November 7, 1953 - January 19, 2019
We will always remember our beloved Coach Walt!
Walter Weed was the GCAT swim coach of both our Gold & Silver practice groups at our Savannah location for over 20 years. He worked closely with Bill Forrester to perfect swimmer's technique and mentally prepare them for competing, prior to entering the Senior practice group with Coach Bill.
He was a soft spoken, humble, tough as nails, but extremely patient coach. He had amazing tales to tell of his adventures while he was in the Navy and in negotiating peaceful resolutions. He would talk about his swim from Alcatraz or confirm he was struck by lightning twice. Despite being restricted to a wheelchair a few years ago, he could be heard responding to a 'how are you doing?' with "Easy Life" or "No Complaints". For the swimmers, he was a consistent rock that they could count on day after day to be at the pool, one practice after another. He was always one of the first to arrive before practice and always ready with his deliberate & pre-calculated practice sets. He had admitted to borrowing some of the sets from the Auburn swim team files years ago. After school, his swimmers looked forward to arriving early to practice and visiting with him. Ready for them to arrive with a joke about a dancing ant or an anecdote about one of his previous swimmers in a great race. He led our swimmers towards technique improvements while encouraging respect, sportsmanship and leadership while competing. He believed in his swimmers' abilities and he knew the process in which to develop each one at their own pace. Never yelling at the children, but dealing patiently with their developing maturity and dramas.
In October 2018, the GCAT team surprised him with the first and well deserved, Lifetime Commitment to Swimming Award. His swimmers and parents proudly wore shirts with his picture and chanted "Walt, Walt, Walt". Even though he received his diagnosis of a terminal illness, he continued to make it to practice to coach. As he struggled with the increasing pain and exhaustion of fighting his cancer, he was more concerned about 'how to tell his swimmers he had a terminal illness', then about his own comfort. He did not want anyone's pity or tears, but most of all, he did not want to upset their focus. He tried to quietly remove himself from coaching, but his absence was immediately and unmistakably felt by all. He had positively touched too many lives. He had made his undeniable mark on the swimming community in Savannah, Georgia. He sent one last communication to be shared with the team. He sent a lyrical video of the song, Well Done by The Afters. One last lesson, one last teaching moment, one last encouragement for his swimmers, friends and family. On January 19, 2019 he lost his battle with cancer and passed away peacefully at home and surrounded by his loving family. Coach Walt will be greatly missed. He will also be remembered in all of our hearts. We were lucky to have had Walter Weed as a coach on our team. Well done Coach Walt!...Well Done!
Written by Trish Dibkey, GCAT parent
Read at 14&U GA State SC Championships, Feb 2019
Below is the tribute read by Coach Ben at Coach Walt's Surprise Award Ceremony in October 2018. The GCAT team wore white shirts with his picture on them and the words "The Man, The Myth, The Coaching Legend". They chanted his name as he came up to receive his award trophy. He was surprised to see his Masters' swimmers and family attend the festivities too.
Walter Weed – A Real Life Superhero
The stories read like those of a super hero. Struck by lightning, not once but twice. A man who speaks five languages fluently. He swam from Alcatraz to the San Francisco Bay Harbor. Oh, and he once rode his son to the hospital to get dire medical treatment on a horse.
But these stories are not from the pages of comic books; they are the life imprint of a man GCAT swimmers have fondly known as Coach Walt. Walt Weed was born on November 7, 1953 in Reading Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Georgia he went into the Navy. Once he returned to state side, he worked for the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence as a Peace and Resolution Consultant. When he retired from the Navy, he moved to Savannah and continued as a self-proprietor, with his pool business and as a coach for the GCAT Swim Club for the next twenty years.
In the Navy, he worked as a peace consultant reaching out during the turbulent Vietnam years to local village leaders to create opportunities for dialogue and peaceful reconciliation. While superhero-esque in itself, Walt’s ability to speak fluently five languages was used as a way to create peace, not further conflict. The soft-spoken, wisdom became more like Doctor Xavier from X-Men than Thor or Batman. His penchant for finding peace translated well to his ability to coach our kids in the pool.
Walt could be seen any given afternoon at the edge of the pool. If you didn’t know any better you might think that he was there just to watch. But as swimmer after swimmer exits the pool, Walt offers a soft word of stroke correction. He sees the little things – and a slight softly spoken word passed along transforms swimmers inch by inch. In an age where coaches scream on the sidelines in other sports to get kids attention, Walt merely speaks and kids listen. It’s a powerful reminder that bluster and bravado have nothing on substance and merit.
Coach Walt has for years motivated, challenged, nurtured, and improved GCAT Swimmers. His ability to speak wisdom, to relate to kids fifty years younger, and communicate in a way that has made them better swimmers and better people is profound. As we think on it, I’m pretty sure that Walt is a Superhero – a real life, in the flesh Dr. Xavier has been in our midst this whole time. I wonder how many of us knew?
Written by Mark Roark, GCAT parent
At recent swim meets Coach Walt's group of swimmers started writing #SFW on their arms with a sharpie. The 11-13 year old swimmers decided, on their own, to honor their coach and redirect their sadness into a positive goal to swim PRs in tribute to him. They know he is still watching over them and encouraging them as they swim. #SwimForWalt
Word Art taken from words and memories current and past swimmers used to describe Coach Walt (below)