February 23, 2024
Hall of Fame Florida swimming coach Randy Reese

Photo: Bob Croslin

"Coaching has changed. Competing against the phones is the biggest problem I have."


Hall of Fame Florida swimming coach Randy Reese

Art Levy | 6/24/2019

I was born a blue baby, and I think my parents kind of turned me loose because I had a heart valve problem, and back then there was not a lot that could be done. So, I think they said: ‘Well, let him have fun until he drops over.’

My personality is good when things are going well. I think when things aren’t going well, I don’t handle it as well now as I used to and so I probably speak up a little more than I should.

I’ve coached some really successful swimmers (Tracy Caulkins, Nancy Hogshead, Craig Beardsley and Rowdy Gaines), but anyone who swam for me and tried to do what I asked, I really respected. When they named the pool after me at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville two years ago, Paul Herring, who swam for me at Florida, was there. He didn’t qualify to go to the NCAAs, but he means as much to me as the people who won gold medals because he busted his butt in the classroom, out of the classroom and became a very good swimmer. He’s a doctor now in South Carolina. He didn’t even go to Episcopal.

It’s tough driving across the state. You go through Orlando and hit a traffic jam — that could be two hours by itself.

I wanted to win at everything, every time.

Watching the kids work hard — a good workout — that’s what makes me happy. Seeing their times and how they’re breathing, how they’re pushing off and how far they’re getting under water. When those things are hitting, that’s a real good time for me.

Every winter, I used to grow a beard and then shave it off, but the mustache stayed. Maybe it became a little bit of my identity. It’s funny you ask because, lately, I’ve been thinking about shaving it off. There are much more important things than a mustache.

Coaching at the University of Florida, I became very good friends with Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade. We used to have lunch probably once a week. He started doing some testing of the swimmers, blood testing and things like that, and that helped me to have a better insight into what our training really was doing — how high we were running their lactic acid up and how much recovery time was needed. Just knowing him and having a chance to talk about the scientific part of training was a tremendous education.

I swam at FSU, and the summer after my junior year I was going to go out and swim for George Haines in California, and my dad said: ‘Well, you need to go get checked out by a doctor before we let you go.’ My dad had a heart issue, so he set me up to see his heart doctor, not my usual doctor, and that’s when my dad broke the news to me that I had a heart issue.

Growing up, I thought Daytona Beach was the greatest place in the world. We used to go over to the water and throw our mullet net in and catch fish. I had good friends. I just went back two weeks ago to see a couple of guys I hadn’t seen in 53 years. We sat around and talked about everything.

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