Don Watson Doing It The Hinsdale Way

Courtesy of WOWSA, Hinsdale, Illinois.

Don Watson was a renowned pool and marathon swimming coach whose relationship with his athletes and the successes that they shared remain a standard among the coaching community.

Coach Watson coached John Kinsella and Sandra Bucha throughout their professional marathon swimming careers and was selected as the 1970 United States Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association. Because the professional marathon swimming circuit in the 1970s was held during the summer months of the Northern Hemisphere, the duo returned home to train under Coach Watson at the Hinsdale Swim Club. Bucha, whose career would have been considerably longer in the contemporary era, competed on the pro circuit for a relationship short period between 1973 and 1975.

But Bucha, true to the Hinsdale way, made every swim count. Bucha won all nine pro races that she entered against her female competitors and was often only beaten by her towering teammate from Indiana University.

The two-time Olympic medalist Kinsella dominated the professional circuit between 1973 and 1979, winning a staggering 29 out of his 31 professional races. Coach Watson, leading one of the most successful high school and age group teams of all time in the United States, took off when he could and was in Kinsella’s escort boat during his record-breaking swim across Lake Ontario in 1978 and was present for both Bucha and Kinsella for their victories on Lake Michigan in Chicago.

In 1979, his contribution to the sport, his years spent onshore and on escort watercraft were recognized by his peers when he was given with the Glen S. Hummer Award, the highest award presented by United States Swimming. For years, under Coach Watson’s tutelage, the Hinsdale Swim Club produced many national individual and team champions including Kinsella (1970, 1971), Bucha (1971), Bill Miller (1973), Greg Porter (1975), and Diane Griebel (1976). He felt a bond with those who enjoyed putting hours and hours in training and pushing themselves to the limit. “I have been honored with a number of special awards throughout my coaching career. I especially appreciate and feel honored to be the recipient of the Glen S. Hummer Award. I rank right behind this award, my being selected as the US Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association in 1970.”

Among his accomplishments, Coach Watson was a six-time team manager at international competitions (1989 – 1995), Director of the University of Texas Swim Center (1981 – 2005) and Manager of the Longhorn Aquatics Swim Club (1981 – 2005) where he hosted 45 major swimming competitions and worked closely with Eddie Reese, Paul Bergen, Richard Quick, Mark Schubert and Jill Sterkel. He coached the Hinsdale High School swim team coach where over 100 swimmers went on to compete in college (1965 – 1980). He coached 7 national championship teams, 5 swimmers winning 2 gold medals, 1 silver medal and 1 bronze medal at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, swimmers setting 6 individual national records, 3 individual world records and 5 relay world records (1970 – 1976), swimmers winning 5 gold medals and 2 silver medal at the 1973, 1975 and 1979 world championships, and 3 swimmers winning 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal at the 1971 Pan American Games. He also authored the book The Hinsdale Program, a comprehensive guide to organizing a community and high school aquatics program.

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