaysia

  18. avatar
    Dilip

    So sad to hear about the news. Sir Terry you will in my heart for ever. RIP
    Dilip, India.

  19. Pat Kennedy

    Prayers for the entire Laughlin family, friends and loved ones.

  20. avatar
    button

    So sad. Raced him several times, including the five-day Highland Lakes Challenge. Great guy. Tough competitor. Will be missed.

    • avatar

      What a great race series! I enjoyed swimming the Highland Lakes Challenge with my dad (Terry) back in ’09… My family appreciates all the condolences.

  21. David Peterkin

    My condolences to his family. He will be remembered forever as the Guru of front quad swimming

  22. avatar
    Gary Emich

    Swim in peace. You have been so influential to so many.

  23. avatar
    Jessie Mohan

    I never would have been the relaxed swimmer I am today without Terry. I never would have read National Lampoon or Kurt Vonnegut without Terry. I never would have eaten a bagel for the first time at Jones Beach without Terry. So it goes. Rest easy Terry.

    • avatar

      Love you, Jessie… Thanks for everything. <3

  24. avatar
    Bob Hopkins

    a visionary, creative genius and very nice person; he will be missed by the thousands he helped

  25. avatar
    Bob Hopkins

    Terry’s reach and influence will last for generations. He was my college coach in 1973. He took a kid who never even swam in high school and got me to qualify for the NCAA nationals within two years. But he was much more than a coach. He was an inspiration. Terry and I remain friends over the last 45 years and whenever I had a question or concern about anything, swimming or life in general, he was always there with a reassuring and positive thought. He was the person who made thousands of other people feel like they could achieve something that seemed impossible before they met him. We have lost a swimming legend and a wonderful human being. Peace to his family.

  26. avatar
    Laurence Cohen

    Terry’s reach and influence will last for generations. He was my college coach in 1973. He took a kid who never even swam in high school and got me to qualify for the NCAA nationals within two years. But he was much more than a coach. He was an inspiration. Terry and I remain friends over the last 45 years and whenever I had a question or concern about anything, swimming or life in general, he was always there with a reassuring and positive thought. He was the person who made thousands of other people feel like they could achieve something that seemed impossible before they met him. We have lost a swimming legend and a wonderful human being. Peace to his family.

  27. avatar
    John Woodward

    So Sad RIP Terry
    I started my swimming journey reading Terry’s book then seeing TI coaches in the UK .
    JohnW

  28. avatar
    Rob Copeland

    Alice, thank you for sharing Terry with our swimming family for all these decades. Terry will be greatly missed but never forgotten.

  29. Kathy Kellar

    RIP Terry Laughlin. Our condolences to your family.

  30. Nina Foster

    I can’t believe it! It was Terry’s book given to me by my Uncle when I was like 12 that helped me become a great swimmer. Propelled me to the Masters program as an adult, and gave me a love for long distance endurance swimming. All of my medals are because of all I learned from Terry as a kid. Your book changed my life in unmeasurable ways. Thank you.

  31. Patricia Tait

    I have his book, and his methods were introduced often.

  32. avatar
    W. Blount

    I’m a Prostate Cancer Survivor so this especially hits home.

  33. Jeff Hennan

    Terry’s instructions are timeless, any body I come in contact with at the pool I refer to Terry and the Total immersion concept to swimming. He has made a lot of adults much better and efficient swimmers.

  34. George Villa

    Requiem Aeternam Pax en Lucem Terry

  35. avatar
    Bob Sorensen

    Terry and I were college teammates and both struggled along back then wondering why our efforts didn’t result in faster times. He searched, questioned and tinkered with technique and found the answers and shared them with us all through Total Immersion. I will miss him as I’m sure many of you will. RIP Terry

  36. avatar
    Richard Craft

    Prayers of strength and support sent for Terry’s wife and daughters!

  37. avatar
    ED

    GOD BLESS! RIP. ED MICHALS MD

  38. avatar
    Robert C.

    I have never been much of a swimmer. I can ride the waves in the ocean and dog paddle in a pool. What I can do is appreciate the gifts that Terry Laughlin possessed. He was a kind and gentle person who treated all with a dignified,compassionate manner. I was fortunate to know Terry, his immediate family (Alice ,Fiona,Carrie and Betsy) and his brothers and sisters,(Steve,Moira,Peg,Sean and Tara). He didn’t teach me to swim but he did teach me, by his example, to live a meaningful life. His quest for knowledge, calm demeanor, and friendship will stay with me for the rest of my life. This space cannot contain the measure that was the giant of the man that Terry was. My condolences go out to his family,
    friends,students,coaches, et al. The world has lost a “giant of a man”. God Bless you, Terry.

    • avatar

      We love you too, Robert (and your whole family)– and so did my dad (Terry). Thanks for your lovely tribute… <3 Carrie L.

  39. avatar

    I first met Terry in the late 80’s or early 90’s during the USMS National Short Course Champs in Tempe, Arizona. I signed up for the clinic he offered during the meet because I was really curious about what and how he was teaching. After the pool session, I knew that I could learn a lot from Terry and attended other clinics over the next several years. He knew how to teach so that everyone, skilled swimmer or newbie, understood the concept. I learned a lot from Terry, especially that it was OK to try different ideas to help people gain confidence and courage in the water. I teach both beginning swimmers, college age and older adults, as well as coach men’s and women’s college swimming, and every day I use an idea that I learned from Terry. Terry was a GIANT in the world of swimming.

  40. avatar
    Judy Martin

    So sorry to hear of Terry’s passing. He will be missed by many.

  41. avatar
    Raul Arellano

    RIP swimming friend
    I remember a lot our meeting after your conference in the ASCA.
    Your books were very inspirational.
    Raul

  42. avatar
    Marnie MacKay

    I’m sorry to hear the sad news. I just recently borrowed the library’s 1996 edition of Total Immersion, after reading about it in Lynn Sherr’s delightful book “Swim”. I passed it on to several swimming friends, and now that we’ve read about this impressive technique we are inspired to give it a try. We’ll be coaching each other, book in hand, when our Ontario lakes warm up in June. Might even try the drills in a warm swimming pool in the meantime.
    Even in print he seems like a wonderful teacher and friend. This book may keep some of us old folks happily swimming for a few more years. Thank you for the gift, Terry Laughlin.

  43. avatar

    Terry and his wife created a groundbreaking system. We sometimes disagreed on technique but it was an affable disagreement that was aimed at finding better ways of teaching and refining strokes and the lives of people he mentored. His intelligence and passion were unexcelled and he was a magnet for people who love the water more than they ever would have dreamed before meeitng him and learning his smooth and refining methods. I will personally miss him and hope his wife and all others whill continue what he started, including completing and publishing the book he was close to publishing. I’ll miss you Terry!

  44. avatar
    Deepak Baruthwaj

    Thank you Sir Terry. I will remember you with every stroke I take. TI will live forever. RIP

  45. avatar

    Rest in Peace, Terry…
    My deepest condolences to the Laughlin Family.
    I met Terry in the Indianapolis airport, while waiting for my return flight to D.C.
    I had attended the 2004 World Swim Clinic, where Terry was a featured speaker.
    What I found striking about Terry, was how approachable he was and genuinely
    interested in what we had to say. He truly was a special person!
    Tim Brockway

Author: David Rieder

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David Rieder is a staff writer for Swimming World. He has contributed to the magazine and website since 2009, and he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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