Coach for all classes

The West Australian - - OBITUARIES - FRED DE LACY Swim­ming pi­o­neer Born: Perth, 1921 Died: Perth, aged 90 John McIwraith

Fred de Lacy was one of the pi­o­neers of Aus­tralian swim­ming, who be­gan coach­ing in a back­yard pool — still in use — half a cen­tury ago.

Fred trained many West Aus­tralian cham­pi­ons in his self-built pool a few years af­ter his sis­ter Eve­lyn swam for Aus­tralia at the no­to­ri­ous 1936 Olympics in Ger­many (nazi pro­pa­ganda and racial per­se­cu­tion were an un­com­fort­able back­ground).

His fam­ily re­mem­ber Fred for the charmed child­hood they en­joyed un­der his guid­ance on the Swan River, a Huck­le­berry Finn type ex­is­tence in small boats, fish­ing and swim­ming.

Fred had many suc­cesses as a coach. They gave him great sat­is­fac­tion. But there was even more in re­call­ing the hun­dreds of chil­dren he had taught to swim in the fam­ily pool (it was one of the first heated pri­vate pools in Perth).

Fred, the youngest of 14 chil­dren, was born to Ernest and Louise de Lacy on April 3, 1927 at King Ed­ward Hospi­tal in Su­bi­aco, al­though the fam­ily home was in May­lands.

Fred was born a cou­ple of years be­fore the Great De­pres­sion. His fa­ther was poorly paid and the river was a vi­tal source of food for fam­i­lies along its banks.

Fred joined the army near the end of World War II and later worked in the coun­try for a cou­ple of years.

In 1948 he be­came a foun­da­tion mem­ber of the May­lands Swim­ming Club in Bath Street, May­lands. From then he taught swim­ming and coach­ing in the river.

He mar­ried Winifred “Wina” Davey in 1949. The fol­low­ing year the first of his five chil­dren was born, an­other Fred, and later came Perry, Sherri, De­bra and Wayne.

The cou­ple lit­er­ally built their home, us­ing bricks they had made them­selves af­ter a day’s work, and Wina re­mem­bers the bruises on her shoul­ders from car­ry­ing five con­crete tiles at a time up the lad­der for roof­ing.

In 1960, they be­gan build­ing the pool next to the house, the first heated pool north of the Swan River.

On Box­ing Day 1960 the first swim­ming lessons were given there.

Not that it in­ter­rupted Fred’s rou­tine. He rose at 4.30am, and went crab­bing. Mina took the swim­ming lessons while Fred rowed his boat from May­lands to near the Bar­rack Street Jetty, a 12km each-way trip, to join his friends.

He re­turned with a big catch of river food for the fam­ily.

Swim­ming lessons have con­tin­ued ever since, mov­ing from pool to pool with the de Lacy pas­sion for teach­ing and coach­ing be­ing passed on through the gen­er­a­tions.

In 1960 Fred or­gan­ised club fam­ily bush walks at Mun­dar­ing, Kala­munda, He­lena Val­ley and Bulls­brook. They were pop­u­lar but par­ents com­plained it was hard to get their chil­dren to train­ing the next morn­ing be­cause they were too sore to move.

About this time the fam­ily be­gan early morn­ing river train­ing swims.

The younger chil­dren were in a small boat while the older ones swam from jetty to jetty.

The young ones never stayed in the boat long, with Fred row­ing the boat and throw­ing chil­dren into the wa­ter then try­ing to row away be­fore they could climb back in.

He con­tin­u­ously shouted in­struc­tions to his swim­mers, en­sur­ing that no one ever got back in the boat or close to it.

The or­gan­ised chaos was in fact care­fully man­aged by Fred, cre­at­ing a lively for­mat for train­ing.

His coach­ing in­cluded ocean swim­ming and in­cluded com­peti­tors in the Olympics, the Com­mon­wealth Games, World Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships, Aus­tralian and State cham­pi­onships, Par­a­lympics, open-wa­ter swim­mers, school swim­ming, mem­bers of surf life sav­ing and Royal life sav­ing groups and wa­ter polo.

He was one of the first peo­ple to teach chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties to swim.

He was a great be­liever in the skill fac­tor, analysing and re­in­forc­ing good tech­nique.

“Get the skill right, and the speed will fol­low,” he said.

In 1989, Fred was awarded the Or­der of Aus­tralia and Mem­ber of the Or­der of Aus­tralia for his con­tri­bu­tion to the sport of swim­ming.

When Fred re­tired from coach­ing and son Wayne took over the po­si­tion he still con­tin­ued to help at the pool, teach­ing skills to the younger groups un­til he was 88.

Fred had a wide range of in­ter­ests, even though swim­ming was the cen­tral one. He loved fish­ing, and took the fam­ily on long trips to Shark Bay, to fish and surf at re­mote beaches, cheer­fully ac­cept­ing the sandy dis­com­forts of spar­tan camp­ing.

He also had a baf­fling in­ter­est in horserac­ing, a hand­some an­i­mal sud­denly ap­pear­ing on the front lawn. The fam­ily never were told how he had ac­quired it.

Chal­lenged to ex­plain what he was go­ing to do with it, Fred said that he that he would train it as he did his swim­mers.

He went on to be­come a re­spected horse trainer.

Fred de Lacy’s or­gan­ised coach­ing chaos was in fact care­fully man­aged.

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