Gym class was my favorite period in school. In fact, it was the only one I loved. And after school I would most likely be found on the playground or in a gym. When I got to Indiana University they had a requirement that you had to take two semesters of gym, except they didn’t call it gym, they called it “HPER.” There was a HPER building and a HPER program. The acronym stood for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The two HPER classes I chose were Diving and Trampoline. The Diving class was taught by Hobie Billingsley, who at the time was the US Olympic diving coach. IU had a great swimming team as well. Doc Councilman was the coach and he also coached the US Olympic swimming team. Mark Spitz was in my class. He sold pot on the side.
Hobie’s obituary was in today’s paper along with this photo. As the obit stated, “Great trust and rapport is needed between diver and coach.” I tell this story all the time but it bears repeating today. On the very first day of class, just after he introduced himself, he asked us all to climb to the very top of the high platform and fall backwards into the pool below. The 10 meter platform is comparable to the top of a three-story building. My knees were trembling as I climbed the open stairs. He told us that we needed to trust him and if we did and followed his instructions we would not be hurt.
Once at the top we were to walk to the front of the platform and then turn around so that our heels were on the very edge. We were instructed to stand tall and stiff and then simply fall backwards. There were some sloppy and somewhat painful entries but if you followed his instructions you would do a complete 360 before your toes entered the water.