In April 2022 we undertook a rebrand to SWIM Coaches & Teachers Australia to make our identity more easily recognisable and aligned to all the aspects of what we do.

There is an intriguing and unique heritage spanning more than fifty years in the development of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association. It was only after the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games that coaches in Australia became aware that they could learn and gain from sharing knowledge on all aspects of swimming coaching. Prior to these Olympic Games the responsibility of coaching was merely attended to by pool managers, parents, or former swimmers. None were paid for their coaching. They often accompanied their swimmers to competitions and had difficulty in gaining entry to the pool. Two examples from the Olympic Games in 1956 were Forbes Carlile and Harry Gallagher. Forbes became a commentator while Harry was known to hide in the back of a delivery van to gain entry into the Melbourne Olympic Pool to witness his swimmers claim gold medals at the 1956 Olympics.

In the late 1950’s in Australia there was no existing national organisation representing the interests of swimming coaches and swimming teachers. Neither was there State Associations for coaches.

Prior to the formation of the Australian Coaches Association swimmers represented their states rather than their own clubs, and the State Swimming Associations selected swimmers to contest at the National Swimming Championships. Swimming coaches reportedly withheld from sharing information and had no ideas of collaboration, in an attempt to maintain an advantage and keep professional status exclusive.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s in Victoria and in many regions of Southern Australia, swimmers did not swim in the winter as swimming was considered to be a summer sport, and the pools did not have heating. In Victoria, a small group of coaches who had access to tiny, heated pools had a few swimmers training two or three times per week. The Olympic Pool in Melbourne where the 1956 Olympic Games were held was the only 55-yard heated pool that was available for training. The pool was generally only open for 20 hours per week, and had six professional coaches with up to 150 swimmers training, hence making swimming extremely difficult. Coaches were not satisfied with this arrangement, but they had no combined voice to express so.

Picture1 300x234In 1961 the Victorian Professional Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association was the first association in Australia established for coaches. Tom Donnett Senior was the first President and Paul Quinlan was the first Secretary of the newly formed association, which was primarily driven by the desire to exchange and share ideas related to swimming coaching, teaching, and bringing change to the sport. The Victorian Professional Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association later changed its name to the Victorian Swimming Coaches Association (VSCA) in 1970, as it was considered that all teachers are alike to coaches, the professional status should be removed, and the initial name was too lengthy.

VSCA in conjunction with the Victorian Amateur Swimming Association (VASA) developed a Teacher of Swimming Certificate in 1964. The course consisted of intensive lectures, workshops, a practical swimming teaching session, and subsequent assignments. Later in 1966 a Diploma in Swimming Coaching was developed with support from the Rothmans National Sporting Foundation (a tobacco company sponsored sporting fund). Dr Lou Witts and Dr Bill Orchard of the VASA, Forbes Carlile, MBE M.Sc., and Don Talbot AO, OBE, were among the outstanding list of lecturers who participated in the conduct of the course, that consisted of written examinations, assignments, and practical work.

In 1967 Bill Grabowsky and Harry Belfrage (VASA), along with Peter Ruddock set up and conducted for many years a highly successful Education and Coaching Development Scheme, with poolside clinics conducted in various country towns. All clubs were sent detailed monthly training programs as a means of improving swimming, and coaches of the clubs joined the Victorian Swimming Coaches Association.

A number of top swimming coaches from New South Wales, including Forbes Carlile, also joined the Victorian Association.

In 1969 the Victorian courses were reviewed by John Kilpatrick and Peter Ruddock, who recommended a three-tier structure that brought coaching and teaching together. The revised structure included an Elementary Teacher of Swimming Certificate, an Advanced Teacher of Swimming Certificate, and a Diploma of Coaching.

The Elementary Teacher of Swimming Courses were conducted on an honorary basis by Peter Ruddock and John Kilpatrick, to help achieve an increase in qualified teachers and coaches. Many Physical Education Department Teachers also attended these courses. The first Advanced Teacher of Swimming Course was conducted by Peter Ruddock and John Kilpatrick at Jim O’Doherty’s pool. This course had 200 coaches in attendance, and hence many of the club coaches joined the Victorian Swimming Coaches Association.

Queensland formed a coaches association and affiliated with Queensland Swimming in 1967. Ross Gage was one of the earlier Secretaries he then went on to serve on the ASCA and later ASCTA National Board for 25 years before taking on the ASCTA CEO position. Early members included Joe King, Arthur Cusack, John Keating, Alan Gynther, Bert and Myee Foster, John Cary, Bernie Wakefield, Bernie Shapland, and John Rigby. Other highlights for Queensland were the appointment in 1976 of their first State Director of Coaching, Bill Sweetenham (later AIS Coach and Great Britain Head Coach) succeeded by Arthur Cusack, Brett Sutton, Scott Volkers, Vince Raleigh and Michael Bohl – all high-performance Coaches. 1992 saw the appointment of Brendan Burkett as a Development Officer for Swimmers with a Disability. Brendan went on to swim as a Para-Olympian in 1996.

