A coach who inspires more than diving

“Inspirational, enthusiastic, and encouraging.” Those were the three words 19-year-old Alissa Zetzman used to describe the man who has influenced her life in more ways than one.

Bill Walker is one of the most recognised names in the diving world among coaches, Olympians, and diving board of directors across the globe. However, he was not always set on being a part of the diving world.

“I dived in high school until my junior year, then went off to a school where there was no diving. After high school, I was at Miami University and tried out for the diving team and got cut. That was the best thing ever for me,” says Walker.

“I ended up as a lifeguard at a country club where Olympic champion, Pete Desjardins, was the manager. Well, he about killed me for a year or so with work and fundamentals, but the next year I returned to Miami, tried out, and made the team.”

After graduating from Miami, Walker stayed in the diving world by dabbling in coaching. Walker took a short break from coaching to start his own law practice, start a family, and make his way up the ranks at USA diving.

Once he was more settled, he started back coaching at St. Petersburg Catholic High School where his older son went to school.

“Parents had to do service hours for the school and, well, coaching is lots more fun than picking up trash in the parking lot, so I went back to coaching diving for the school,” says Walker.

Walker is still coaching at SPC and created his own diving club, SPC Diving, where he takes on other divers from local high schools who he thinks has the drive and potential to make it to the collegiate diving level.

One of his divers from Lakewood High School, Madalyn Golightly, says, “The best thing about coach is that he is willing to do anything for his divers, and he has a

lot of confidence in each one of us. He sees our potential before we see it ourselves and treats us as if we were his own children.”

Golightly has been diving on Walker’s SPC Diving club for four years and is currently being recruited by multiple universities around the country.

Over the years Walker has had many divers come and go, but all of them are special in his heart as individuals.

“The best thing is how so many of my divers stay with me over the years, keep in touch and come see me when they are in town.  One diver, now in her late 50’s and an Episcopalian minister, regularly lets me know how things are. She sent me an incredible letter years after diving about her experiences with me,” said Walker beaming at the thought of his divers past and present.

As one of his alumni divers and “the daughter he never had”, Walker even goes on to mention the relationship he and I have developed over the course of the seven years he has known me, saying, “look at the relationship between you and me – you have helped me so often, keeping me on target, guiding me in handling situations with kids, etc. Even your going over to a different team in high school taught me to strive to become more positive in my coaching. Some teams really endure, Jordan, and you and I are certainly one of them.”

Catie Carr, 18, who has been diving with Walker for two years said, “The most memorable moment with coach for me was after the my 2011 State meet. I didn’t have a good meet but coach said he was still tremendously proud of me and he was proud to call me his diver.”

“The most rewarding part of coaching is so simple. Take a kid who is weak, usually lacks confidence, often can be either resentful or apathetic at first and turn that kid into a confident champion as a person, whether they ever win a big meet or not,” said Walker.

“It really is all about you [the coach] and the kid. Once I connect with a kid, it’s so positive to see how much I can bring out. Not just diving skill but success in grades, behavior, integrity, all of it. You have to coach the whole person to achieve whatever level of success the kid can reach.”

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