BYU senior swimmer Dougie Broadbent. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Broken and torn ankles, bad asthma, liver problems and other physical ailments never stopped one BYU swimmer until the unexpected happened to end his senior year.
Growing up in Boulder City, Nev., 5-foot-8 senior swimmer Douglas “Dougie” Broadbent II comes from a great family legacy with his grandfather, Robert N. Broadbent, being the first mayor of Boulder City.
“Dougie is one of the most kind people I have ever met, he has a big heart,” said BYU teammate Jeff Ferrell. “The way he is stems from his parents. He is very concerned about others and can tell when a teammate is down when no one else can.”
The second child of Douglas and Carol Broadbent, he has had his share of hard times in his short life of 24 years.
Although he played soccer, baseball and basketball growing up, swimming seemed a natural choice because of the hot Nevada weather. A natural in the pool, Broadbent started swimming competitively at age eight and went to state at age nine.
He also stuck with swimming because he loved his club team and his coach, Mike Polk.
“I loved the club team that I was on – it felt like a huge family to me,” said Broadbent. “My coach was great as well, he was very talented and I still look up to him.”
Polk also enjoyed coaching Broadbent and looks for characteristics similar to Broadbent for all of his swimmers.
“He always had a really good attitude about practice and what he had to do to be good,” said Polk. “Dougie was one of the central figures on our team that helped everyone succeed. We not only ask our swimmers to work hard at swimming, but at life. Dougie set a great example of that type of behavior.”
Although Broadbent donned many honors throughout his swimming career including multiple school and region records, 12 All-America citations and competed at junior nationals, it didn’t come easy. He struggled with severe asthma and many other health problems throughout his life.
“He’s been through the refiners fire,” said BYU teammate Jeff Ferrell. “I remember swimming against him when we were really young. He was a superstar - he was the kid that everyone knew. He shaved a Nike sign into the back of his head and would have his inhalers and oxygen machines ready for between races. He has overcome all odds.”
After competing in high school, Broadbent was recruited by the University of Washington, UC Irvine, BYU and Hawai’i. Growing up south of Las Vegas, Broadbent was a die-hard UNLV Rebels basketball fan and never wanted to come to BYU.
“I had no idea that BYU had a swim team,” said Broadbent. “My dad convinced me to send my times to BYU and within a half hour, [BYU head coach] Tim [Powers] contacted me and made a visit.”
“I knew that he would enjoy the spirit that one feels by just walking through campus,” said Broadbent’s father. “I wanted him to experience going to school where he wasn’t the minority in our faith – where everyone shares the same values.”
After scheduling five recruiting trips and only going to BYU and Washington, Broadbent felt like BYU was the place he was supposed to go. Thankfully, he chose BYU whereas UW and UC Irvine no longer have swimming programs.
“I just remember taking my visits and comparing them; there was a feeling here at this campus was so much different than at the sororities or the partying that goes on at other schools,” said Broadbent.
Broadbent was happy with his decision and swam well his freshman year, competing in every meet of the season and earning 11 top-five finishes on the season. He went on a mission to Kennewick, Wash. from 2005-2007 and had a difficult time getting back into swimming after tearing and breaking his ankles.
“I was struggling getting back into swimming after my mission and I was somewhat embarrassed to go back and train with my club team,” said Broadbent. “But my dad started swimming with me every day to help me get back in shape.”
“He’s always been a very driven swimmer,” said Broadbent’s father. “When he got injured he kind of lost some of that feeling, so I started swimming with him to help him realize how much he really loved swimming. It didn’t even seem like a workout to me because it was time that I was able to spend with my child.”
Douglas, Broadbent’s father, remembers a meet from his sophomore season after his mission as one of the most memorable races of his career that illustrates his drive and determination.
After swimming well against UNLV early in the season, he was walking down the stairs at an apartment complex when both of his ankles gave out. Although he was injured, Powers allowed him to compete in the Speedo Cup in Long Beach, Calif. with both of his ankles wrapped tightly.
“One of his best components to swimming is his start,” said Douglas. “He can usually reach to the flags, but in this meet, he almost belly-flopped because his ankle was hurting so bad. He finished the race and ended up beating two people in his heat. He couldn’t even walk after the race, but that showed the heart that he has in swimming and his will to compete.”
Although Broadbent struggled with keeping healthy to swim, being on the swim team helped him in other ways, for example in helping him find his future wife. Being set up by BYU diver Ronald Morris, Broadbent married Melissa Morris on May 30, 2009 in the San Diego LDS temple.
From being in a bubble when he was three years old because he had pneumonia to severe ankle problems that caused him to end his mission to Kennewick, Wash. early, Broadbent has been through it all. Although all those things never stopped his swimming career, one practice at BYU ended it all.
Swimming along in practice one October day in 2009, Broadbent collided with a teammate, causing a concussion to Broadbent alone. After trying to pass the tests to get him back in the water, he continues to fail the treadmill test.
“He’s a good worker,” said BYU head coach Tim Powers. “Even through all of his health concerns he’s always tried to work hard and stay focused, but this one did him in.”
With tears in his eyes, Broadbent explained how hard it has been to watch his senior season go down the drain.
“I haven’t been around the pool deck during practices very often because I just want to jump in the pool and I know I can’t do that right now, or I won’t ever be able to do that again,” said Broadbent. “I have always dreamed of going to conference and being introduced as a senior. Swimming the 200 fly on the last day of the meet and feeling the relief, the joy and all the emotional feelings that will come from being a senior and now I can’t do that.”
Broadbent explains that not only has it been hard not being able to swim, but he has also given his heart and soul to the BYU team. Offering part of his scholarship to an incoming recruit, swimming when he needs surgery and other things makes it hard for him to have his career slip away.
In the last dual meet of the season against Utah, teammate Jeff Ferrell saw Broadbent’s almost-new suit and goggles sitting in the locker right next to his and because his own suit and goggles were wearing out, Ferrell decided to wear them without asking. Coming out of the locker room Ferrell said to Broadbent, “A part of you will be swimming with me today,” not thinking much of it.
That gesture by Ferrell was something that Broadbent will remember forever.
“ I felt like by him doing that, I was able to be a part of the meet,” said Broadbent.
“We’ve missed him a lot,” said Powers. “We miss the whole package. We miss the fact that he is a fun, upbeat guy to be around, but at the same time, his swims would’ve been enormous for us this year.”
Although Broadbent won’t be able to compete anymore for the Cougars, he has a goal of competing in an open-water swim in Greece that takes about eight hours.
“Once I get healthy I want to get into open-water swimming,” said Broadbent. “There is a swim in Greece that I want to do in five or 10 years – to finish my swimming career on top.”
After four years of swimming for the Cougars, Broadbent will miss the team family the most.
“One reason why I came here was because of the family,” said Broadbent. “I loved how much we emphasize family not only as a religion, but as a team.”
Ferrell and Broadbent always shared a lane in practice, shared hotel rooms on trips and were best friends on the team. It was hard for Ferrell to not have his best friend with him in their senior season.
“Everything that he has overcome and how he’s always excelled is very inspiring to me,” said Ferrell. “It’s been hard to not have him around this season. Dougie is definitely one of the memories I will always carry with me from BYU swimming.”
Although Broadbent was unable to contribute to his team the way he wished during his senior season, his never-quit attitude is something all will remember and take with them.
“Being injured or falling down never stopped Dougie,” said Douglas. “He would do everything he could to get up and go again. I admire his will to perform. He always swam every race like it was going to be his last.”