Coaching gold medalists: Local coach discusses time with olympian

The Shield talked to USI alum Dave Baumeyer, the Reitz High School swim team coach and gold medalist Olympian Lilly King’s former coach about what it was like to coach an olympian and his time at the USI.

The Shield: What have these last few weeks been like since the Olympics?

Dave Baumeyer: It’s pretty crazy. The last couple of weeks a lot of people have been calling including friends, family, some people that I didn’t know at all and a lot of the Reitz swim family.  I’ve done some TV interviews, some radio interviews and a few newspaper interviews. It’s been a little crazy, but it’s been a lot of fun.

The Shield: What did you do when you attended the university?

Baumeyer: I graduated in 1980 and I was on the six-year program. I graduated from Reitz in 1974 and in college I was trying to be a professional bowler. At that time I was taking six to nine hours, I was working two jobs and I was bowling in regional tournaments. I was also a member of Sigma Tau Gamma. We did a lot on campus and I was a member of three eagle grand prix bike team as well as bowled on the college team. We made it to the NCAA regional one year and I was working at the newspaper in Feb. 1977 and when I graduated  from college the job came open.

The Shield: Did you have any previous swim experience?

Baumeyer: I actually started doing triathlons in 1982. I am a self-taught swimmer and I got some help from some friends and a couple coaches at the YMCA. As far as competitive swimming, no. When I applied for the job I don’t think anyone else applied for it and that was some of it, but I watched a lot of videos, read a lot and learned as we went along. Over 16 years I have learned quite a bit.

The Shield: Do you feel you were able to help King get where she is today based off of experience?

Baumeyer: It’s been a team effort by many coaches around here … it wasn’t one ego who was taking credit for this or that or the other. It’s been a collective effort from a lot of coaches and I feel very fortunate and proud to be a part of her high school career.

The Shield: Did she stick out during your time coaching her?

Baumeyer: The club that she swam for was the Greater Evansville Aquatic Team and I knew she was pretty good before we got her at Reitz. Her junior year there were only two high school girls that broke a minute in 100 breaststroke and it just so happened the other girl was from Indiana also and (King) finished second her sophomore and junior year. The girl that beat her broke a minute too, so if she was in any other state in the U.S. she would’ve been a state champion. She was on a national level when she went to some junior meets around and she did quite well. I think then we had a good thought that she was going to be be very good. I can’t say I thought she was going to win a gold medal. But I did think she was going to have a very good college career and see her grow. It’s been pretty cool.

The Shield: Have you had any other accomplishments over the years?

Baumeyer: We had another swimmer who was a state champion from Reitz in 2005 and I was just a volunteer then. I was a head coach from 2001-2003 then stepped down for three years but I was going all the time and a little bit of it was job related which is why I gave it up and so I was a volunteer coach. The swimmer made state in 2005 in the 100 freestyle and 200 and he went on to Purdue. In the 2008 olympic trials he finished 54th in the 100 freestyle and he was the only other kid I had been around that went to the Olympic trials. He had a good career at Purdue and I think he still holds their records in freestyle today.

The Shield: Did you play any sports at USI?

Baumeyer: No I did not, I thought I would be a football coach to be honest … but when I got the job at the newspaper I was working every Saturday and if you want to coach the junior football programs all the games are on Saturday and it never worked out.

The Shield: What is your favorite part of coaching?

Baumeyer: At the high school level it’s fun to watch the kids grow over four years and it goes by a lot quicker than you think. It’s really gratifying to get some kids that aren’t very good that we’ve cut and they end up doing very well …  seeing things like that is very gratifying. Everyone keeps asking me, because I’m 60 and they say ‘How much longer are you gonna coach?’ and I said as long as I’m having fun and enjoy the coaching, I’m going to do it as long as I can. We tried to emphasize that swimming is hard and we do have two hour practices every day. We work the kids hard but we try and make it as much fun as we can and a good experience for their four years of high school swimming.

The Shield: What got you into sports?

Baumeyer: I played football when I was younger …  I was 13 and I went to the regional but I wasn’t very fast and I got frustrated. They wanted me to play on the line and I wanted me to play quarterback and that’s when I gave up my football career. That’s also when bowling came along and I was second in the state junior year and 6th in senior year and that’s when bowling took off. I always played sports, I played little league baseball and basketball in grade school, I did a little of everything and then coming out of college I started putting on some weight and I started going to the YMCA and met a couple of buddies and we started running and I was already a pretty good bicyclist and one of my buddies said we should do some triathlons and I said ‘well I can’t swim a lick.’ I think I did my first triathlon in ‘84 or ‘85 and did them three, four or even eight a year, for 15 to 20 years. I did seven marathons and I don’t know how many half marathons. I’ve participated in a lot of triathlons and stuff in the Midwest and had fun doing it.

The Shield: Have you ever thought about participating in the Olympics or thought about going?

Baumeyer: I never thought about it to be honest and I have never been to the Olympics. I went to the Olympic trials for swimming this year but that was the first time and it was crazy and a lot of fun. (King) won the 100 and 200 and just watching all the swimmers in a venue like that, they build a pool in a huge basketball stadium and there’s 13,000 people there and you don’t go to that many swim meets where there are 13,000 people cheering and yelling like a basketball game or a football game, so it was exciting. Probably one of the coolest weeks I’ve experienced in my lifetime.