In Loving Memory - Dr. Susan Taplin
”For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
It's never too late to learn how to swim, but learning to swim as an adult can be a daunting experience. Twenty years ago, Susan Taplin walked into the swim warehouse and approached me with her goal to learn how to swim.
Little did I know at the time that “Tap”, as she is affectionately known as in these parts, would become such an influential person in my life and the life of my family, but also on our swimming and triathlon community at large here in the Hendersonville community and at MTSC Masters.
After overcoming a lifetime of fear about swimming in deep water, this aspiring triathlete embraced the sport, making gigantic strides in her abilities. She grew to love her new found sport of swimming.
While we have many dedicated swimmers who have been consistent over the years, Susan’s determination and dedication insured her success.
As a coach, and even more as a friend of Tap’s, there are so many memories we share individually and with our MTSC family.
Who can ever forget the day Tom Dolan discovered that Tap had 'stolen' his pull buoy? He came in week after week looking for it, thinking someone had mistakenly picked it up. While they swam at different workout times, one day their schedules collided. They showed up and Tom began to thank her for finding his pull buoy. Tap looked at him like he was crazy and told him directly that it was her buoy.
“Look Dolan-- it has TAP written on the side," she argued.
“That's not a P it's a D - Tom A Dolan," he responded. Those two went round and round for several minutes until she conceded that it actually was his.
Another hilarious moment was the first time she came to swim open water. She sat on my dock and began to cry. I asked her what's wrong and she looked up and said, "I could drown out there!" That caused me to laugh uncontrollably, but I guaranteed that I would kayak right next to her. Amazingly, she swam about a mile without stopping (probably because she couldn't tread water) and didn't want to stop until we got back to the dock!
Who can ever forget our infamous caravan to the Bowling Green Meet on a rainy January Saturday morning? Bruce and I leading the team spun out on black ice and landed on the back tire of an 18-wheeler. While the truck pulled us over, Eric Ford and Tap had our caravan fan out over the lanes and stop traffic. Looking out the side door, I could see Susan sprinting up the hill and arriving, of course, first on the scene. While we were both ok, it was comforting to know that our health care professionals are in impeccable condition and can run that fast!!
Susan was a Marine and served our country in Desert Storm. As a result, I believe this was a huge contributing factor in her commitment to health and wellness due to the regime of doing PT on a daily basis.
Once I asked her, “Tap, why do you work out so hard?”
Her answer seemed a bit unusual from a coach’s perspective, but actually made perfect sense.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
As we continued talking, my thoughts were "That seems to be a verse that deals with our soul after our death."
“No, Ron,” she said. “You have to keep reading. ‘If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know... (then it reads on) I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.’ "
“You see, Ron, if we remain physically fit and make health and wellness a priority, we can carry on with the calling that God has on our lives,” she said.
This conversation rings over and over again in my ears because it is so true. Susan was a dedicated mother and a perfect 'boy mom' to her sons Zane and Tyler. She was tough as nails, but also had a very focused compassion. Her family was dedicated to their local church, and Susan had a special heart and calling for the people of Cambodia. Their family traveled each year to Cambodia on medical missions
As a professor at Belmont University, Dr. Taplin always took a team of nursing students with her on these medical missions. One of those was my son, Cody. While Tap never missed a workout, she would always take those three weeks off in the summer to go overseas. On that particular trip, Cody told me that Tap would make him wake up and swim with her in a reservoir or holding pond next to the rice fields because she was afraid of losing fitness and wanted to stay in shape. The real reason Cody told me was that she wanted him to swim in front of her, because she was afraid of snakes and didn't want to get bitten first.
My son stayed the whole summer there, and Tap returned earlier than he did. When she came back to the pool, she said "Ron, I have two things to report. First, I stayed in shape and made Cody swim with me. Second I met your future daughter in law on this trip!" I told Tap she was crazy, but she guaranteed this was the case as she had been doing these trips for about 20 years.
Sure enough, Cody and Rachel were married about a year later. It was an honor to have Tap speak at their wedding, and through the years she has continued to have an impact and be an inspiration in their lives.
As a coach, I love applied physiology when it comes to planning my training cycles. One year I sent several of our swimmers to get tested by Barry Baird and Jon Hall at their human performance lab 'Endurance Geeks'. The goal was to see how our people would perform at threshold. Our athletes performed remarkably well. Later that season, Susan, Barry and I conducted a study through Belmont under Susan's supervision. The goal was to test the difference between athletes who were attending coached workouts and those who swam without a coach. Through our efforts, we gained insights, but more importantly, Susan was able to educate individuals about health risks she detected during the study, and give them direction and sound advice on how to enhance their health.
While Susan was one of my athletes, she became a close friend to my family. Her sons Tyler and Zane spent many seasons at Sea Star, whether at summer camp or in fitness swimming. Zane worked with me on the ranch as a Junior Wrangler. I mourn for these young men.
While we don't know how many hours or days we have in this lifetime, we also don't know the reach and impact our words and actions have on others. Tap's life was an inspiration not only to me, but to all of our swim family here at MTSC Masters. Susan was our friend and her legacy will live on in so many of the lives she invested in. She will be dearly missed.
Moving forward, I think it will be important to create a swim set that honors Susan Taplin. I'll call it the 'Tap out Set' Get ready, because I'm spinning it out in my mind right now and it will be released early in our 2022 training cycle. And yes ... if you don't like the set, you can blame it on TAP!
what is masters swimming?
Masters swimming is an organized coached swim workout for adults age 18 and over. It is open to any adult swimmer, regardless of skill level. MTSC Masters is affiliated with United States Masters Swimming, Inc. United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions, clinics, and workshops for adults aged 18 and over. Programs are open to all adult swimmers (fitness, competitive, non-competitive, and triathlete) who are dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming.
do I have to be a good swimmer to join?
We have a diverse group of swimmers of all levels, from novice to nationally ranked athletes. We will assess your skill level and group you with other swimmers that are at approximately the same skill level. Masters swimming is a great way to enhance your existing skills, master new technique and rise to new levels of confidence in the water.
Our Mission is to provide the Middle Tennessee swimming community with opportunities for achievement in adult fitness and competitive swimming by providing a curriculum that is both purposeful and fun. Our workouts are coached and address the physiological aspects of training, improvement of stroke technique, and development of essential skills and confidence to enable competition in our sport. Most importantly, we will work to achieve our goals as a team, whose members are united in spirit and in friendship.
MTSC Masters 2004-2019