Sunday, May 30, 2010

Expert clinician by day

To continue with the mini-series, How the heck does Mark make money?, I will discuss swim clinics. No, a swim clinic is not someplace you go when you determine that you've gotten athletes foot from standing in the shower at the pool, a swim clinic is a mini swim camp. These mini-swim camps, clinics, are hosted across the country (even the world) and typically headline an elite swimmer or two (this is where Mark comes in).

Mark started coaching at swim clinics about six years ago and now typically does roughly 10-ish swim clinics a year (sometimes as many as 15!). Mark has traveled everywhere from Utah, to New York and everywhere in between.

Swim clincs are typically 2-4 hours in length and can have anywhere from 40-150 swimmers (usually kids age 6-19, but sometimes Mark will host a Masters clinic). Swim clinics start with the elite swimmer speaking to the young athletes about their experiences (this usually includes funny and inspirational anecdotal stories from the Olympics). Next the elite athletes get in the water with the athletes to demonstrate technique and run through some swimming drills. At some clinics the athletes even speak with parents and coaches about how to best support young swimmers, how to watch and think about competition and the importance of a championship lifestyle.

Most swim clinics are scheduled for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes Mark is traveling all weekend and other times Mark flies out in the morning and back home that same evening. A couple of weeks ago Mark flew to one clinic on Friday morning, back home on Friday evening, was home all day Saturday and then flew out, again, Sunday morning to a different location and flew back on Sunday evening. Phew. It is exhausting and certianly runs the risk of interrupting training, but this is part of Mark's job and one of the only parts of Mark's job that does not rely on a particular performance (though good performance certainly makes him more marketable). Last fall (2009) Mark traveled almost every weekend (for swim clinics, speaking engagements and other work) from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15. Sometimes Mark's travel schedule is almost unbearable, but we remind ourselves that by working so much he is able to continue his dream job: swimming.

What do I do while Mark travels? I carry on with regular life. I work, study, take care of the house (though I leave the laundry for Mark-I hate doing laundry!). Some of my friends cannot understand how we live this way. I don't know the difference, I guess.

Mark loves swim clinics. He always tells the story of the first swim clinic he attended with Olympic breaststroker Mike Barrowmen-Mark was twelve. Mark claims that this is the first moment that he decided that he, too, was going to become an Olympian. So, you can see the sentimental feelings associated with talking, coaching and swimming with hundreds of children across the country-I think Mark takes pride in jumpstarting others' goals. Mark works with Mutual of Omaha Break Out Swim Clinics and the Swim Champions Fitter and Faster Tour and is so thankful that companies like these are in place to support elite swimmers like himself.

I had the opportunity (this is the world we'll use now, even though at the time I was stressed, busy and overwhelmed with work) to work at a few of Mark's clinics last year. My favorite part of the clinic is at the end when Mark races the young swimmers in attendence. He gives them a head start and then dives in to win-though my favorite moments are the races where Mark provides too much of a head start and gets touched out by a lucky twelve-year-old. You should see the pride in these swimmers' faces-they are king or queen of their team for the rest of the afternoon and everyone yells things like "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, you got schooled."

One of Mark's best lessons after so many years of coaching at swim clinics is how to travel with two gold medals in your carry-on luggage. Josh Davis, one of Mark's fellow Olympians and clinician extraordinaire, taught Mark that if you put your gold medals in a sock that they will be protected from dings and clashes in your suitcase. It is these things that make up our unique point of view.

We often get asked, "how do you travel with your medals?" It is still funny to me when people ask if Mark wears them through the airport. Like a necklace? Huh? I think if people stopped and really thought about how they might travel with a couple of Olympic gold medals before they asked Mark if he wears them that they might come up with a different question. I'm not judging... I'm just saying.


  1. Ok. Makes the tennis clinics I ran in high school look VERY dippy! :)

  2. No, Kels... there are a million ways to run a great clinic. What we've learned is that it really only matters that the 'coach' is passionate and can relate well to the kids. I'm sure they weren't dippy at all :)

    How is your family. Finn is adorable.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. It was my 12 year old that raced against Mark last September in Atlanta and got the high five at the end of the lane. He will never forget that day! Mark was great with all the kids, he talked to each of them individually and made them all feel important. Thanks for Sharing your life with us.

    Misty, Georgia