When Hobie Billingsley needed a place to live, Jim Everroad opened his home to his former diving coach at Indiana University.
Then, when Everroad needed a coach to help him in his quest to conquer the masters diving world, he didn’t have to look far.
Everroad and Billingsley turned back the clock more than 50 years last month when Everroad won a silver medal in the 70-74-year-old division in the FINA World Masters Championships in Kazan, Russia.
“That was a thrill, revisiting 1962,” said Everroad, 71, who grew up in Columbus and returned after working as a teacher and coach in Crown Point.
Billingsley, 89, was living with his daughter in Bloomington, but she got married. So Everroad invited him to live with him in Columbus.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you come up and live with me,’ so I did,’” Billingsley said. “Jim Everroad is a first-class young man. I am enjoying myself here, and I found it’s a nice town.”
A diving legend
When it comes to diving coaches, Billingsley is one of, if not the most famous, in the world.After winning national championships on the 1- and 3-meter springboards at Ohio State, Billingsley toured the United States and abroad putting on water and trampoline shows. He arrived at IU in 1959 and lifted the diving program to the already elite level of coach Doc Counsilman’s swimming program.
Billingsley was named National Diving Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association, was the first NCAA Coach of the Year winner in 1988, was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1983 and was presented with the Sammy Lee Award, the world’s most prestigious award for contributions to the sport of diving, in 1994.
In Billingsley’s 30 years with the Hoosiers, his divers won 28 NCAA championships and 25 Big Ten titles. He coached 21 Olympians, who won three gold and three bronze medals. He was a five-time Olympic coach and had the honor of reciting the Olympic Oath at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Billingsley has also written three books and numerous articles about diving. In 1968, he formed the World Diving Coaches Association, and three years later, formed the American Diving Coaches Association.
“He is a worldwide legend, and he is known all over the world, and that was evident on this trip,” Everroad said. “He’s a fabulous person, and he’s had an amazing career.”
Everroad, who was a state champion diver at Columbus High School, was one of Billingsley’s first pupils at IU. But he didn’t last long.
“When he dived with me, he was fat, and I said ‘I don’t coach elephants,’” Billingsley said. “He didn’t lose the weight, and I kicked him off the team. But I didn’t lose him as a friend. He joined the gymnastics team and lost a lot of weight.”
Getting fit again
Although the weight came off for Everroad in college, it crept back up on him. About five years ago, he weighed more than 200 pounds and was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic.In danger of losing his CDL license to drive trucks, Everroad turned back to exercise to lose weight. However, he turned to a new method — step-ups on step stools — to lose more than 50 pounds and get in shape to dive in masters competitions.Having written several exercise books, including “How to Flatten Your Stomach,” which sold more than 2 million copies in the 1970s and rose to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, Everroad was no stranger to the concept of fitness. He went on a media tour to 10 major U.S. and Canadian cities, doing television, radio and newspaper interviews and even appearing on “The Today Show.”
Everroad’s Belly Burner commercial played frequently for a year on various network and cable channels and sold 100,000 units. His jump rope program, the “Lope Rope,” was featured on the cover of Family Circle magazine.
Billingsley said Everroad was the first person to show exercise on television.
“He’s very underrated,” Billingsley said. “He’s a very modest guy, and he changed the world with what he did. I really look up to this guy.”
To Russia with love
When Billingsley began coaching Everroad again shortly after moving in with him in January, they almost had to start over.“When I first got up here, he couldn’t do any dives,” Billingsley said. “So we worked on him and we went to Bloomington once a week, and by the time he went, he could do four dives. I talked him out of going until his son (Blake) showed up and gave him a ticket to Russia.”Everroad ran into a couple of problems in Russia. First, he never got over the jet lag and was tired nearly the whole time he was there. Also, the Wi-Fi in the athletes village worked only about half the time.
“Other than those two things, nothing could have been better,” Everroad said. “It went beyond my greatest expectations.”
That included the host city of Kazan.
“It was a beautiful city, and the people were wonderful,” Everroad said. “I had always envisioned Russia as a cold-hearted place, but it wasn’t like that at all. They were nice people. I was very pleasantly surprised at the reception that I received from the Russian people.
“The trip was wonderful,” he said. “It was fascinating. It was an interesting look at Russia.”
Last year, Everroad won a bronze medal in the World Masters Championships in Montreal, Canada. Although he moved up a spot this year, he’s still seeking a gold.
“I was pretty well pleased with the outcome, but I’m still a bridesmaid,” Everroad said. “I’d like to win the whole thing. I haven’t done that yet.”
Everroad, a 2011 inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, is on a committee that gives Hobie’s Heroes awards — named after Billingsley — to young people all over the world who have overcome challenges. He went through workouts with Billingsley in their backyard to get ready for the trip to Russia.
“He is still on top of the game,” Everroad said. “He knows more about diving than most people will ever know. He always came up with something new each workout.”
“I kidded him when I first came up here to coach him,” Billingsley said. “I keep telling him ‘You’re not 27; you’re 72. You’ve got it backwards.’”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Diving back in” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Name: Jim Everroad
High school: Columbus
College: Indiana University
Occupation: Driver for RWT
Name: Hobie Billingsley
Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania
College: Ohio State
Occupation: Retired diving coach at Indiana University