Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

You’re in the Splash zone:

Success secrets with Josh Davis

By Roxanne Robbins

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, swimmer Josh Davis won three gold medals — more gold than any other male competing in those Games. Four years later Josh was voted captain of the 2000 Olympic team and took his talent to Sydney, Australia. Josh competed at a whole new level in Sydney.

Josh Davis

Hometown: San Antonio

Born: September 1, 1972

College: University of Texas

1996 Olympics in Atlanta

• Placed 7th in the 200-meter freestyle

• Won the gold medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay

• Won the gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay

• Won the gold medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay

2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia

• Placed 4th in the 200-meter freestyle

• Won the silver medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay

• Won the silver medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay



For the first time in his life, Josh was going stroke-to-stroke with the fastest athletes in swimming history — like Australian Ian Thorpe. In fact, Josh swam the 200-meter freestyle so fast that in any other Olympic competition he would have won gold by a body length. In Sydney, however, that incredible speed only earned him fourth place. He missed bronze by a mere touch on the wall, although he set the American record that still stands. He left Sydney with two silver medals.

How did an easy-going, blond-haired, blue-eyed, native Texan make this big splash, becoming one of the best athletes on the globe? Josh says, “A big part of my success is the way I respond to the authority figures in my life.”

An influential authority in Josh’s success is his coach, Eddie Reese. Eddie was instrumental in helping Josh excel in the Sydney Games. Josh began training with Coach Reese at the University of Texas, where he swam for the Longhorns prior to swimming professionally and at the Olympic level.

“Josh has great attitude and strong work ethic,” Coach Reese says of his star athlete. “He is very easy to coach. He trusts me. He knows that by combining his efforts — physically, mentally and spiritually — with what the coach knows, he is confident that he can get where he wants to go.”

Coach Reese believes Josh’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ motivates Josh’s response to authority. “[His relationship with God] gives him the strength to make the right choices in his daily life in his interpersonal relationships and with other people on the team. It shows up in consistent workouts. When you’re making bad choices, you [aren’t consistent].”

Josh sees swimming as a “training lap” for life, because of the range of emotions — pressure, excitement, anticipation, elation, desolation — that are all packed into a race that lasts less than a minute or two. The four-time World University Games gold medallist is constantly learning new ways to improve technically, mentally and nutritionally. Coach Reese says that if there is a legitimate way for Josh to improve, he will try it. “His strength is determination,” Coach Reese says. “He’ll do whatever it takes.”

Just as Josh looks to his coaches for direction, other athletes look to Josh. The 31-year-old is generous with his knowledge.

Olympian Neil Walker says, “I’ve always had questions for him — about school, girlfriends, swimming, whatever. He often has the best advice. He’s always willing to answer any questions or to help alleviate any of my fears. I look up to Josh as a swimmer because of his incredible work ethic. He’s also the type of husband and father I’d like to be. Hopefully, as I mature, I’ll have more in common with him than just swimming.”

As a swimming ambassador, Josh travels across the country to more than 100 speaking engagements each year. Several times a month Josh conducts swimming clinics and shares his insights with youth and community groups. He eagerly helps young swimmers learn new techniques and communicates lessons he’s learned about life in and out of the pool.

One of Josh’s favorite topics is making good decisions. He tells students, “I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish that when I was in high school I had admitted that you don’t have to get drunk, have sex or do things that you know you shouldn’t be doing just to feel accepted and cool.

“All those rushes and pleasures are so temporary and can be so destructive,” Josh says. “There are consequences to good and bad decisions. Pursue excellence.”

For Josh, part of pursuing excellence is treating coaches and other authority figures with respect. Josh doesn’t agree with everything his coach tells him, but he is committed to making sure he treats the coach respectfully.

“There have been a couple of plateaus in my training when I’ve felt frustrated,” Josh says. “Those times of trials are good — they have been learning times. They have allowed me to get back a proper perspective — that my self-worth is not based on my performance.”

Josh is looking to the future by keeping in top form — he has diligently trained for the Athens Games. As a husband and father of three, he says he will continue competing at this level until he no longer qualifies for the Olympic squad.

“I’m motivated to be a good steward of the talents God has given me. God gave me a gift — the ability to swim fast. God expects me to use that gift to its fullest potential. On top of that, He has given me the gift of eternal life. [My swimming ability] and Christ’s forgiveness supply me not only with the proper motivation but also with an everlasting motivation.”

Josh has discovered this success secret — winning is more than just touching the wall first; it’s keeping Christ in the competition.

Roxanne Robbins lives in Washington, D.C., and is the chaplain for the Washington Freedom women’s professional soccer team. She has worked at six Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

E-mail your comments to

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God