Pioneering Swim Coach David Robertson Dies at 93 Years Old

Legendary swim coach and International Swimming Hall of Fame member David Robertson died on November 18th, 2019, 3 weeks short of his 94th birthday.

Robertson was the head coach at New Trier High School in suburban Chicago from 1946-1976, and at Waubonsie Valley High School from 1977-1987. In total with the two programs, he won 14 state championships and coached 204 All-Americans. He also served on the United States Swimming Board of Directors and was the president of the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches’ Association (NISCA) and the International Swimming Hall of Fame from 1975-1977. His athletes also set 405 National High School Records.

Robertson is considered a pioneer in bringing interval training, now universal in the sport, from running and Roger Bannister (he of the first sub-4-minute mile) to swimming, as well as the taper.

As a student at New Trier High School, the program he would eventually help build into one of the best in history, he was a state champion backstroker. After graduating high school, he entered the Navy V-12 program to become a Naval aviator. World War II ended before he earned his aviation wings.

Read a full obituary via the Chicago Tribune.


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olde coach

One of the true great ones. A terrific role model, who was always ready to listen and willing to answer questions. Truly deserved the title…….”Mr NISCA”. RIP my friend


It’s always amazing to hear how the sport evolved. One time I was volunteering for a big meet. A volunteer who was in his 70s was explaining how they didn’t do circle swimming until college, and then interval swimming became a thing.

I never did ask him if if they just did a lot of singles or if it was dive in swim to other side and walk back.

This does make sense if you’ve been in an old pool with how narrow the lanes are


They didn’t spend that much time in the pool because they didn’t have goggles. Probably lots of 20’s or 25’s (there were lots of 20 y pools). Not sure if from the dive or push, bc from film of the era before the 80’s, they had atrocious dives and very little emphasis on streamlines.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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