Willy O'Callaghan

Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

Category: Sports Honour Roll

Sport: Coach (Swimming)

In the sport of swimming Shepparton there has been one name that has stood out above all and that is Wilhemina or “Willy” O’Callaghan.

For over half a century Willy has been associated with the Shepparton Swimming and lifesaving clubs and has been responsible for thousands of young people being able to swim and swim at a high level.

Willy began as an eleven year old when swimming was suggested to her parents as an excellent therapy for an injured shoulder. She fell in love with the sport as a healthy lifestyle. She became a successful swimmer particularly in distance events and her favourite event the backstroke.

In her early 20s she got the coaching bug and started to take swimming lessons and help out with swimming club coaching.

Willy became a coach of renown within Victorian swimming circles and has had countless positive experiences with swimmers, families, club administrators and swimming officials.

Willy has coached a variety of swimmers to high level performance. Her first squad was called Willy’s Wagtails.

Willy was a pioneer in introducing strength, power and flexibility through training programs out of the pool.

One of Willy’s greatest swimmers, Elisha Fiddes went on to swim Butterfly for Victoria at the National Championships.

Other towns were beneficiaries of her ability as she also coached swimmers in Mooroopna, Echuca and Barooga.

Willy organised a number of swim-a-thons as fundraisers.

As an active member of the Lifesaving club she was involved in patrolling the original Raymond West pool, she became very proficient in safety and resuscitation skills achieving a Diploma, the Royal Lifesaving Societies highest award. Willy’s swimmers won National championships and swam for the State.

One of Willy’s greatest achievements was her coaching of Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame swimmer Kate Church to swim a world record and swim for the Australian team at the Sydney Paralympics. Willy’s 4 years guidance of Kate paid off and is something Willy can be justly proud of.

Willy has received a Life Membership of the Shepparton Swimming Club and a Life Governor award from the Lifesaving Club.

The Olympic Torch Committee recognised Willy’s commitment to swimming and gave her the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in a leg of the Sydney Olympics torch relay.

Whilst Willy has shown amazing patience and strategy when working with junior swimmers, she has also coached the Aussie Masters in recent years. Her humour and good will are part of the reason why swimmers keep coming back to her training programs.

Willy is a true legend of the sport and we salute her as she enters her 60th year as a swimming coach.

Willy O’Callaghan, welcome to the City of Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame honour roll.