MARION -- It's not often, if ever, that youngsters in Southern Illinois get the opportunity to learn from a pair of Olympians. But that was the case this past Saturday at The HUB Aquatic center in Marion when former Olympic swimmers Josh Davis and Amanda Beard spoke to more than 70 boys and girls at a clinic.
"This has been in the works for about two years," said aquatics director for The HUB, Jared King. "The daughter of one of our swim parents had attended one of these clinics in another town and she and he mother told me about it. So, I reached out to Josh and we began planning for this day. And we had a great turnout. The kids could not have learned more about swimming than from these two."
Davis, captain of the U.S. Swim Team at the 2000 Sydney Olmpics, was the lead speaker at the clinic.
"We've been doing these breakout swim clinics for 23 years now and more than 50 Olympians have participated. They are now teaching kids the joys of swimming and the techniques to take their swimming to the next level," Davis said. "But honestly, it's more about some life tips. It's about having an attitude of gratitude and always doing your best. If these kids just do their best every day, every moment, every race, things are going to work out fine and they're going to be champions in life. We want them to be great swimmers and even greater people."
Davis said the tour reaches over 100 towns a year -- most coming from May through July -- including 15 this month alone.
Davis said adding a four-time Olympian, gold medalist and world record holder like Amanda Beard to the clinic is awe-inspiring to some of the kids.
"For kids to see Amanda -- an ordinary person who has done something extraordinary because of hard work, technique and attitude -- they realize that maybe they can do that, too. It's motivating to see Olympians in person."
Davis described swimming as a blue-collar sport.
"It takes a lot of hard work, patience, and sacrifice to be successful," he said. "Swimming is one of those sports that gets you back to the basics of delayed gratification ... working hard, sacrificing ... all the things you need when you become an adult."
Beard said "it's fun" to give back to the younger generation.
"This is what I have basically done my whole life," she said of swimming. "You learn how to swim really well and then you get the opportunity pass on some of that knowledge. That's what I am attempting to do now. When I was younger, there weren't a lot of clinics available. I would have loved to have been a part of it -- to have those moments, those memories. It's cool that so many Olympians do it now."
Beard added that serving as a role model for youth inspires her.
"You always have those you look up to in life. We try to do our best to connect with these kids. We want to share some of our experiences, our memories, and do some with more of a personal touch instead of just getting here and getting out. We want to get in the pool and get our hands wet with the kids, goof off with them a little and then teach them something we hope they remember. It's important to have fun in this sport and still be serious when you need to be."
Beard said she grew up a Southern California girl and now resides in Seattle. Davis is from the Lone Star state and continues to reside in the San Antonio area.