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Jack Nelson

Jackie Nelson Doyle - Swim Teacher & Athlete

Jack Nelson’s belief is that “Access to Success is Thru the Mind.” His life of accomplishments proves its value. Jack Nelson exemplifies a charismatic coach with
a passion for his sport.


Jack Nelson - swimmer/coach- magazine cover

More About Jack

Every swimmer in the world seems to know this flamboyant and friendly coach whose energy and smile so motivates his athletes. Few know that he didn’t start his own swimming career until he was 21, just drafted in to the Air Force and looking for a fun way to get out of washing dishes and peeling potatoes. There never was a more unlikely swimmer, yet within three years, Jack swam the 100 and 200 meter butterfly in world record times and was on the U.S. Olympic team headed for Australia. He has been swimming or coaching swimmers ever since.

Jack Nelson was a football player, short but built like a tank, sort of a Don Nottingham type “human cannonball.” At the Melbourne Olympic Village in 1956, everybody asked how this wrestler (or weight lifter) got into the swimming compound, but once competition started they knew, as he muscled his way to a fourth place finish in the new power stroke called butterfly.

Nelson was hooked on the sport that has made him a household name among swimmers the world over. He is the only man in swimming ever to hold the distinction of placing in the finals at the Olympics and then going on to serve as an Olympic head coach (1986 women’s Montreal team). No one should forget the 24 women on the 1976 Olympic team who were at that time the breakers of four world records and nine American records. In 1976, Nelson was also named National High School Coach of the Year. He won a total of 30 combined boys and girls State Championships during his tenure at three Florida high schools: Ransom, Pine Crest and Fort Lauderdale.

As a swimmer, Jack learned his basics from several great coaches including Buddy Baarcke, Tom Lamar, Phil Moriarty, Charles Silvia and the Casey brother, Willis and Ralph; but, like so many great coaches, Jack’s coaching is something he comes by instinctively with hands-on personal attention, hard work and great enthusiasm. His philosophy, “Access to success is through the mind” has inspired numerous Olympians and hundreds of All Americans. He wrapped up 40 years of coaching by winning six national team titles, men’s/women’s or combined. “Not everybody is going to win a gold medal, but everyone who tries is a winner,” says Coach Nelson.

Among the great athletes he has coached are: Joel Thomas, 1992 Olympic gold medallist; Seth van Neerden, American record holder 100 meter breast 1991-1994; Todd Pace, 1991 Pan Am gold medallist; Laurie Lehner, world record holder in the 50 meter free and the fastest 100 meter butterfly in 1980; Bonnie Brown, 1975 Pan Am gold medallist; Ann Marshall, 1972 Olympian and world record breaker in the 200 meter free; Andy Coan, considered by many, to be the world’s all time greatest high school swimmer and world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle; Dave Edgar, world record holder and 1972 Olympic gold medallist; Shirley Stobbs, 1960 Olympic gold medallist, Marilyn Corson, 1968 Olympic bronze medallist; Thom McAneney, who was his first American record holder. Among additional great Nelson swimmers are: Paige Zemina, Margie Moffit, Artur Wojdat, David Fox, Todd Torres and Brian Alderman.

His swimmers certainly agree that “Jack has the ability to say whatever makes you feel better about yourself. He is a super motivator, and if he could, he’d get up on the blocks and swim the race for you.” Nelson’s office is a photo testimony to all the swimmers he has believed in and who have believed in him – the ultimate test of a coach.

Jack is a member of four other Halls of Fame: Florida, North Carolina, Fort Lauderdale and the University of Miami. He graduated from Miami in 1960 and served as head swimming coach there from 1986-1990.

His most recent honor is the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Man of the Year for 1993. This award came from his “home” town. Nationally, his peers named him president of the American Swim Coaches Association 1974-1976.

1993 was his 40th year in coaching, but if you think that puts him close to retirement, Jack Nelson will jump up and down and say, “What do you mean, retire? I didn’t start swimming until I was 21!”

Jack Nelson
Jack Nelson

Olympic Swimmer and Head Olympic Coach


Jack Nelson is the only person in the history of USA swimming who has been both an Olympic swimmer, placing in the finals at the Olympics, in 1956 and an Olympic head coach in 1976.

He is also a three time world record holder and Olympian, former collegiate All-American, World Games and Pan-American Games coach. Coach has been inducted into seven (7) halls offame: Greater Fort -Lauderdale Sports Hall of Fame, University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, Saint Thomas Aquinas Hall of Fame, North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, State of Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Born in-Chickamauga, Georgia November 8, 1931, Jack was a football player in high school and is still considered a football player in the small town of LaFayette, Georgia. He started competitive swimming at the age of 21 in the Air Force where he was immediately successful. The next year, at age 22, he was coaching the team. Within three years, Jack swam the 100 and 200 meter butterfly in world record
times and competed in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Buddy Baarcke met Jack Nelson when they were training for the Pan American Games in Treasure Island, CAand acted as a key mentor for developing Jack’s training regimens as a swimmer. The two have been lifelong friends. Coach Tom Lamar, one of Jack’s personal coaches, has also been a role model to Jack and his coaching style.

