James Counsilman

James Edward "Doc" Counsilman (December 28, 1920 January 4, 2004)[4] was an Olympic and hall-of-fame swimming coach from the United States. He is perhaps best known for being the head swimming coach Indiana University (IU) from 1957 to 1990.[5] He served as head coach for the USA's swim teams to the 1964 and 1976 Olympics; and was inducted as an Honors Coach into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1976.[6]

Doc Counsilman
James Counsilman in 1963
Biographical details
Born(1920-12-28)December 28, 1920
Birmingham, Alabama
DiedJanuary 4, 2004(2004-01-04) (aged 83)
Bloomington, Indiana
Alma materOhio State University
Playing career
19401942Ohio State Buckeyes
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
19521957Cortland State Red Dragons
19571990Indiana Hoosiers
1964, 1976U.S. Olympic Swim Team
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA (1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973)
International Swimming Hall of Fame (1976) Distinguished Flying Cross (1945)


Counsilman was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but grew up and learned to swim in St. Louis, Missouri.[7] He swam collegiately for the Ohio State University under coach Mike Peppe; and while in college set world-bests in the 50 and 300 yard breaststrokes.[7] During World War II, Counsilman served in the United States Army Air Forces in Italy as a B-24 Liberator pilot with the 455th Bomb Group of the Fifteenth Air Force.

Post Ohio State, Counsilman went on to earn a master's degree at the University of Illinois (1947), where he also served as an assistant coach, before pursuing doctorate degree in physiology from the University of Iowa where he was also the assistant coach under David Armbruster(1948-1951).[8] It was at the University of Iowa that Counsilman coached his first two Olympians-Wally Ris and Bowen Stassforth. Following award of his doctorate, the now-dubbed "Doc" began teaching and coaching at Cortland State University, where he would remain from 1952 to 1957 leading into his time at Indiana University.[8]

Tenure at IU (1957–1990)

At IU, Counsilman coached the men's team to 6 consecutive NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships (1968–1973), and 20 consecutive (1961–1980) and 23 total Big Ten Conference titles.[5] While at IU, Doc coached over 60 Olympic swimmers, including Mark Spitz,

He served as the Men's Head Coach of the USA's swimming team at the 1964 Olympics (where the USA men won 9-of-11 events) and at 1976 Olympics (USA men won 12-of-13 events).[8]

In 1961, he was named Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association.

In 1964, he led the Indiana team to its sixth straight USA national championships (AAU at the time).[9]

In 1979, at the age of 58, he became the then-oldest person to swim the English Channel.[10]

Swimmers who swam for Counsilman include: Jim Montgomery, Gary Hall, John Kinsella, Mike Troy, Charlie Hickcox, Larry Barbiere, Don McKenzie, Chet Jastremski, Wally Ris, Bowen Stassforth, Tom Stock, George Breen, Mike Stamm, Alan Somers, Ted Stickles, John Murphy, Bill Heiss, Fred Tyler, John Waldman and Mark Spitz.

Post IU

Doc Counsilman is known as one of the greatest swimming coaches of all time. He was also an innovator in the sport,[11][12] pioneering underwater filming, and even watching swimmers underwater, as can be seen in Royer Pool at Indiana University today. He was also the instigator of hypoventilation training, a training method which consists of swimming with reduced breathing frequency.[13]

Counsilman died in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2004, after suffering from Parkinson's disease.[4]

He has been inducted into various Hall of Fames, including: the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1976), Ohio State Varsity "O" Hall of Fame (1988), IU Athletics (2001),[14] the American Swimming Coaches Association[15] and SUNY Cortland (2005).[8]

See also

Preceded by

American Record 300 Meter Medley Relay[16]
August 4, 1946-TBD
Succeeded by




  1. New York Times 5 April 1953 Page S1
  2. New York Times 20 December 1942 Page S5
  3. New York Times 5 April 1941 Page 9
  4. Doc Counsilman, 83, Coach And Innovator in Swimming. Published by The New York Times on 2004-01-05; retrieved 2010-03-29.
  5. 2009-10 Men's Swimming Media Guide Archived 2011-03-10 at the Wayback Machine p.123, from the IU Hoosiers website; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  6. International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Dr. James E. "Doc" Counsilman (USA). Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  7. More about Doc page from the Doc Counsilman: Making Waves page of the WTIU; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  8. Counsilman's bio from the SUNY Cortland Hall of Fame; published in 2005, retrieved 2011-02-02.
  9. Swimming: Formula: Hurt, Pain, Agony, published by TIME on 1963-08-23; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  10. James 'Doc' Counsilman Archived 2011-03-11 at the Wayback Machine from the Indian Hoosiers website; published 2004-01-04; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  11. A Giant Has Fallen: Doc Counsilman Dies by Cecil Colwin for Swimming World Magazine online. Published 2004-01-04, retrieved 2011-02-02.
  12. IU's legendary swim coach to be featured in WTIU special by Ann Wesley, Indiana University. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  13. Woorons, Xavier; Gamelin, François-Xavier; Lamberto, Christine; Pichon, Aurélien; Richalet, Jean Paul (2014). "Swimmers can train in hypoxia at sea level through voluntary hypoventilation". Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology. 190: 33–9. doi:10.1016/j.resp.2013.08.022. PMID 24012989.
  14. IU Athletics Hall of Fame - 1991 Inductees from the IU Hoosiers website; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  15. Counsilman's entry from the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame subpage; retrieved 2011-02-02.
  16. Petaluma Argus Currier 5 August 1946 Page 4


  • The Science of Swimming, by James E. Counsilman, Prentice Hall, Juni 1968, ISBN 978-0-13-795385-1
  • The Complete Book of Swimming , by James E. Counsilman, Atheneum, 1977, ISBN 978-0-689-10530-2
  • Competitive Swimming Manual for Coaches and Swimmers, by James E. Counsilman, Counsilman Co., 1977, ISBN 978-0-253-31395-9
  • The New Science of Swimming, by James E. Counsilman and Brian E. Counsilman, Prentice Hall, April 1994, ISBN 978-0-13-099888-0
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