Guest blog by NCAA Woman of the Year finalist Annie Chandler
LEON/GUANAJUATO, Mexico, September 19. A 54-year-old told me yesterday that he did not know more than the "front crawl" before the Clinica Acuatica Internacional that took place this weekend.
"I have learned more in two days about swimming than I have in my 54 years about any other sport," the swim rookie said.
I have helped conduct clinics in many areas across the U.S., but this was the first opportunity I ever had to go south of the U.S. border. A typical clinic brings in some elite swimmers wanting to fine tune (or forced by their coaches to attend…I was one of you!), others attempting to master the basics, and sometimes a few children taking their first plunges into the water, which is a very challenging/not advisable way to learn to swim. Usually, the swimmers are 18 or younger.
These swimmers in Mexico ranged in age from eight to 54. I was not certain of their swimming backgrounds, but one thing was obvious- they were all determined to take full advantage of their opportunity to get better. The attention they paid to our drills and speech was remarkable. I am not sure if anyone else is like me, but if someone is speaking to me in a foreign language for hours on end, I will undoubtedly zone out. But the swimmers were glued to our demonstrations and spiels even before the interpreters went to work clarifying.
The language barrier that stood between the American swimmers (Matt Grevers, Ian Crocker, Kara Lynn Joyce and I) and the Mexican swimmers was a nonissue. Yes, we had the help of several translators, but this weekend made me realize swimming is a universal language.
The facial expressions I saw after giving praise of any kind were beaming and beautiful. These swimmers were so grateful to get technical help from members of Team USA. This was a humbling experience to see how Mexican swimmers view those of us fortunate enough to swim in Estados Unidos.
USA has established itself as a swimming powerhouse, and sometimes I forget how blessed I am to swim here. Yes, it may be the toughest Olympic Team to qualify for, but that's because we are the best in the business.
These clinics do not occur every weekend in Mexico. Most of the coaches were hearing about strength training and dryland exercises for the first time. USA is on the cutting edge when it comes to swimming technique and training. The organizer of the clinic recognized this and said the purpose of this clinic was to expose Mexico swimming to some of the leaps forward the U.S. has made.
These clinics are inspiring from every angle. I learn from articulating techniques and am inspired when I see my words invigorate swimmers about their future in the sport. The swimmers soak up and apply information and instantly feel their own progress. Feeling progress builds confidence. Instilling confidence builds confidence.
The U.S. has a treasure trove of swimming knowledge, and it was an honor to use it to excite the Mexican swimming community.