Jack Nelson attended the University of Miami (1957-1960) and life-guarded on the weekends on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Mrs. Ruth Eney approached Jack on the beach to coach her daughter in swimming. In a short period of time, Jack began his extremely successful high school coaching career with 30 state championships at Ransom School, Pine Crest School, and Fort Lauderdale High Schools. At age 44 he coached the most amazing Olympic triumph by an American Women’s Relay Team. Then at the age of 60 his team won their first of 14 National Team Championships. In 1966 when Jack returned from fourth place in the Nationals, Jack formed the Jack Nelson Swim Club which became the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, training at Pine Crest and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He also coached at the University of Miami for four years. Jack has coached 44 Olympians, including gold medalists, Joel Thomas, Paige Zemina, David Edgar, Shirley Stobbs, Arthur Wodat, Marilyn Corson, Sheila Taormina, Melanie Valero, David Fox, and Tripp Schwenk. He also coached world and U.S. record holders, Andy Coan, and Laurie Lehner, and American record holders Margie Moffit, Ann Marshall, Bonnie Brown, Tom McAneney, and Seth van Neerden, plus over 460 All-Americans. He coached the US national teams in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1990, and 1994. Nelson’s coaching methods may be considered a little unconventional. In other words, Jack talks a lot. “Jack has the ability to say whatever makes you feel better about yourself. He is a super motivator, and if he could, he’d get up on the blocks and swim the race for you.” Nelson coached one of the most exciting moments in the 1976 Montreal Olypmics. Kim Peyton.Till Sterkel, Wendy Boglioli, and anchor Shirley Babashoff swam a 400 freestyle relay that beat the steroid-affected East German team that had dominated the other relays and individual events.

The USAwomen had set nine American Records, and four world records. This same year, Nelson was named National High School Coach of the Year. Most recently, former swimmers, Bradley Alley, who swam in 2 Olympics set a new NCAArecord and won the 200 1Mat the 2009 NCAAChampionships; along with Albert Suberitz, an Olympian, who won the 100 freestyle in the NCAA’s and Garrett Webber-Gale won Olympic and World Games gold medals. Sharing in his life of accomplishment, Sherrill Nelson has been married to
Jack for thirty six (36) years. Together, they participated as members of the United States swimming coaching staff at the 1990 World Cup meet in Perth, Australia. The
following year, Sherrill returned to Perth as a member of the World Games staff. She was the USA 1998 Women in Swimming award winner, and in 1999, the International Swimming Hall of Fame named Sherrill as their Grand Dame for outstanding contributions to USA swimming.

Coach’s belief is that “Access to Success is Thru the Mind.” His life of accomplishments proves its value. Jack Nelson exemplifies a charismatic coach with a passion for his sport. Through him, we learn that this special brand of passion includes positive enthusiasm, setting standards and living by them, really caring about athletes, and being active in the politics of the sport.

Jack Nelson is quick to acknowledge the coaches and people who have helped him throughout his career: His parents, Mary Band W.J. Nelson who always believed in him. He knows they are up there watching and he is proud to be their son. Buddy Baarcke, Mike Barden, Lloyd Bennett, Joe Bernal, Red Blair, Buster Britton, Richard Cahalan, Delores Campbell, Ralph Casey; Willis Casey, Dick Cavanah, Bill Clinton, Andy Coan, Major Rob Cox, Isabelle Craine, Mark Davin, Rosemary Dawson, Jackie Nelson Doyle, John Doyle, David Edgar, Guy Edson, Michael Egan, Frank Elm, Barbara Evans, Tom Fagley, Principal Sally Falcon, Jack Gafney, Don Gambril, Marty Grady, Wendell Gray-Gonzales, Jorge Gonzalez, George Haines, Mark Hesse, Mary Jackson, Lucky Jordan, Ken Kaplan, Jim Kiernan, Lee Kingsbury, Bob Kiputh, Chuck Knoles, Allan Kopel, Tom Lamar, Andy Lehner, John Leonard, Pop Levitt. Jack Martin, Lisa McLucky, Bob McVain, Jim Montrella, Don Moonjian, Phil Moriarty, Mayor Jim Naugle, Garry Nelson, Jamie Nelson, Sherrill Nelson, David Nielson, Chris Noll, Bob Ousley, Fred Peters, Mike Peppe, John Pierson, Alex Pussieldi, Ritva Rennes, Stacy Rush, Vince Santo stefano, Terry Schlichenmaier, Senator Jim Scott, Bill Sepich, Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Seth Sizer, David Snyder, Charles “Red” Sylvia, Carole Tan, Nobutaka Tan, Alan Toll, Norman D. Tripp, Mike Tschirret, Greg Tye, Tomas Victoria, Bill Wadley, Chuck Walmer, Jill White, Robbin White, John Wienants, udiWoolger, June Woolger, Linda Young, Ron Young and Mayor Virginia Young.