Bauerle’s Olympic-sized midlife crisis
Source: AJC.COM By Jeff Schultz
Beijing – The last time Jack Bauerle went through a midlife crisis, it played out like Benjamin Braddock’s pool party in, “The Graduate.”
“My dad was a manufacturer’s rep,” Bauerle said. “He did actually say to me one day: ‘Jackson. Plastics. It’s a big deal.’ His best friend invented the plastic straw.”
And so, for once in his life, Bauerle leapt into something other than water. He was making $3,000 a year as an assistant swim coach at Georgia. He left in 1977 to try out his father’s business.
“I knew in the first week I wanted out – actually I knew the first day,” he said. “But my dad made me stick it out a year.” A year later, longing for the smell of chlorine, he was back to Athens.
That was 30 years ago.
Jack Bauerle, on loan to the U.S. Olympic team, is in Beijing as the women’s head coach. Anybody who wonders about his qualifications need only look around. There are 10 swimmers from five nations here who swam for Bauerle at Georgia. That brings his Olympic count to 30 swimmers.
“Ten? Is that right?” Bauerle said. “I wish them the absolute best – unless it gets down to the wire against one of our’s.”
He says he wasn’t counting. But he admits he “can’t get through a warm-up” without bumping into a former Bulldog. If he needed to update his resume, all he would need is a camera on the pool deck. Start with Kara Lynn Joyce, who already has won a silver medal for the U.S. and knows why. “The last four years blows my mind. I don’t think I could’ve been as successful with any other coach,” she said.
The only thing Bauerle knows better than swimming is teenagers. Probably, that’s because he is one. His close friend, Chris Davis, joked that if Bauerle “walked into a room and the adults were on one side, he would end up on the other side with the kids. Casey Stengel said he looked in a mirror and saw a young man trapped in an old man’s body. That’s Jack. But as coaches, I think we’re all a little that way.”
They just don’t all travel the world to surf. It’s one of Bauerle’s passions. He returns to Atlanta Aug. 23, which will end seven and a half weeks on the road. Two weeks after returning, he’ll leave with Davis and two other friends to go surfing in Costa Rica.
Why Costa Rica?
“I left my board there last time,” he said.
But then, we’ve all been there.
The man is 56 years old. Just don’t tell him.
He has been surfing since he was 10 on the Jersey shore, and the scenery has gotten significantly better since then: California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, England, Scotland. (Still on his water bucket list: Fiji and Cape St. Francis.) He owns seven surf boards, two of which are in his office at the Ramsey . He said he “chisels two trips” into his schedule every year.
Bauerle is an avid tennis player. He has run a marathon. He once combined the two and competed in a tennis marathon as a fundraiser. Bauerle and his partner played for 36 hours, resting only five minutes per hour.
Dumbest thing he’s ever done. When it was over, he said he felt as if “he had been dragged by a car.”
It gets worse.
“I literally hallucinated. I just saw people that were not there. I saw an old girlfriend who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. But my partner Chris [Brown] really went off the deep end. We had these 90-second changeovers. At one point, Chris comes over and says, ‘If I don’t start playing better I’m going to lose my scholarship.’”
This all must seem like a dream. It’s Bauerle’s third Olympics but first as a head coach.
As a swimmer at Georgia, he considered himself “mediocre at best.”
As a coach, “I just wanted to get things going. This was never on the radar.”
Swimming’s gain. Plastics’ loss.