Forbes Carlile (3 June 1921 – 2 August 2016): A Personal Tribute From Shane Gould

2016-08-02 Reading Time: 2 minutes
Shane Gould, superstar swimmer from the Carlile school of excellence

Forbes Carlile (3 June 1921 – 2 August 2016) – by Shane Gould

The end of life is so final, I’m so glad I went to see Forbes as often as I did in his later life and see Milt [Nelms] and he engaged in swim talk.

What a man, curmudgeonly, insightful, fervid, and the ultimate swimming geek ! Forbes was the right coach for me, he gave me what I needed, his knowledge, structure, feedback and generalised numerical data. I didn’t need inspirational slogans, bullying, minutae diagnostics.

Forbes Carlile with Shane Gould, 1971

He gave me challenge, diversity and respected my own intuitive bodily movement. He left me to work out my own legs to swim with, after trying to get me to “kick’ more. I just went slower and slower while trying to “kick’ like others.

Shane Gould – image with Forbes Carlile, 1971

He was about business, getting things done and so was I. He didn’t throw work or volume at me, he created variation, challenge, appropriate rest intervals and helped me to find gears to swim 100 to 1500 and do all the other strokes too.

He loved technology and always had the latest film or video technology and playback decks. He was excited about his new stuff and proudly showed me how it worked and what it could do to help him understand performance and body function in the water. He encouraged me to get my babies in the water as soon and often as possible, which I did.

Shane Gould – photo by Craig Lord

As there was no heated pool with 100km of where I lived in Margaret river WA, it ended up being a very full bath where they learned about the water. He extolled the benefits of water time for infants and toddlers based on Scandinavian experience he picked up – to help develop coordination, language skills, physical tone and confidence. 40 years later studies confirm that. He was a pioneer and able to glean information from obscure sources, study them and apply them to his athletes, learn to swim and youth development squads.

As an adult I enjoyed getting to know about his broad interests in high culture. I went to the Sydney Opera House once with him and Ursula to see some theatre and have a fancy dinner there. I learned they did it regularly. They travelled with detailed guide books of culture archaeology and architecture of cities on their annual world adventures. They were very interesting and knowledgable people, respectful of history and cultures. They were excited about knowledge.

Forbes would never have been Forbes without Ursula though. She enabled him and supported him in his geekiness and together they were eccentric in their lifestyle and application to their work and eclectic interests. Ursula was the assistant coach at Munich, and first female Olympic swim coach, a pioneer in her own right.

She had her own delight in age group coaching and as I said an indispensable facilitator of Forbes’ spirited fervour for swimming.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know him, be the beneficiary of his knowledge, admire his advocacy for coaches, drug free swimming, daily school physical education and other campaigns. His curiosity about how people could perform in water, with a guileless approach, made him a very interesting person and I will miss him.

Shane Gould – image, Forbes Carlile, courtesy of Forbes
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