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The Science of Swimming BELONGS IN A MUSEUM

The Science of Swimming BELONGS IN A MUSEUM

Over the weekend the Indiana men’s swim team beat Michigan in a dual meet for the first time in 18 years. I’m sure legendary IU coach Doc Counsilman was smiling upstairs.

Ask any old swim coach who has been the most influential coach to them and Doc Counsilman is the number one answer. He’s universally known for being the single greatest coach in swimming history.

“In 1968 Coach Dr James Counsilman wrote a book called “The Science of Swimming”. It became the bible for swim coaches. Very few books since then have been as educational or essential to those who are going to coach swimmers.” – Coach Mike Lewellyn, Boise YMCA


“It all started for me at Olympic Trials in 1968 for Mexico City. We were getting ready to get in and warm up and there was a big group of swimmers and they all had red warm ups on and my coach says to me, ‘You know who that is don’t ya?’ Well I was like 14 and didn’t have a clue who that was. ‘That’s Doc Counsilman and that’s the University of Indiana’s team.’ It’s like being introduced to the New York Yankees.” – Fred Tyler2016 Indiana University Hall of Fame Speech


“He (Doc) looked at me right in the eyes, and I’ll never forget it. He said, ‘Relationships, Mike. The relationships with your athletes are what’s most important.’ How cool is that, right? I mean, this guy had gone through the whole process, and it was pretty cool. For me, the most significant thing about Doc was that moment with him. He was able to look me in the eye and tell me what the most important thing is, and that’s what’s really affected me. That one moment, for me, was life-changing.” – Michigan Head Coach Mike Bottom

After reading that Mike Bottom quote in Steve Kornacki’s jem a couple days ago, I searched for my copy of, “The Science of Swimming”. While I uncovered a plethora of swim nerdery in my attic, I could not find Doc’s book. And thank goodness I didn’t or I would have never gone on eBay and found an original 1968 copy of the holy grail signed by 17 of the most influential swimmers and coaches ever to live. Here was the eBay description. I purchased immediately.

This book is titled The Science of Swimming. It was written by James E. Counsilman. His nickname was Doc. He was the Swimming Coach at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Doc Counsilman coached Mark Spitz. This book is autographed To Mark: Best Wishes from Indiana U. Doc Counsilman. There are 16 other signatures in this book including Mark Spitz’s name. Many of the signatures belong to Gold, Silver & Bronze Olympic winners. I have not had the autographs authenticated. Here are the additional signatures: Mike Troy, Dan (unsure of the last name), Brian Job, Melissa Belote, Rose( unsure of the first name), Mary Montgomery, Ellie Daniel, S. Chavoon, Jack Nelson, David Edgar, Debbie Meyer, Gary Hall, John Kinsella, Donna (unsure of the last name), Steve Genter. On the bottom left corner of the inside of the cover someone has written 1972 Olympic Trials Portage Park Chicago. On the top right corner of the first page someone has written R. G. McHugh 767 Chidister Glen Ellyn, Ill. Mr. McHugh was a National Masters Swimming Champion. The book itself has a stain on the front and worn edges. The book is not torn or missing any pages.

My initial thought:

“Did Doc Counsilman give a signed copy of his book, “The Swimming of Science”, to Mark Spitz?”

Swim Sam’s Initial Thought:

Upon further review, I realize how the seller’s copy writing made me want to believe that it was indeed Spitz’. But no, it’s not Mark Spitz’ book. I believe this book was owned by Reginald McHugh of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, as he has written his name and address in the top right hand corner.

But why was everyone referring to Mark? After doing a little research, I discovered that Reginald had a son named Mark who was also a competitive swimmer and coach. I assume father and son went to the 1972 USA Olympic Trials in Portage Park, Chicago, about 20 miles from their house. Mark would have been 19 years old at the time.

At some point in time, 17 swimming legends signed this book. Presumably, most of them at the 1972 Olympic Trials.

Prior to Steve Genter collapsing a lung and ripping open his stitches on the second turn of the 200 Free. Before Mark Spitz won a record 7 gold medals and set 7 world records.

Here’s a list of all the signatures. We will do a featured piece on each one of them starting with Murray Rose.


  • Doc Counsilman
  • Sherm Chavoor
  • Don Gambril
  • Jack Nelson

1972 Olympic Team Members:

Previous Olympic Heroes:

USA Olympic Trials, Portage Park, Chicago
August 2-6, 1972
1972 USA Olympic Trials Results