A couple weeks ago, I took a few kids we work regularly with to a swim meet in Cleveland, Ohio. If you still associate Cleveland with a burning river and a bad football team, you have a lot of catching up to do.
I suggested this road trip because I wanted to open these swimmers’ eyes to the world. I wanted to make them more aware of the level and DEPTH of competition in this country. I also wanted to take them to a place where the same coach has run a program for more than 30 years. I wanted them to see how a well-coached team acts (proven methods yield proven results) and how a well-established team functions. I wanted them to see the level of expectation placed on the swimmers concerning warm-up, pre- and post-race coaches visits, and warm-downs. It was great to watch the systems at work.
Of course, the fact that I’m FROM Cleveland had a direct impact on why we went to this meet. The Mark Braun Invitational is named for a coach from Cleveland who lost his battle with leukemia about 15 years ago. I knew Mark, and was honored to take these swimmers back to a meet that not only held personal meaning to me, but also showed them how a community loves its swimmers and coaches. The site of the meet had a lot of meaning for me, and it was being held in what I still believe is the fastest short-course pool in the world. Yep…downtown Cleveland. Division 1 NCAA Championships have been held there either 3 or 4 times, but the first two times, if I remember correctly, EVERY American Record was broken. The first man to break 20 seconds in the 50 free did it at Cleveland State. The first man to break 15 minutes in the 1650 did it at Cleveland State.
The competition wasn’t lacking at this meet, either. Kate Ziegler thrilled the crowd with a sub-4:40 500 free, and there were consistently fast swims by kids of all ages.
Why Cleveland? Because it had it all…great teams to model (Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, Cincinnati Marlins), great swimmers and coaches to watch, a great facility with fantastic history, cheap hotel space (we stayed at my Mom’s house), and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame!
To me, Cleveland has so much more meaning, and I also wanted to show the kids WHY they need to take advantage of THIS time in their life. I want to help them understand why they shouldn’t take their youth for granted, and why they are so lucky to be able to put themselves through painful situations on a daily basis, and face the heartaches of failure by having goals lofty enough to possibly NOT reach. To me, it’s better to shoot high and just miss, than it is to live your life striving for things you KNOW you can achieve.
One day, on the way back to Mom’s house, I took the kids on a detour to visit the pool that’s named after my brother Kyle. This is the first time I’ve ever taken a picture of the pool, or the sign, and I wanted to continue, or pass along Kyle’s legacy to another generation of swimmers. Kyle was my inspiration throughout my entire swimming career. And he continues to inspire me to this day. He showed me what courage was, and made me who I was as a swimmer and a man.
Why Cleveland? Because Cleveland is a tough city with a rough exterior — a city that teaches hard work equals reward. Like the Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, Cleveland demands work to be performed and accepts no excuses. It’s a great town, with a great swimming tradition and future. While I love my current home, it will never match or replace Cleveland in terms of what it did for me as an athlete. Since I can’t live there anymore and work with the kids that I do… I’ll just continue to visit for meets, that is, of course, if they let me. 🙂
Cleveland Rocks! Thanks for the great meet.