October 29, 2020

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Hall of Fame Florida swimming coach Randy Reese

Art Levy | 6/24/2019

What got me into swimming, I think, was my father had three brothers who drowned. His father was a road builder — he built Tomoka Road in Daytona — and they had dug an area close by where a bridge was going in, and the dirt was real soft going into water. The brothers were young, like 12 or 13, and they were in the water and got caught up and panicked and were trying to get out, and the ground kept falling in, and they all three drowned. That was something my father was not going to let happen to me and my brother.

So, I couldn’t swim for the summer in California, and I couldn’t swim my senior year, which kind of pushed me into coaching. When I went back to FSU in the fall, they had me coach the freshman team.

Cade had already done Gatorade, and we started doing a drink, a protein drink, to help kids recover faster. Our drink was called Gator Go. We were going to try to get Gatorade to take it on, but it didn’t happen. Everyone’s doing a milk-based drink now, but we were doing it way back, and it would have been the first of its type on the market.

If you have a good governor, I think your state is going to do well, and I think this guy (Ron DeSantis) is really good.

My career almost went in a different direction. I life-guarded on the beach starting after my freshman year of college, and I met a guy named Ron Rice (the founder of Hawaiian Tropic), and we got to be real good friends. I used to go to his house and help him mix up his lotions in a 55-gallon drum. I was still in college, and he asked if I wanted to go over and work with him in Hawaii because he was opening up an office there. My parents said: ‘Nope. You’re finishing school.’ I probably would have went to Hawaii if they let me.

When the kids start to train, you look for their ability to push themselves harder and harder. That’s the key.

My wife and I will go out to dinner, but it’s a different dinner than it used to be. It used to be rush here — we had to get home for the babysitter — and this and that. I think our relationship now is what I would have liked it to be when I didn’t have the hours to do it. I’m probably spending as much time with my grandkids now as I spent with my own kids.

Tracy Caulkins was, and still is, the greatest swimmer ever. Everybody thinks Michael Phelps is, but Tracy Caulkins held American records in four strokes. No one else has ever done that.

Personally, I don’t need to win, anymore. I’ve had enough kids do well, win Olympic gold medals and stuff, that it’s about seeing them get the reward. I enjoy watching them be happy when they do something they didn’t think they could do.


 

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