Coach Don Watkinds Dies on Deck During Practice

Coach Don Watkinds of the Wave House San Diego Swim Team died of a heart attack during swim practice on July 27th.

Don Watkinds served as the head coach of Peninsula Aquatics San Diego from 1998-2009. In 2009 Peninsula Aquatics San Diego merged with the City of San Diego Swim to become the Wave House San Diego Swim Team, where Watkinds served as head coach until his passing. Throughout his career Watkinds was extremely involved in Disability swimming, coaching numerous Paralympians along the way.

In addition, Watkinds was the President of the San Diego Swim Coaches Association as well as the Disability Swimming Chairman for San Diego – Imperial Swimming. He was also a member of the USA Swimming National Disability Committee and San Diego – Imperial Swimming’s Board of Directors and Review Board.

Watkinds received numerous awards for his involvement in Disability Swimming. In 2008 he was presented with the Ikkos Award by the United States Olympic Committee for having a medalist in the Beijing Paralympic Games (Roy Perkins, who at one point held the S5 American Record in every event) . Further, one of his swimmers was named the USA Swimming Disability Swimmer of the Year in 2002 (Jennifer Johnson). In 1996 he won the prestigious Outstanding Service Award for Southern California Swimming and in 2005 he was the recipient of the USA Swimming National Disability Swimming Service Award.

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Prayers up to coach’s family, friends and his swimmers. Headline seems a little harsh, though, Swimswam. A coach has passed in unfortunate circumstances, there was a nicer way to get the news across. You also seem to be in quite a rush writing it as you did not complete your first sentence.


Is “passes away on deck” any better? It’s an awful tragedy either way and you’re worried about semantics. Come on, man.


How tragic 🙁 must have been terrible for the swimmers to see that.

David C Salo

Few men were greater in our sport than Don Watkinds. Above all else Don cared more about his athletes and challenging them to be the best they could be. He let his ego take a back seat to what he was willing to do for his athletes – abled or disadvantaged.

Chris Jack

I met don just a few months ago at naval medical center Balboa Hospital where he volunteered ever Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning FOR FREE!!! In the short time I knew him he seemed genuinely interested in helping Pelops improve at swimming and was an encouragement in life. I will miss him.

About Rachel Harvill

Rachel Harvill

Rachel has been swimming ever since she can remember. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she learned to love swimming with the Walnut Creek Aquabears. She took her passion for swimming to Willamette University in Salem, Oregon where she primarily competes in sprint freestyle events. In addition …

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