By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
BETTY Cole, remembered as a phenomenal leader with a keen knack for discipline, who left her mark as a pioneering basketball player, swimming coach and Girl Guides leader, passed away on Saturday.
She was 92 years old and reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
One of her top swimmers David Morley, who went on to represent the Bahamas at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California, called her a phenomenal woman, whom he started swimming for at the age of seven to 20 in the 1970s.
“She was remarkable. I wouldn’t want to call her a mentor because she was really like a parent to me,” he said. “She made me become a better person.
“She always made sure you knew right from wrong and when it was time to swim, she sent everybody in the pool and believe it or not, when she said get into the pool, everybody got into the pool. Nobody lingered, nobody jerked around or anything. It was like game time.”
Those practice sessions transcended to the swim meets where Morley said when Cole instructed them to “swim hard,” everybody went out and did just that.
“You couldn’t do anything but swim hard,” he said.
While the Dolphins Swim Club was based at Xavier’s, Morley said Cole also took a group of swimmers to train at St Augustine’s College in the mornings.
“She would actually come and pick me up for the morning practices and dropped me back home,” he recalled. “I had one of my fond memories sitting down in the front of the father’s house.
“In the winter days, it was dead cold and you really didn’t want to go to practice. But I could literally hear her car turning the corner from Shirley Street onto East Bay Street. I was like ‘oh, she’s here, I have to go.”
Morley shared some of those early morning sessions with swimmers like Don and Jeff Waugh, Jimmy Lightbourn, Jimmy Blake and Owen and Chad Shepherd.
“In those days when the Dolphins had a swim meet, we had an intermission for about an hour and it was almost like it was a whole family event because you had someone barbecuing burgers,” Morley said.
“The meals were phenomenal. Everybody had a great experience. She had a way of getting the parents involved. Everybody knew exactly what they had to do and they did it.”
Morley said Cole was a “phenomenal leader,” who demanded “the respect” of everyone. “It was one of those things where no one wanted to do anything to displease her because we had so much respect for her.”
After competing in the Olympics, Morley had a chance to compete in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland, but unfortunately, the Bahamas Government boycotted the night before the team was scheduled to travel because of South Africa’s participation.
“I was in my prime. If I had done my time in the 100m backstroke, I could have won a silver medal,” Morley said.
“If I had beaten my time by two tenths of a second, I could have won the gold medal.”
Morley left St Andrew’s School after grade eight to attend Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Massachusetts, before he went on to swim for Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
His daughter, Laura Morley, is currently in Indiana training for the postponed 2020 Olympics next year in Tokyo, Japan. She graduated from Indiana University and is now training with the pro team. Andy Knowles, a 1976 Olympic swimmer who went on to coach the Bahamas team at six Olympics from 1983 to 2008, recalled the days he started working with Cole for about 40 years.
“I never did swim for her, but coached alongside her. I have pleasant memories of her coaching days,” said Knowles, who eventually went on to form the Swift Swimming Club, which included his son, Jeremy, whom he coached at the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
Knowles noted how after the Nassau Yacht Club programme stopped at the end of the 1960s, which involved his early competitive swim days, Cole alongside David Sumner and others started the Dolphin Swim club, which is now the oldest swim club in the Bahamas.
“Betty loved coaching children and was a strong disciplinarian, who taught her swimmers to be upright students as well as good swimmers,” Knowles said. “She developed many of the country’s top swimmers who represented the Bahamas well, all the way to the Olympic level, swimmers like Bruce Knowles, David Morley, Garvin Ferguson, and Tim Eneas. She was a great patriot to our country and sport and will be missed.”
The Bahamas Government eventually renamed the basketball court at Malcolm Park, the Betty Cole Basketball Park to honour her achievements as one of the first female basketball players in the country.
Having grown up in the Sears Road area, Cole helped to form the Sweet Sears Association, which was responsible for developing the park.
For a long time as a teacher at Xavier’s Roman Catholic School, Cole operated the Dolphins Swim Club where she was responsible for developing a number of local and international swimmers. May her soul rest in peace.