American swim coach Bill Behrens died on November 2nd at the age of 80. Per Behrens’ wishes, no service has been planned.
Behrens’ coaching resume includes stops at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Marlins, Swim Atlanta, the Cape Coast Swim Club in Florida, and as a volunteer assistant at the University of Arizona for Frank Busch: whom he coached at St. Xavier from 1965-1968.
In 2009, Behrens was inducted into the St. Xavier High School Hall of Fame as the coach who “laid the foundation for the St. (Xavier) Swimming Dynasty.” As the story is told by the school, “a Jesuit Scholastic was the St. X Swim Coach for the 1962-1963 season. He went home to Chicago for Christmas break and never came back. St. X needed a swim coach to finish out the season and Tom Ballaban found the perfect coach: an English teacher who couldn’t swim.
“Little did (Tom Ballaban) know, that when he hired Bill Behrens, he put in place a coach who laid the foundation for the St. X Swimming Dynasty,” a program that has won more state titles than any school, in any sport, in Ohio.
“The first thing Bill Behrens needed to learn was the difference between butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. He borrowed (Ballaban’s) film projector and spent countless hours watching swimming technique films made by Doc Counsilman.”
That first season, St. Xavier finished 13th at the state championship meet with a coach who didn’t know how to swim. By 1965, they had climbed to 8th. His coaching tree has now been involved in most of St. Xavier’s 30-straight state titles.
Dave Rollins, the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast University, who swam for Behrens at Arizona, remembered his former coach:
“I met Bill for the first time when I stepped foot on deck at the University of Arizona in the fall of 2002. It was there that he changed my life forever. Bill was the first coach whom educated me on the sport of swimming. Before Bill, swimming was just swimming. Bill took me under his wing and helped me realize the impact each individual has not only on the team, but also on each other. The lessons he taught me, I will forever hold dear to my heart. Bill wanted each and every person he connected with to realize that they were not just there to better themselves. They were members of a team to better those around them. Bill’s was known for his goalsetting talks and his art of splitting races. However, it was his (maybe not his originally) concept of “giving yourself up to something bigger than yourself” that opened my eyes and mind to allow me to be a better swimmer, teammate, coach, husband and father. If not for Coach Behrens, I would not have met my wife, I would not have my amazing family and I would not be the man that I am today. I can only hope that I am able to pass his lessons on and continue his legacy.”