When I was a kid, summer camp meant riding ponies, shooting BB-guns and arrows, making ceramic pots and plastic lanyards, capturing bugs in jars, and sleeping in cabins. As you can tell, I didnï¿½t go to swim camp, and I especially didnï¿½t go to a GO SWIM summer camp.
Last week, we held our first-ever GO SWIM summer camp ï¿½ at the New York Military Academy (NYMA) in beautiful Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY. With me living in Annapolis, and Barbara living in Vermont, this might not seem like the most obvious location for our summer camp, but I have many swim students in the Hudson Valley, and I wanted the chance to work with them again. Another plus was that NYMA gave us UNLIMITED access to their 25-yard, 6-lane indoor pool. We used just about every minute.
We want all of our GO SWIM camps to have one focus: The Swimmers. And, in particular, we want to give the swimmers concepts and techniques and tools that they can apply IMMEDIATELY and FOREVER, no matter what kind of team or coach they return to at the end of camp. We want to help swimmers learn how to swim better and faster?and we want to teach them how to THINK and FOCUS about their swimming and training and competition. We want to create leaders ï¿½ not just in the pool but also in every aspect of life.
We had 25 kids, age 9 to 18, at our camp, plus 3 adults. Most of them came from the Hudson Valley, but we had swimmers from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, Long Island, Pennsylvania, and even Maryland. From the very first day, everyone was working together in the pool?and coming together for the brief moments we were on land. By midweek, it was hard to believe that everyone hadnï¿½t been fast friends for life. This was more than just a camp, it was the beginning of relationships. My buddy list is now full of swimmers asking questions and just saying hello. Of course, they are understanding that SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK FOR A LIVING!
Barbara and I had worked out a tentative schedule for the week, based on two 2-hour pool sessions each day, plus an early morning stretching session and an early afternoon dryland session. We figured that none of the swimmers would want to be in the water for more than 4 hours each day. Boy, were we wrong! The two-hour sessions soon stretched to 3-hour sessions, and it seemed that whenever we took a short break, the kids were itching to get back in the pool. At the end of these 6 1/2-hour pool days, some of the kids hurried to get dressed so that they could go to a nearby water theme park and get back to some more?ahem?swimming. These were true campers and true troopers, in every sense of the word. Everyone was fantastic. It was a fantastic week.
We spent most of our mornings working exclusively on technique, using focus points more than drills to get our points across. We displayed all the focus points on huge Post-It Notes around the pool. We spent the afternoons practicing as correctly as possible and with as much focus as possible. We worked on the little things that make a huge difference in swimming. Things like how to listen to your coach (or do the set OVER again), how to do MORE than your coach asks, and how to start and finish each lap and each interval (at THE WALL). We didnï¿½t stop until every member of the group did everything correctly.
We worked on standard grab starts. We worked on track starts. Shoot, we even worked on RELAY starts. We did above- and below-water videotaping. We worked on turns for all strokes. And we worked on perfect pushoffs ï¿½ every time. The days were filled with swimming activities, from morning stretching to afternoon dryland, and from sculling to fistgloves to fins to swim tethers.
We finished the week with a swim meet ï¿½ an actual dual meet between the two ?teams? that we had created on Day #1. We wanted to see how the swimmers would put their new knowledge and focus to work in an actual race situation. We discussed race strategy for 50s, 100s, and 200s, and how to get ready, mentally, for meets. We had the two teams create their own lineups and relays so that they would get a feel for what their coaches go through in making these tough decisions. Although Team #1 came away with the win, Team #2 redeemed themselves with a decisive, pool-length victory in the final event ï¿½ the 400 free relay.
Our camp was filled with the promise of the future for many young swimmers. Our goal was for them to return home filled with hope and desire (and the tools) to be better than they thought they could be. NONE of the swimmers came into the camp as a swimmer who had reached his or her potential. They all have so much to learn and there is so much improvement ahead of them. Iï¿½m totally excited about watching what they do, with the knowledge that THEY are responsible for applying the things we worked on. THEY are responsible for THINKING during training. THEY must remember that if they donï¿½t do a set perfectly, or accomplish a task during practice, the time has been wasted, and they are still the same distance away from their goal.
I am filled with optimism when I look at the pictures from camp and remember the young (and adult) swimmers we had the privilege of working with this summer. I canï¿½t wait to see them all again.
Two last thoughts for all the swimmers from our first camp:
"The resources of the human body and soul, physical, mental and spiritual, are enormous and beyond our present knowledge and expectations. We go part of the way to consciously tapping these resources by having goals that we want desperately ï¿½ it is the only way we currently know how to use these hidden resources. Wanting desperately to achieve taps that hidden resource that everyone of us has." — Herb Elliott, Distance Runner and Olympic Gold Medalist
"If better is even possible, good is not enough." — Gene Mills, My Dad