Our History | Carlile Swimming

Carlile Swimming Leading the Way Since 1946

The Carlile name has been at the forefront of swimming since 1946. Founders, Forbes and Ursula Carlile pioneered swimming teaching and coaching methods which have been adopted worldwide.

Forbes started his journey at the idyllic Palm Beach Rock Pool, two years later he was Australia’s first Olympic coach. Find out more with Ian Thorpe, courtesy of Foxtel’s documentary The Spirit Of Australian Swimming. 

Two Revolutionaries

From teaching babies to swim, to coaching Olympians, the Carlile name is entwined with the history of Australian swimming. Along with providing world class swimming lessons for kids, founders Forbes and Ursula Carlile pioneered techniques used across the globe.

Forbes Carlile (far right) and Ursula Carlile (right) with Jenny Turrall (left) and Sally Lockyer (far left)

In the 1940’s, Forbes earned a Master of Science degree at Sydney University and worked alongside legendary sports scientist, Professor Frank Cotton.

“I became his vice-president of swimming so to speak,” Forbes joked years later.

At Palm Beach, Forbes began his scientific approach to swimming, introducing the world’s first pace clock and producing the first of nine world record holders, Olympic Gold medallist John Davies.

Forbes would pioneer heart rate monitoring, interval training, lane ropes and training goggles. He also holds the unique distinction of coaching at an Olympics before competing. In 1948 he coached Australia’s swimming team, in 1952 he competed in the modern pentathlon. 

Ursula was also a scientist and the two would go on to change world swimming.

1955 a New Beginning

In 1955 Forbes and Ursula started the first commercial swimming school in Australia. The pair would later build Sydney’s first indoor heated teaching pool, and introduced teaching babies to swim.

“I didn’t believe in baby teaching, but of course Forbes had already started, so I went down to check it out and was amazed,” said Olympic gold medal winning coach Laurie Lawrence.

“You couldn’t imagine what Forbes has done, Forbes has built the coaching profession.”

Indeed, Forbes was at the birth of modern coaching. In 1956, a time when there was no warm water, Forbes and a band of coaches took Australia’s leading swimmers to Townsville in the tropical north, to train through the winter in preparation for the Olympics.

At the time professional coaches were banned from the Games. Forbes promptly found an answer “I got a job at the ABC calling the swimming, so I could coach my pupils,” he said. Others got jobs writing for newspapers. The result, Australia’s most successful Olympics winning 8 of 13 events including every freestyle race on the program.

Australian swimming officials would never ban the coaches again.

Working for the ABC interviewing Lorraine Crapp prior to the 1956 Olympics
Coaching the Greats

Forbes and Ursula produced a procession of champions, names such as Karen Moras, Gail Neall, Jan Murphy, Terry Gathercole, John Ryan, John Bennett and Jenny Turrall. They also produced the incomparable Shane Gould.

At 15 Shane held every freestyle world record from 100m to 1500m, a feat that will surely never be repeated. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Shane won three Golds, all in world record times, a Silver and a Bronzel. Five individual medals at the one Olympics is a record that remains unmatched by any swimmer male or female.

The team Forbes and Ursula developed is the most successful in Australian Swimming History. Carlile coaches have produced more than 250 Australian Open Championship Gold medals, more than 50 Australian representatives and eight world record holders.

Shane Gould at Ryde Pool in 1972.
International Swimming Hall Of Fame

Forbes and Ursula Carlile are the only husband and wife coaching team to both be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. They are also members of the Australian Swim Schools Association Hall of Fame, The Swim Australia Hall of Fame and they are both Life members of Swimming Australia.

The pair spent time coaching the Dutch National team, Ursula also coached in China and in 1972 became the first woman to coach Australia’s Olympic Team. Ursula remains a director of Carlile Swimming. Sadly Forbes passed away in 2016. Click here to see a story by SBS on the Hall of Fame


“To Swim Well Is An Asset For Life”

The phrase minted by Forbes, came from a lifetime of watching youngsters develop a love of swimming. While their contribution to competitive swimming is unrivalled, the difference Forbes and Ursula made in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians is their lasting legacy.

Forbes and Ursula were always dedicated to learning and seeking to refine their approach. It’s that commitment to innovation and continued improvement that inspires us today.

Carlile swimming is now overseen by a board of directors that includes Ursula, Olympian John Coutts and Australian representatives Richard Cahalan and Tim Ford. The board is committed to the sport and pastime we love, because to swim well is an asset for life.

Forbes and world record holder John Bennett
Legendary Swimming coach Forbes Carlile

Learn More About Carlile Swimming

Why Choose Carlile

Learning to swim doesn’t just happen naturally. Carlile’s nurturing approach, refined over years of industry leading innovation, allows children to build the skills they need at one level to confidently springboard to the next. Your child will learn to swim well and love the water.

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Based on 109 reviews