SOICHI SAKAMOTO (USA)
Honor Coach (1966)
FOR THE RECORD: Great Hawaiian coach who developed many of the world champions between 1948-1956. All of his swimmers became National Champions during this period.
Soichi Sakamoto is the great coach responsible for modern Hawaiian swimming success. Hawaiian swimmers dominated the sport from 1912, but Buster Crabbe, in the 1932 Olympics, was their last champion of that long illustrious era.
Then came a drought and Japanese-Hawaiian Sakamoto, starting with children in an irrigation ditch, was developing new ideas of pace and rhythm with a metronome. His young swimmers were not the greats of Punaho School, then and still going on to Yale, but a new breed of public school swimmers going on to Ohio State and Indiana–Hirose, Nakama, Smith, Konno, Oyakawa, Onekea, Cleveland, Woolsey, Tenabe, Miki and the girls Kalama Kleinschmidt, Kawamoto and Hoe. All became national champions, most made the Olympic teams of 1948, 1952 and 1956.
During this period, Sakamoto was sought out by swimmers all over the world, journeying to Hawaii in search of the magic touch. They found technique, method dedication and conditioning, which produced champions at all strokes and distances, but as the coach told all in his somewhat difficult-to-understand English, “Magic, No!”
“The swimming stroke is a ‘working tool’,” says this master coach, “and therefore it must be one which must be sound in its practical use–to get the most out of a given effort. It must be simple and efficient, and one which can be controlled at will by the individual. . . Swimming with and not against the water.”
“Patience, above all, is tantamount and a rule,” Sakamoto continues, “as improvement, growth, speed and success come only at a snail’s pace. First, it is learning to swim, training and conditioning, competing and going through the bitter experiences of defeat and chagrin. The light of success comes only when everything seems hopeless and wasted.”