Swim Clinics - Making Waves

Giant rocks have been thrown into small stagnant insignificant pools of water. Waves of immense energy and inspiration were created this past week from the impact of throwing six Olympic medals, 11 World Championship medals, and ten world records into our local swimming pools and community with the third annual GB Dive In Free Swim Clinics. 

Even now, unforeseen, far reaching, smaller ripples of positive energy are spreading out across the entire surface, and will no doubt touch countless lives. This is what we need in this country, and thanks to Atlantic, SporTT and Oasis Water we were able to once again make this happen.

As I walked into Blue Dolphins swim club, our oldest and best kept pool, where I train, I glanced as I always do at the plaque dedicated to the memory of Joey Kaufmann, the man indirectly responsible for my success. He is credited with being the founder of local swimming, who built the pool in 1962 and even coached my father to Sportsman of the Year in 1969. I smiled to myself, knowing surely that he would be looking down favourably on one of his ripples, that what was about to create other waves over the next three and a half hours in his creation. 

Waiting for Roland Schoeman, Arkady Vyatchanin, Moss Burmester and myself at each venue were approximately 60 young participating competitive swimmers, their families and others who came just to listen, learn and watch for free. It must have been a sight to behold, these tall, visiting living legends of the sport in world class shape. We gathered everyone together and as we introduced ourselves. I would joke that they should be tired of hearing what I had to say after the past clinics, so I brought to them masters of the sport that I wanted to learn from. I let the other hosts do most of the talking as they gave inspiring stories of the backgrounds, the way they viewed and approached challenges, and how they were able to reach the lofty heights they attained.

The Russian, Arkady Vyatchanin’s story was particularly captivating. The current world record holder and double Olympic medalist explained how he came from a tiny coal mining town in the far north of Russia, Vorkuta, above the Arctic Circle in the Komi Republic. 

It helped to put things in perspective as behind him, our six lane pool sun bathed pool seemed luxurious as he recounted how he trained in a dark four lane indoor 25m pool in the USSR. It was obvious that he must have been an incredibly tough, resilient and determined young swimmer and his success was a testament to his ability to dream. No less inspiring were the stories from New Zealand’s world champion Moss Burmester and South African Olympic gold medalist Roland Schoeman. Even I felt capable of anything and was deeply inspired as we all moved on to the next phase of the clinic.

Next, we led the young swimmers through a dynamic dry land warm up as we demonstrated flexibility, mobility and strength exercises and explained why we do them and how they directly have a positive impact in our swimming. 

Some of the concepts must have been surely known by the swimmers but it never hurts to have them driven home first hand by the best swimmers in the world.

After everyone was warm and loose we jumped right into things, literally. We each took turns explaining, demonstrating and coaching the aspects of the sport that we were renowned for, while the other hosts provided feedback from the deck above. Common mistakes were explained and addressed. 

Perfect technique was demonstrated in slow motion, and then again at race pace, often times to the cheers of the impressed watching swimmers on the pool deck above. I know from experience that sometimes these things can’t be explained but need to be patiently shown a few times. Imagine being a young swimmer in the pool next to, and learning first hand from the World Champion or current world record holder in your event! I was so impressed with how eager everyone was to learn and it was especially rewarding to see the changes being instantly implemented.

We followed up the technical portion of the clinics with a valuable question and answer session. In addition to receiving shirts, swimming goggles and caps, the participants were given notebooks and pens. The notebooks proved invaluable as it allowed everyone to record the overwhelming amount of information and experience that was freely dispersed regarding psychology, goal setting, nutrition, technique, and recovery, among other things. Each of us then did a recap of all the technical points we had addressed earlier. Afterwards, of course everyone got a photo and an autograph. 

The truth is that there is a limit to how much swimming we can teach in three swim clinics, we can only hope to give the young local swimmers the tools, but they have to be implemented daily. However the inspiration and realisation that anything is possible through hard work can last a lifetime. My hope is that some of the swimmers we worked with will be future Olympic medalists and world record holders that will one day, like me, be a medium through which Joey Kaufmann’s ripples of positive energy will continue to reach and move others to unforeseen greatness down the road.