Terry Laughlin, Author of ‘Total Immersion,’ Passes at 66

Terry Laughlin, a former swimmer and coach who published the book Total Immersion and championed the importance and priority of technique in swimming, has passed away from complications due to prostate cancer.

Laughlin had been battling metastatic prostate cancer for about two years before finally losing that fight on Friday, October 20th. He was 66 years old at the time of his death.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Laughlin taught technique and was part of several coaches who were not interested in popular styles of competitive swimming that suggested muscling through the water as fast as possible. A pioneer of the sport, Laughlin and his coaching peers helped start a movement that would put technique first in the world of competitive swimming.

After founding his company, Total Immersion, in 1989, his work gave way to the book, also named Total Immersion, which was published in 1996. The book became one of the most sold books in the swimming world. He coached swimmers and taught the significance of technique, a lesson he learned after struggling to produce fast enough times to satisfy himself as a high school and college swimmer despite recalling how hard he had worked.

Please read this note from Laughlin’s family about how to remember him and where to send any well wishes and sympathy cards:

After living with metastatic prostate cancer for two years (about
which he blogged widely), Terry passed away on Friday, October 20th,
2017, of complications related to his condition. He displayed his
characteristic optimism, wit, and passion for life– and swimming–
until the very end. Our family is in mourning and we ask that we be
given time and space to grieve a beloved husband and father privately.
While he was “Ter” and “Dad” to us, we fully recognize that Terry was
also a legend in the swimming world and admired by countless people
whose lives he touched in meaningful ways. We appreciate the
well-wishes of Terry’s many friends, fellow coaches, students, and
fans. A memorial blog post will be on totalimmersion.net, with space
dedicated for expressions of condolence. A formal obituary is
forthcoming and plans for a public memorial, including several
memorial swim events, will be announced for 2018. Please direct all
inquiries to [email protected].

In lieu of flowers, we have set up the Total Immersion Swimming
Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the company, which will focus on
bringing high quality swim instruction to underserved communities.
Details to be announced in the near future.
Any sympathy cards may be sent to:

Total Immersion Inc.

P.O. Box 370

New Paltz, NY 12561

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NM Coach

Really enjoyed meeting Terry at an ASCA World Clinic when he was the featured speaker of the Level 2 Stroke School! He will be missed by MANY MANY coaches and swimmers!


I read his book at the time I had not swam for over 30 years and it helped me with freestyle.


Very sad and a big loss to the swimming world. Terry coached me to my first junior nationals back in the early 1980s. I remember spending each night at finals where Terry had his handful of swimmers watch the technique and racing strategies. Each night was an educational session for us young swimmers. Though I lost touch with Terry for many years after college, we reconnected a few years back at the La Jolla Rough Water Swim. If anything, his passion for swimming had increased and his attention to the finer details of strokes was even stronger.


Terry loved the sport of swimming and dedicated his professional career to contributing to its well-being. He’ll be missed. My condoances to his family.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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