When I joined the Modern History Department at Macquarie University, I did not realize how many members were into swimming. By odd coincidence, I spent a good deal of my early years swimming at national competitions. My new colleagues spotted a vulnerability and soon I was also part of their Saturday morning racing down at the Spit Amateur Swim Club at beautiful Balmoral Beach in Mosman.
One of my colleagues, Tanya Evans, has taken the history/swimming nexus to the next level and produced a stunning volume to commemorate 100 years of the Spit Club. Needless to say, she had plenty of members to ask for contributions. Tanya asked me to write on the history of coaching in Australian swimming … from a personal perspective. Never having written anything remotely resembling sports history (or, for that matter, personal history), this turned out to be quite a challenge—but one which has inspired me to think in fresh ways about Australian history, popular history, and the presence of the personal in history writing.