For Fairfield resident and Connecticut state swimming official George Ford, swimming was not always a way of life.
But since Ford bumped into swimming through his children, he hasn't stopped being involved with the pool.
The 80-year old Ford was honored for his 41-year service of refereeing swimming on July 1 in Chicago when he was inducted into the National Federation of State High School Association's National High School Hall of Fame. Ford was the only official of the 12 inductees to reach the hall of fame.
Being inducted into the National Hall of Fame was especially sweet for the veteran swim referee because of the rarity of the honor. There are more than 180,000 officials in all sports around the country and Ford was the only one to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
"It is fabulous," Ford said. "When you think of all the officials doing all kinds of sports and they only picked one...it's quite an honor."
The longtime official only reached the officiating ranks because of his children. Ford's children swam for the high school swim teams. Ford was especially unhappy with the amount and skill of swim officials, and thought that he could do a better job himself. He studied the swimming rule book and took the test and the rest is history.
Despite not being a swimmer himself, Ford has been fortunate enough to learn from some greats, including former great Yale coach Bob Kipith who taught Ford a valuable lesson about teaching and coaching swimming that allowed Ford the confidence to understand swimming without having swam himself.
"He said `if you understand the laws of physics, you can train people to be swimmers'," Ford said.
Ford views one of his finest accomplishments to be the work that he has done with the Special Olympics. For the last 32 years he has been a major player in the teaching and improvement of special Olympians. Ford believes that just because the kids have an ailment doesn't mean that they shouldn't get proper training and aren't capable of competing. Ford is now the state chairman for the Special Olympics in Connecticut.
"These people aren't stupid," Ford said. "They have an ailment that resist them from performing in strokes...It is rewarding to see people that are looked down upon perform and perform adequately."
Ford has served for the NFHS for the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee and served a four year term on the NFHS Officials Association Board of Directors. Ford still keeps up on the hotbed issues in national swimming, including the controversy surrounding swimsuits for boys and girls.
"There should not be anything that helps the athlete get more of an advantage mechanically," Ford said.
Ford's modus operandi has been fairness, whether it be the Special Olympics or just a dual meet, he believes that someone that is talented gets recognition for the skills he or she has earned without unfair advantages.
"Youngsters who are willing to dedicate time and effort to it deserve recognition," Ford said. "It's important that the athlete who does it properly gets consideration."
Ford's career is winding down, and he is more than aware of it as well. He'll be 81 in March and is looking forward to moving behind the scenes as a consultant to the state rules board because he loves the kids that are swimmers, especially in Connecticut.
"Swimming has gotten to the point where it is a good sport and it is compounded by the fact that the students that participate are good students," Ford said.