Ray Bosse Coached at the United States Military Academy for 19 years, 13 (1989-2001) as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs.
During his tenure he led women to 3 conference championships and the men to 9 conference titles. Ray was named conference coach of the year 9 times, coached swimmers at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials, and coached three NCAA champions (2 women Div II and 1 male Div I).
I met Terry when he came to West Point in 1984 to train a swimmer long course for the ’84 Olympic Trials. I had known him in passing as a coach on deck, but when he came to West Point I got to know him on a more personal level. We became friends and in 1989 I needed to fill an unexpected vacancy on the staff in October for just the season. I knew Terry was in between coaching jobs and I needed someone who could immediately step in and coach for the remainder of the year.
During this year is when Terry visited Coach Bill Boomer in Rochester and was began to formulate the concept of TI. We talked about it on many of the bus rides to meets, and while at Colgate for a dual meet Terry met the director of summer camps and that summer held the first adult TI camp at Colgate.
After the 1989 season I hired another full time assistant and Terry focused on building the Total Immersion brand. As the freestyle weekend workshops grew in popularity I often assisted conducting the them in the Northeast. Terry was constantly adjusting the process based on his observations and was always eager to discuss new ideas.
In 1996 Terry and I had lunch and he asked about becoming a volunteer coach to show that the TI principles were applicable to Division I competitive swimmers. Many competitive coaches thought that TI only focused on slow technique based swimming and only applied to adults and open water swimmers. Having already applied many of the TI techniques to my teams at West Point, I quickly agreed to Terry’s request and gave him the sprint group because I felt they would be the most open to new ideas and I felt were frankly the most under performing group at the time.
Terry started in 1997 and coached through 1999. He would coach 3 times a week on deck and email his workouts the other two days. All the while he ran the growing TI company; at times I worried that he was burning the candle at both ends but that was Terry! By the end of the 1999 season the proof was there as evidenced by two of many success stories highlighted in the newsletter article below. Terry left to build TI into the world wide brand it would become.
I continued to work with Terry as he developed TI techniques to teach the the four competitive strokes to age group and masters swimmers. We had just two summers ago began filming in New Paltz with age group swimmers the teaching cues and steps for backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
What I miss most about Terry is his genuine kindness and the long discussions we would have on his back deck after doing a private lesson in his home-based swim studio. He was such an outside the box thinker, but most of all a real friend.
Ray Bosse contributed to the following tribute which appeared in this month’s ‘Army Swimming & Diving’ newsletter:
Terry Laughlin, an Army assistant coach in 1989 and from 1997 through 1999, passed away in October after suffering from prostate cancer. He began coaching at West Point when Head Coach Ray Bosse (’77) asked him to fill an unexpected opening in the staff.
“I got to know Terry when one of his swimmers who qualified for the ’84 Olympic Trials came to West Point to train long course,” Ray
says. “I found out how well he could coach, so when the position opened up, I thought of him right away.”
During the season, Terry conceived a process for teaching swimmers how to move through the water more efficiently using techniques that reduce drag and emphasize streamline and balance. The overreaching concept was more speed from less energy. He dubbed his novel approach Total Immersion, or TI, and left West Point after the ’89 season to develop the concept further. He stayed in touch with Ray, who from time to time assisted with TI workshops.
Total Immersion found a home in the 1990’s among triathletes and adult open water swimmers, but coaches of in-pool, competitive swimmers had their doubts. Terry approached Ray before the 1997 season about becoming a part-time assistant coach so that he could test his ideas on a group of Army swimmers.
“I was only too happy to accommodate him,” Ray says.
Terry was instrumental in the success of Heidi Borden (’01) and Joe Novak (’99) among others. Heidi went on to become the swimmer of the meet at the Patriot League Championships her senior year. Joe remains the only male named swimmer of the meet three consecutive years. His Academy record in the 100 free lasted 17 years until Chris Szekely (’16) broke it in 2015. He’s still ranked third all-time at Army the 50 and 100 free. In 2015, both Heidi and Joe were named to the Patriot League’s all-time team.
“Terry took me from a mediocre college swimmer to elite in one season,” Joe says. “However, what I remember most was his passion, his ability to break problems down, and most of all, his belief in us. He made me feel like I could do anything, and then he gave me the tools to be successful.”
Mary Roush (’00) gave a moving tribute at Terry’s memorial service in November in New Paltz, New York. Terry is survived by his wife Alice and their three daughters Fiona, Cari and Betsy.