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"I still have that competitive blood."

When Bev Ball’s friends join the 85-year-old swim coach at a restaurant in Abilene, Texas, they know what to expect: She will run into someone she’s gotten to know – or coached – over six decades spent by the local pools. “I still call them my kids,” she says of her former swimmers. “I’ve got thousands of kids.” Ball started coaching in 1951, not long after she graduated from the University of North Texas. At a time when athletic opportunities for women were rare, she helped swimming programs in West Texas get off the ground. She coached for 46 years at Abilene high schools before she was recruited in 2000 to head the new swim program across town at McMurry University. Her wide-ranging impact on the community has earned her accolades, though the humble coach discounts the recognition. “I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished what everybody thinks I’ve accomplished,” Ball says, adding: “I don’t feel like I’m 85 coaching.” 

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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