Laurie Lawrence began his swimming journey during his childhood, when he was diagnosed with bronchiectasis at eight years old. His health condition resulted in the removal of his left lung. After his surgery at the Brisbane hospital, his parents learned that swimming would improve his health. Lawrence’s father up his life of publican to become Tobruk’s Memorial Pool manager, located on the Townsville’s Strand. Together with his whole family, Laurie resided at a two-bedroom flat that was just above Tobruk’s Memorial Pool entrance. He, therefore, enjoyed the privilege to swim every day.
The Spirit of the Olympics
During the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne, Lawrence hosted and participated in training and teaching the spirit of the Olympics to the swimmers. Jon Henricks is among the people he hosted who also became the Olympic Champion during that year. He pursued a teaching career which did not succeed because of his chest condition. In 1966, he resigned from the teaching department, returned to his parent’s place in Townsville, and continued teaching and coaching swimming at the Tobruk Memorial Pool.
Learning in the United States
During the winter period in Australia, Lawrence travelled to the United States, where he got the opportunity to watch and observe as Don Grambril trained his team. He captured and keenly detailed all Grambril’s training sessions. Grambril made connections that enabled Lawrence to watch other well-known swim coaches such as Flip Darr and Sherm Shavoor. Lawrence got the opportunity to watch the most skilled Champion American coaches, who impacted him with more knowledge and exposure concerning swimming training.
More Learning Experiences
Another learning experience in Lawrence’s journey to the US was videoing the summer champs at to the summer champs in Long Beach, which is the pool that was used for the 1932 Olympics. Topping the vast information he had gathered with his communication skills as a Physical Education (PE) teacher was a plus to his specialisation. Consequently, he gained practical skills through the swim session he watched and videoed in the United States.
Queensland Championships Participation
He dedicated eight years to training the under-10 state champion swim classes. His team trained and competed annually at Queensland Championships in his hometown in Brisbane. Lawrence had 27 state champions that he had trained from Townsville. The team, however, refused to swim during the winter due to a lack of heated pools. The latter mentioned situation forced Lawrence to Talbot’s indoor pool. Steven Holland joined him to help in training his team. Despite the lack of accreditation, Lawrence managed to sneak into Talbot’s pool. With the skill and knowledge which he witnessed at the beginning of his swimming journey, Lawrence became the national swim coach, and a lot more than he is celebrated for to date.
Water Advocate for Young Children
Laurie started his water safety program Kids Alive do the Five when he first came back from the 1988 Olympics. Queensland had a high drowning rate for under 5 years-old’s, and the Queensland government wanted to bring in pool fencing legislation, but no one wanted to fence their pools. So Laurie started campaigning and over a 3 year period, the drowning statistics dropped from 27 to 13, with only 1 backyard pool death.
But Laurie still feels there is much work to do. In 2020, 18 children under five drowned. This figure is down from but as Laurie says “18 is a busload of kids”. When he can say we have zero drownings, that will be his Olympic Gold Medal.
To find out more about Laurie Lawrence, and to listen to his podcasts, click here.
To learn about swimming and water safety this Spring, watch our YouTube video here.