Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team

  Head Coach & Team Owner:  Bill Forrester 

  E-mail:  [email protected]

WHY SWIM WITH GCAT?

Not only is swimming fun, but it also provides numerous health benefits.  Swimming is a form of physical exercise that raises heart rate, improves cardiovascular endurance, strengthens lung capacity, builds and tones muscles, and improve sleeps.  Swimming can also boost self-confidence while teaching work ethic, commitment, goal setting, and time management skills. GCAT swimmers learn proper mechanics and focus on improving their technical skills and speed as they practice in age-appropriate groups. Athletes will be encouraged to vizualize their success and maintain a Positive Mental Image. Most go on to swim at the collegiate level and develop a lifelong love for swimming and competing. GCAT is a competitive year-round swim team for swimmers ages 5-18 years old. Head Coach Bill Forrester, Olympic Bronze Medalist, leads a group of experienced swim coaches who teach beginning to advanced stroke techniques while encouraging their swimmers to be disciplined, goal orientated, well-mannered, and AMAZING swimmers! 

Coach Bill Forrester - Head CoachOlympic Medalist, Former World Record-Holder, Owner & Founder of Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team 

At age 17, Bill Forrester won the Gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly and the Bronze medal in the 100-meter butterfly at the 1975 World Championships in Cali, Columbia.  A year later he went on to win the Bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec.  At the 1978 World Championships in West Berlin he won two Gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle and the 4x200-meter freestyle, as well as, a Bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle.  He made the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men's Swimming team and received a Congressional Medal of Honor as an athlete who earned their spot to compete, but who was forced to  forfeit the opportunity to compete.  The 1980 Olympic games were in Moscow and the United States had decided to boycott the Olympics in protest of Russia invading Afghanistan.  Forrester went on to graduate from Auburn University in 1980.  Knowing he wanted to remain in the sport of swimming he founded the Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team in Savannah, Georgia in 1994. 

          

Over the last 28 years of coaching, Coach Bill has received numerous awards and special recognitions for his contributions to swimming and his coaching excellence.  However, you would not be able to find any of his plaques or trophies as he doesn't rely on these awards to validate his worth.  He knows his success is confirmed by his past swimmers' successes and ongoing accomplishments.  His coaching philosophies change with each individual swimmer's needs.  He has the ability to guide swimmers in goal setting that is realistic and achievable.  He has committed his coaching life to the pursuit of competitive excellence for his swimmers.  He inspires and leads all of his swimmers and coaches to put in the hard work, be persistent, stay focused and do what it takes to achieve their goals. 

 

Coach Ben Umbreit

Coach Ben grew up in Pullman, Washington where he enjoyed a long and successful competitive swimming career from the age of 7 through 18. Ben was then recruited to swim for the University of New Mexico. During college Ben’s ideas about swimming took a turn. He spent his summers assisting a local summer league program and fell in love with coaching.  After graduating college Ben hung up his speedos and moved to the San Fransisco Bay Area in California, where he pursued his new passion and became the head swim coach at Pacifica High School as well as an age group coach for the San Mateo Marlins.  

 

In 2009, after expanding his horizons by living abroad for a year, Ben moved to Savannah with his wife and started coaching for what was known then as the Richmond Hill Swim Club. Shortly thereafter he joined the prestigious coaching staff at Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team.  He began by assisting the great Walt Weed, a man Bill Forrester dubbed “a guru of swimming.” In 2017 Ben took over as the head site coach in Richmond Hill, where he has helped elevate and grow the program to considerable success.  

 

In 2019 Ben was given the opportunity to expand his coaching skill and knowledge by guiding the local chapter of Masters Swimming, the Savannah Sea Dragons. Within this experienced group of swimmers, Ben oversees the training of several high-level athletes, including Kiel Bur, the world’s fourth-ranked Iron Man, in his age group.

 

 

 Coach Walter Weed   November 7, 1953 - January 19, 2019

 Those that touch our lives stay in our hearts   forever! 

 Walter Weed was a GCAT swim coach of the Gold & Silver     practice groups at the Savannah location for over 20 years.  He worked closely with Bill Forrester to perfect swimmer's technique and mentally prepare them for competing.  He was the gatekeeper for swimmers to get promoted to Coach Bill's Senior group...once he knew they were ready.  

Coach Walt was soft spoken, humble, patient, but also tough as nails.  He expected his swimmers to listen, be respectful, follow instructions and think.  He would treat his swimmers with relays at the end of a good practice, but he always expected them to choose their team wisely.  Before practice he would share amazing tales of his past adventures while he was in the Navy and negotiating peaceful resolutions.  Swimmers would show up early in order to hear a story or two.  He could be overheard telling them about his Alcatraz swim with sharks or confirming how he was struck by lightning not once, but twice.  Despite being restricted to a wheelchair for 5-6 years, he could be heard saying "Easy Life" or "No Complaints" when asked how he was doing.  He was a strong and consistent rock that his swimmers could count on day after day to be at the pool, one practice after another, no matter how he felt or if he had to get dropped off hours before a practice started.  He was always ready with a deliberate & pre-calculated set which he would admit if he had borrowed it from the Auburn swim team files years earlier.  Despite seeming quite, if you approached Coach Walt he would share a joke about a dancing ant or an anecdote about one of his previous swimmers who had won 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" while waiving small American flags.  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 during Finals at 14&U GA State SC Championships, Feb 2019  

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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

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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 

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Word Art taken from words and memories current and past swimmers used to describe Coach Walt (below)