OTTUMWA — Mike McWilliams started out coaching swimmers at the Ottumwa Country Club at the young age of 19.
Over 50 years later, the pool where over 50 Ottumwa swimmers came to compete this season for the Bulldog girls will now have the name of the of that man that built the program from the ground up. McWilliams was honored on Tuesday during Ottumwa’s home girls swimming dual with Des Moines Roosevelt as city officials made it official, naming the competition pool inside The Beach after the man that spent most of his life teaching the sport of swimming.
“It took me awhile to learn that the coach-athlete relationship was a partnership. We work together to improve,” McWilliams said. “The thing I love about swimming is that improving is winning. Coaching to me was a joy. I really loved it and I hope everyone gets to love their job as much as I did because you’ll want to keep doing it forever.”
One of the many swimmers that McWilliams coached at Ottumwa, Cherie Langland, is now following in the shoes of McWilliams, serving as the head coach for both the Bulldog swimming program. Langland headed up a committee that included Nancy Menke, Bruce McGiverin, Mike Griffin, Curt Zimmerman, Craig Bauerle, Jim Lawson and Teresa McGiverin in bringing the proposal to the Ottumwa city council to name the Beach competition pool after the man that helped build Ottumwa swimming into a statewide powerhouse.
“Anyone who grew up in Ottumwa and swam for Ottumwa knows the value of Mike McWilliams,” Langland said. “I grew up as a kid swimming for Mike McWilliams. He had a huge impact on my life, personally. He was my swimming coach during my senior year of high school. Mike has had an impact on many generations of swimmers.”
In over 40 years as a head coach of the Ottumwa swimming program, McWilliams led the Bulldogs to great heights. Ottumwa crowned two state champions while under McWilliams tenure and was a top-five team during a big run in the mid-90’s.
“The passion and commitment that he gave for swimming for so many years warrants this honor and then some,” Langland said. “Even today, when we go out of town for meets, someone will come up and ask me about Mike McWilliams. He’s made a statewide impact on the swimming community. To have our local pool named after him, a hero of Ottumwa swimming, is such a deserved honor.”