Hobie Billingsley

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Hobie Billingsley
Billingsley in 1963
Born(1926-12-02)December 2, 1926
DiedJuly 16, 2022(2022-07-16) (aged 95)

Hobart Sherwood Billingsley (December 2, 1926 – July 16, 2022) was an American diver and coach. Billingsly started diving in the local YMCA, where he taught himself how to dive. Reaching state championships as a senior in high school, Billingsley was recruited to Ohio State University, where he won the NCAA title in both the one-meter and three-meter event. After leaving school to enlist in the United States Armed Forces during World War II, Billingsly returned to complete his post-graduate education. Billingsly's coaching career started at the high school level, where he built a program that won a state high school championship. He was quickly recruited to coach at the college level for Indiana University, where he coached for 30 years, leading them to six NCAA championships. During this time he also coached the U.S. Olympic Diving team on three occasions. After his coaching career, Billingsly stayed involved with diving by providing technical direction to divers and diving coaches. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and published a book on diving and coaching. In 1996, he took the oath for all officials at the Atlanta Olympics.

Early life[edit]

Billingsley was born to Wenonah (Willing) Billingsley and James in Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 2, 1926.[1][2][3] He taught himself how to dive by analyzing wallcharts at his local YMCA. During his final year of high school in 1943, he finished in third place at the national championships.[4] He then studied at Ohio State University (OSU), where he won the NCAA one-and three-meter titles during his freshman year in 1945.[2][4] After putting his studies on hold to enlist in the United States Armed Forces, Billingsley served in Japan during World War II before going back to OSU.[2] He subsequently undertook postgraduate studies at the University of Washington and obtained a master's degree.[4]


Billingsley first worked as a high school teacher and coach.[4] He was the swimming and diving coach at Allen Park High School in Wayne County, Michigan from 1955 to 1957,[2] where he molded the beginnings of a swimming program that led to Allen Park eventually capturing the Michigan High School Boys State Championship.[5] He was subsequently recruited by James Counsilman, the head swimming coach at Indiana University who created the position of diving coach especially for Billingsley.[2]

Billingsley served as the Indiana Hoosiers’s diving coach from 1959 to 1989. During these three decades, he led the Hoosiers to six NCAA and 23 Big Ten team championships. He also coached the United States Olympic diving team at the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Summer Games. Divers under his tutelage won 115 national diving titles and seven Olympic medals. His Olympic gold and bronze medalists include Lesley Bush, Kenneth Sitzberger, Mark Lenzi (twice), Cynthia Potter, Win Young, and Jim Henry.[2] Billingsley later established the World Diving Coaches Association in 1968 and the American Coaches Diving Association two years later.[6] He was regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of diving. He was profiled in the award-winning and widely televised documentary Hobie’s Heroes — 25th Anniversary Edition, which depicts the struggles and successes of young divers training under this legendary coach. The title was derived from the nickname he gave to his divers.[7]

Later life[edit]

Following retirement from university coaching, Billingsley continued to be active in the sport, training divers and coaches around the world, and was respected as a speaker on diving history, technique and ethics, and on sports in general. His book Diving Illustrated, a seminal work offering detailed technical support for coaching diving, was released in 1990,[2] with the second edition being published in 2018.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Billingsley married Mary Drake in 1952.[4] They met in college,[9] and had three children together.[4]

Billingsley was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in July 2018 and hospitalized.[10] He died on July 16, 2022, in Bloomington, at age 95.[2][11]

Honors and awards[edit]

Billingsley was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1983.[5] He was given the Sammy Lee Award, the most esteemed award in diving, in 1994.[2][6] That same year, he was enshrined in the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame.[6] At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, he took the oath on behalf of all judges.[2][12] The Counsilman–Billingsley Aquatics Center at Indiana University is named in his honor,[2] as is an award bestowed by the Indiana High School Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Litsky, Frank (July 18, 2022). "Hobie Billingsley, Coach of a Diving Dynasty, Dies at 95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Woods, David (July 16, 2022). "Hobie Billingsley, who helped create one of college sports' greatest dynasties, dies at 95". The Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on July 17, 2022. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  3. ^ "Diving legend Hobie Billingsley honored with 90th birthday celebration". IU.edu. July 12, 2017. Archived from the original on July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "A heretic in an arty sport". SI.com. Sports Illustrated. March 21, 1966. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Diving great Billingsley to give presentation at Presque Isle". Erie Times-News. June 16, 2018. Archived from the original on July 17, 2022. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c "Hobie Billingsley (1994)". Indiana Hoosiers. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
  7. ^ Lerner, Danielle (July 28, 2016). "IU diving legend paved way for Olympic success". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
  8. ^ Billingsley, Hobie (December 2, 2018). Competitive Diving Illustrated: Coaching Strategies to Perform 134 Dives. Trius Publishing. ISBN 9780998635712.
  9. ^ "Diving Coach Takes Post at IU". The Athens Messenger. April 30, 1959. p. 16. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  10. ^ "Hobie Billingsley Diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis; Recovering in Hospital". Swimming World Magazine. July 13, 2018. Archived from the original on July 16, 2018. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  11. ^ "Hobie Billingsley". Olympedia. Archived from the original on July 17, 2022. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  12. ^ "Games of the XXVI Olympiad, The 1996 Atlanta Olympics: Day 1 (Part 5 of 5) (TV)". paleycenter.org. Paley Center for Media. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "Hobie Billingsley Award". Indiana High School Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 18, 2022.

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