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Olympic Gold Medalist Inspires Young Swimmers

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Inspired by #teamNFC at National Fitness Center:

Orange and white banners were everywhere, and larger flags reminded everyone that the collegiate team had been 1978 national champions.  In this awe-inspiring facility, some of the youngest competitive swimmers would get to compete — or just swim for the fun of it!

UT aquatic center on University of Tennessee campus

Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center on University of Tennessee Campus

Young swimmers from throughout the East Tennessee area gathered in the fall for the Inspirational Invitational at the University of Tennessee’s Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.  Some of them would compete for the first time in such a world-class venue on UT campus.  The event was organized by Olympic gold medalist Jenna Johnson.

My kids didn’t entirely understand why I awkwardly asked Coach Johnson for a poolside family scrapbook photo with them.  I got the typical “ahww, Mom” embarrassed reaction.  Later, as we sat on the bleachers waiting between events, the girls asked me to explain which events Johnson had competed in at the Olympics.  They weren’t content until I explained that she had indeed won not only a silver (100-meter butterfly), but two gold medals (for medley and freestyle relays).  “Ok then, she must be pretty good,” one kid declared.

The champion-turned-swim-coach noted as the meet began that the tone would certainly be more casual than competitive.  Yet, she ran the meet with orderly precision, where parents could watch on the white board which group would be swimming next.

Jenna Johnson Swim Meet

Olympic Gold Medalist Jenna Johnson Leading Youth Swim Meet at University of Tennessee

Johnson regularly teaches children’s swim classes at Knoxville-area YWCAs, and several children from there attended the meet.  Also swimming were the #teamNFC sharks swimmers from National Fitness Center.  The back of the event t-shirts read “not just a swim meet.”

Johnson and all of the other coaches clearly care about the kids, from training and form to simply teaching life lessons like reaching personal goals.  The crowd in attendance was sure to cheer as all competitors finished their laps, even those that took some extra time to complete.

Swimmer UT Meet

For many of us parents, we start off with swim lessons as a safety precaution for our children.  Then, through programs like the Sharks, they have the chance to gain confidence, refine technique and discover the excitement of competition.  Most importantly, the coaches try to ensure that all the young swimmers are having fun!

Swim team ribbons can become a wonderful keepsake for young athletes.  So can family pictures and memories of doing their personal best at the butterfly, freestyle or backstroke.  The final swim meet of the year at National Fitness Center even has a holiday game theme so kids can just enjoy play time in the water.  The swim team experience offers a fair amount of both athleticism and life lessons along with a chance to swim for the pure joy of it!  And sometimes, you get to meet an Olympian.

This post is sponsored by National Fitness Center in conjunction with the #teamNFC community program.

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