1976 Olympic men’s and women’s diving coach Betty Perkins Carpenter, the only woman to ever coach both the men’s and women’s Olympic diving teams, has died. She was 87 years old, and spent the last several years battling liver cancer.
After completing a tour as a sergeant in the Air Force in 1950, where she swam on the service’s aquatics team and established physical activity programs for the children of Air Force personnel on bases, she began teaching swimming and diving for the YMCA. In 1959 she launched the Perkins Aquatic Club, and from there went on to become the head coach of the University of Rochester.
In 1976, at the Montreal Olympic Games, she led both the Turkish men’s and women’s diving teams, breaking a barrier for female coaches, believed to be the first woman to coach both men’s and women’s diving teams at the Olympics.
Among Perkins’ more famous direct pupils is Wendy Wyland, who Perkins began coaching in 1971 when Wyland was only 6-years old. Perkins would go on to coach her until she was 14 years old, when she moved to California to train with Ron O’Brien at the Mission Viejo Nadadores. Wyland would go on to win Olympic bronze in 1984 on the 10-meter platform and the 1982 World Championship in the same event. Wyland died in 2003 at just 38-years old.
Perkins went on to become a publish author, lecturer, and entrepreneur, developing a “Fit-By-Five” pre-school fitness program that was franchised around the world. She would go on to create other childhood and senior fitness programs, become a lecturer at St. John Fisher College in Florida, and earned her PhD in her 70s.