Maitland’s swimming community lost one of its towering figures on the weekend.
Bob Lawson died Sunday morning.
He was 75 years old.
Lawson was the former United Swim Club coach, based out of Hit n Dip until its September 2003 closure.
He is recognised as being one of the Hunter’s most successful swimming coaches, with his teams winning numerous state and national titles.
His list of students includes regional, country and national champions, not just in swimming but also in surf swimming and water polo.
“He had a lot of influence with a lot of young swimmers who grew up to have a lot of talent,” his wife Marion said.
“He seemed to bring out the best in them, but he was strong – he didn’t take any wimpy [students].
“If they didn’t want to work, then they shouldn’t bother turning up.
“But he took a lot of interest in the kids – he said special kids could do special things.”
Lawson started coaching at Hit n Dip in the mid 1980s and began his coaching career in 1960.
He also coached out of the ocean baths and beaches through all seasons, and was a great sprint freestyler, surf swimmer and water polo player in his own right.
“He was a coach who empowered his swimmers to achieve things that they never believed possible and instilled in them a love of swimming that led to the development of many coaches, swim teachers, sports administrators,” Just Like Fish swim school director Damon Rodd said.
“The ability he had to keep good athletes grounded through his infamous quote of ‘don’t get ambition and ability mixed up’ was legendary, whilst still giving them the belief and confidence to achieve their goals.
“Bob was a coach who would do absolutely anything for his swimmers – and my family was a direct beneficiary of that – to ensure that they were ready for whatever challenges they had, whether it be in or out of the pool.
“He was a coach, a mentor, a father figure who impacted greatly on the lives of so many.
“The lessons he taught will be passed on from generation to generation.”
Lawson often advised many fellow swimming coaches, such as Don Talbot, Bill Sweetenham, Denis Cotterill and Michael Bohl.
He is survived by son Mark, 49, who lives in London, and daughter Jane, 45, who lives in the Hunter, and three grandchildren.
Lawson will be farewelled at a private funeral by his family.
Maitland Mercury | April 15, 2015, 8:23 p.m.