SWIMMING IMMORTAL: Bill Sweetenham with Craig Botcher, Michael Bohl, Michael Piper, Matthew Brown, Rohan Taylor and David Wilson in Rome.
SWIMMING IMMORTAL: Bill Sweetenham with Craig Botcher, Michael Bohl, Michael Piper, Matthew Brown, Rohan Taylor and David Wilson in Rome. Contributed

Former Mount Morgan swimmer becomes coaching immortal

ACCLAIMED swimming coach Bill Sweetenham swam his first strokes at a young age in the Mount Morgan swimming pool.

While he and his mates dived off the clock tower which rises above the pool, Mr Sweetenham never imagined he'd be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Early Days

Mr Sweetenham was born at Hillcrest Hospital in Rockhampton in 1950.

Most of his childhood days would be spent in the historic town of Mount Morgan.

When he was about five to six years old, his family had moved to the town where he was taught at the town's primary and high schools.

It was during his time in the Mount where he learnt his love of swimming and formed bonds with fellow swimmers who shared a common sentiment.

Bill Sweetenham,Carole Kelly, Noel Weaver, Carole Malivoire, Don Budge and Ian Kirkman.
Bill Sweetenham,Carole Kelly, Noel Weaver, Carole Malivoire, Don Budge and Ian Kirkman.

During his formative years in Mount Morgan, Mr Sweetenham was taught by Bobbie Clewes - a man who he had developed a great amount of respect and admiration.

Mr Clewes had been the pool manager and resident teacher and coach.

Mr Sweetenham's first taste of water was forced upon him.

"Bobbie Clewes pushed me into pool at the shallow end where I had been content for several weeks to just dangle my feet in the water while sitting on the side,” Mr Sweetenham wrote in Rocky Mountain High.

"One thing led to another and Bobbie Clewes was able to teach me how to swim - something that I came to love and enjoy for the rest of my life,” Mr Sweetenham said.

"Once I could swim, I watched and observed the much older boys in the swimming club all wait until Bobbie Clewes rode his bike home for lunch to Red Hill.”

Bill Sweetenham was born in Rockhampton in 1950.
Bill Sweetenham was born in Rockhampton in 1950. Contributed

He trained with Mr Clewes on weekdays for between one to two years.

And like any rising sportsman, his horizons grew and the young man was soon being mentored in Rockhampton.

While still being taught by Mr Clewes, the eager young swimmer was taken to Rockhampton by his parents to be coached by Bunny Williams at the North Rockhampton pool.

"On Saturday mornings from my home up on the side of the hill in Mount Morgan (West St), I could see his mail truck go past and I knew within two hours on the nose, it would come back,” Mr Sweetenham said.

Mr Williams would first deliver the newspapers down to Dawson Valley towns such as Wowan and Biloela.

"I would sit beside the road, he would pick me up and I'd sit in the back of the mail truck (a big-sized ute) and he'd drop me off at the Town Hall in Rockhampton,” Mr Sweetenham said.

During his formative years, Bill Sweetenham found a great friend and mentor in his first swimming coach, Mount Morgan's Bobbie Clewes.
During his formative years, Bill Sweetenham found a great friend and mentor in his first swimming coach, Mount Morgan's Bobbie Clewes. Contributed

"I would make my way out to the North Rockhampton pool and I'd be there when he turned up about two hours later.”

They would train together for the majority of Saturday afternoons.

Once a session was over (which took an hour-and-a-half), he would rest for about an hour before they got back into the pool.

Mr Sweetenham would stay with his grandfather in North Rockhampton on Saturday nights.

"Bunny Williams would set the programs for me to do during the week in Mount Morgan, and Bobbie Clewes would supervise them,” Mr Sweetenham said.

This routine continued until he was about 14-years-old.

Bill Sweetenham with Junie Sng (Singapore) and Michelle Ford (Australian Olympic Gold Medallist from Moscow Olympics).
Bill Sweetenham with Junie Sng (Singapore) and Michelle Ford (Australian Olympic Gold Medallist from Moscow Olympics). Contributed

Mr Sweetenham's training on Saturday prepared him for competitive swimming on Sunday nights.

He recalled competing on Sunday nights in Mount Morgan, and enjoyed the challenge of beating the "city kids” from Rockhampton.

As a teenager, the family moved west to Mount Isa.

While Mr Sweetenham looked to start a life in the mining town, he swam for the Yeppoon Surf Club until he was 17 years of age.

"When my parents were leaving to go to Mount Isa, I spent about 12 months at Rockhampton State High School as an interim step to move from Mount Morgan to Mount Isa,” Mr Sweetenham said.

While Mr Sweetenham was a resident in Mount Isa, he remained a member of the Yeppoon Surf Club.

Bill Sweetenham with Tracey Wickham (Australian multiple world record holder).
Bill Sweetenham with Tracey Wickham (Australian multiple world record holder). Contributed

He later joined the Mount Isa Swimming Club until he retired at age 17.

A punishment eventually turned into a reward for Mr Sweetenham while he was living in Mount Isa.

"I came home drunk one night, and as a punishment, I was given a penalty,” Mr Sweetenham said.

"There was a young boy with a poorly formed leg, his foot was where his knee should be and his knee was half way up his thigh.”

Mr Sweetenham's father challenged his son if he could teach the boy to swim on the school holidays, he could come home.

And so he started to teach the young boy.

Bill Sweetenham (head coach) holds a large on-deck meeting with his Australian Institute of Sport team.
Bill Sweetenham (head coach) holds a large on-deck meeting with his Australian Institute of Sport team. Contributed

While he taught the youngster, Mr Sweetenham realised his passion for teaching.

"This little fellow, his determination and persistence made up for my lack of knowledge of teaching,” Mr Sweetenham said.

"He taught me how to have empathy for those who had misfortune in life.”

With no knowledge of how to build a pool, Mr Sweetenham built one in his parents' backyard from concrete, mesh and a filtration pump to host lessons.

The pool, which remains intact was where his teaching journey began.

Coaching

In 1981, Mr Sweetenham was awarded a Churchill Foundation scholarship to study the psychology behind coaching in the United States of America which changed his outlook on teaching.

He spent 12 months working with coaches to understand the neuroscience which goes hand-in-hand with coaching.

Mr Sweetenham has spent his career aiming to inspire and encourage others to reach their full potential.

Fast forward to the present day and Mr Sweetenham has continued to serve.

He is currently a coaching consultant based in Runaway Bay in South East Queensland, and has worked with swimmers and coaches who hail from Spain, United Kingdom and Argentina.

His role involves him to educate coaches to give their athletes the best outcome in the sport.

Mr Sweetenham has a long list of achievements to his name.

The hall-of-famer said he has prided himself on being his students' biggest supporter.

He has served as an Olympic head coach five times, an eight-time Commonwealth Games swim coach, a nine-time World Championships coach; and Head National Olympic Coach for three different countries.

For his service and commitment to the sport, Mr Sweetenham was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in May.



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