Shane Ryan and Brett Hawke wanted to get back to the roots of swimming. That’s why the two Olympic swimmers were at Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 24, teaching kids about competitive swimming.
Ryan and Hawke were invited in by the Fitter & Faster Swim Tour, an organization that holds clinics like Saturday’s all over the country, letting youngsters learn from accomplished swimmers.
“For us, it’s like coming back to our roots and where it all started,” Hawke said. “And seeing the excitement from young kids, just dreaming to be an Olympic athlete.”
That’s the goal of some of the swimmers at the clinic. During the two sessions, swimmers from all across Georgia and some from out of state got advice from Ryan and Hawke on becoming better sprint swimmers.
It was an especially exciting time for Will Crumpton, a sophomore at North Hall High who said Auburn University is his dream school. Since Hawke is the head swim coach at Auburn, Crumpton knew he wanted to be at the clinic.
“This is really cool,” said Crumpton, who swims for Lanier Aquatics, a Gainesville swim team. “I just want to refine my techniques, learn some different dives, turns and things like that.”
Hawke knows the impact he can have on younger students. Though he’s used to coaching college students, he said he likes talking to youngsters because “they’re like sponges” listening to his advice and instruction.
“We always hope they pick up new skills and techniques out here,” Hawke said. “But really, just getting an opportunity to listen to Olympians and hear their stories really gears them up.”
Hawke competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. He then went on to coach at Olympics in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro.
Ryan recently graduated from Penn State University after taking time off to live in Ireland, for whom he competed in the 2016 Games in Rio.
“When I was growing up I didn’t have someone coming over,” Ryan said. “I didn’t get to go to clinics or anything like that. So now, since I’m here and they’re coming here, I want to give that option because why not help younger people? Why not help the younger guys? If I was them, I would have loved it.”
The clinic was made possible by Lanier Aquatics’ associate head coach. Crystal Tavares. She met some of the people from Fitter & Faster when she was at an American Swimming Coaches Association convention in September and thought a clinic would draw well in North Georgia.
“I’ve always wanted to run a clinic, and now that we’re at this facility, we can,” Tavares said.
She was happy with the number of swimmers who took part. Hawke was, too, and said “swimming is the best sport in the world, so we’re trying to keep these kids in it.”
That’s a big part of why he traveled to Gainesville for the clinic.
“Just reigniting passion,” Hawke said. “Because it can get monotonous and boring just doing the same old stuff. But doing something new, something they haven’t done before is exciting for me and for them. And then I hope they continue with swimming beyond their high school years, into college.”