Former Olympic Coach Believes Anything is Possible
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Ben Davis believes anything is possible.
“I was born in a tiny town on a small hill in Kentucky, yet ended up being an Olympic coach,” Davis said. “If that doesn’t show you anything can happen, nothing does.”
Davis served as the head coach of the 1996 Turkish Olympic swim team. During his 39-year coaching career, he has made stops at the University of Alabama and the University of Kentucky. He was recently named Head Age Group Coach of the Huntsville Swim Association.
“We hired not just the best coach I know, but one of the best coaches in the country,” HSA Head Coach Matt Webber said. “It was beyond excitement for us that it was even a possibility. He’s taught me so much over the years and probably the majority of what I’ve learned as a coach is due to him and who I am as a coach is due to him. This is a great opportunity to work together again. It’s a dream come true.”
Davis comes to HSA from Memphis (Tenn.) Tiger Swimming where he served as head coach for three years. Davis was head coach at the Birmingham Swim League, where he previously worked with Webber. Besides the college stops as an assistant, Davis was also head coach at High Point, N.C., Swim Club, Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Beaverton, Ore., and Wildcat Aquatics in Lexington, Ky.
He has mentored swimmers of all levels, including Olympians, Olympic Trials qualifiers, National and Junior National level athletes, plus many USA Swimming National Team members. He has spent time at the National level as General Chairman, Technical Planning Chairman, Finance Chairman, Rules and Regulation Chairman and many other positions.
Born in Owingsville, Ky., Davis grew up in a medical household. His father, Ed Davis, was family doctor for most of the residents in the town and surrounding counties. After Ed Davis received a degree in radiology, the family matriculated to Hopkinsville, Ky.
“That was another small town at the time, but they had a high school pool,” Ben Davis said. “Even though it was a small community, there are probably about 30 coaches from that area who are coaching right now.”
In 1976, Davis graduated from Christian County High School in Hopkinsville. He swam on scholarship at Centre College in Danville, Ky., for two years, before his competitive swim career was cut short by a shoulder injury.
“I really wanted to become a swim coach. I transferred to the University of Alabama to work as an assistant under Don Gambrel, who is a five-time Olympic coach. I figured if I was going to get into coaching, I should learn from the best person I could at the time.”
Davis graduated from Alabama in 1981 with a degree in public relations. How did he become an Olympic coach?
“I was coaching at Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Beaverton, Oregon. We had a swimmer on our team named Can Erol Ergenekan. His parents brought him from Turkey when he was 5 years old. He told the Turkish staff that he wanted me as the Olympic coach. He was one of their best swimmers ever, held a bunch of their records, was ranked very high in the world and I guess they liked his choice for coach. All of our swimmers went to school in the United States. They all had Turkish citizenships.”
With his outgoing personality, the Olympic experience enhanced Davis’ knowledge of the sport.
“I was able to talk to the greatest assembly of swim coaches in the world and I wasn’t afraid to ask for their insight.”
Davis thinks a positive approach to swimming is most beneficial to athletes. He feels understanding and addressing the mental aspect of the sport is crucial to success. Davis says, if you take care of a swimmer’s mind, as well as their body, there is no ceiling to success.
“To me, I’ve always thought a swimmer will do anything you ask and you don’t have to make them do it. If you treat them right, and tell them why, they will respond. My parents were very positive people. We truly believed anything is possible. That is what I try and convey to the swimmers. I will get on them when needed, but I think you should be positive with them and make them believe they can be as good as they want to be.”
Davis still enjoys working with swimmers more than anything. He helps them realize their potential and assists in their rise to the next level.
“With this group of kids I’m currently working with, it’s getting them ready for the juniors and seniors level. When I was working with that group, it was getting them ready for college and beyond.”
One reason Davis chose the Rocket City is due to the newly renovated Huntsville Aquatics Center. Mainly, though, he relocated for a chance to work with Webber again.
“I think Matt (Webber) does a great job here at HSA, “Davis said. “He is very organized and it rubs off on the staff. He has done so well building this team. Matt was really the big reason why I came to Huntsville. I’m getting toward the end of my career and I wanted to step back from the older kids and coach some of the younger ones and he has given me the opportunity to be the head age group coach here. It was too good of a deal to pass up, so I stepped in.”
The Huntsville Aquatics Center is host site for the legendary HSA Groundhog Meet, Jan. 26-28. Short course events start at 5:30 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 26. Ten-and-under swimmer events begin all-day competition at 8:30 a.m., on Saturday and Sunday.