The Victorian Swimming Coaches Assocation (VSCA) developed a correspondence course for Teacher of Swimming Certificate in 1969, which again assisted in building the membership of the Association.

More coaches from interstate joined the Victorian Association, as they had great opportunities to share experiences and listen to overseas coaches.

Learn to Swim Certificates and car bumper stickers were produced by the Association and sold to members as an additional means to increase membership, promote swimming, and assist in funding coaches to attend the National Swimming Championships.

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Around the 1970’s at a National Championships in New South Wales, a contamination of condies crystals found in the Drummoyne Pool necessitated that those attending were to be hurriedly requested to leave the pool area. During this downtime, a group of coaches discussed that a national organisation to service the needs of Coaches and Teachers was essentially required. From this meeting came a loose collective group.

In the early 1970’s a New South Wales Coaches Association was formed, and with the help of Speedo, facilitated swim clinics at Narrabeen.

Australia’s First National Coaching Forum with overseas presenters was held in Melbourne in 1972, organized by Jack Foster, Jim O’Doherty, Peter Ruddock, John Olsen, and Harold Watson – all Victorian coaches. This forum had an approximate attendance of 250.

Another forum again took place in Melbourne, held in 1975, again organized by the Victorian Coaches Education committee of Peter Ruddock, John Kilpatrick, and Hal Hobbs (from the State Education Department). At this major coaching seminar Prof. Brent Rushall, Dr. James Counsilman, Forbes Carlile and Terry Gathercole were the primary speakers. Coaches from all across Australia attended, with a total attendance of 260.

As the Australian Swimming Coaches Association was beginning to emerge, there was dispute between coaches from different states regarding the group’s committee. ‘Speedo coaches’ made up the representation on the committee, there was no record of any constitution in place yet, and an educational structure was not made available like that of the Victorian Association. As a result, Victorian coaches Jack Foster and Jim O’Doherty in 1974 advised Victorian state members that there would be no value in joining the national committee at the time.

Relations between coaches slowly settled once the appointment of Paul Quinlan to ASCA came, plus the development of a constitution based on the constitution of the Victorian Coaches Association. Coaches gradually began to work together and share information.

Picture4 300x292In 1979 a National Coaches Convention was held on the Gold Coast at the Greenmount Resort. Discussions at the hotel bar amongst the 80 to 90 attendees centered on the need for the organization to become formalised. Another convention was held at Greenmount in 1980 with about 120 in attendance, and the formalisation of a constituted national swimming coaches association was established.

Australian Coach Terry Gathercole, who served as President of the American Swimming Coaches Association, became a leading light on the direction of the Australian Swimming Coaches Association upon his return to Australia. Terry was the first President of ASCA, who also serves on the board of the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia, which in 1985 evolved into Australian Swimming. Forbes Carlile, ASCTA’s second life member was the first representative of ASCA’s on the board of Australian Swimming once the revised constitution granted representation of the coaches association on the board of Australian Swimming. Another stalwart of ASCA, Doug McGufficke, was from the Northern Territory.

Speedo and John Devitt assisted in getting international Coaches to travel to Australia and conduct tours with lectures to coaches. Notable visitors were Doc Counsilman (USA) and George Haines (USA) in the late 1960’s; Mark Schubert (USA) in 1974, returning again to Queensland in 1986. Ernie and later Cheryl Maglischo (USA) in 1984; and Gennadi Touretski (USSR) in 1992. Between 1973 and 1974, Forbes Carlile from NSW, Peter Daland (USA) and Larry Holt all visited Queensland. These events led to increased interaction between Coaches in Australia and improved the professionalism within the industry.

ASCTA BadgesIn 1984 leading up to the Olympics, the first Level 2 and Level 3 Coaching Courses (forerunner of the Silver and Gold Coaching Courses) were conducted by Paul Quinlan in Canberra over 10 days, with many of the current high-performance coaches in attendance, completing lectures and practical assessments.

Paul Quinlan was appointed the first National Director of Coaching and worked for both the Australian Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) and Australian Swimming (now Swimming Australia) in a volunteer position for two years, then funded by Australian Swimming for two years.

Coaching Conferences were held in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide in the earlier years, and have since been a regular event on the Gold Coast for many years.

In 1988 step grants and scholarships based on coaches performances were introduced.

In 1994 Michael Ursu was appointed Executive Director of the Australian Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) and in 1996 the association changed its name to the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA).

Dr. Ralph Richards was appointed Chief Executive Officer in 2006 and was followed by Ross Gage in 2009.  David Speechley was Chief Executive Officer from 2015 until Brendon Ward was appointed Chief Executive Officer in 2017.


Countless Coaches and Teachers have given their time in an honorary capacity on state and national coaching and teaching associations, as board Members over the years have driven the organisation.

Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA)
Victorian Amateur Swimming Association (VASA)
Victorian Swimming Coaches Association (VSCA)
Peter Ruddock