“I like swimming because you get to play in the water and it gets you cooled off," says Mini Marlin swimmer Tristan Vieth.
That’s how thousands of Americans get into the sport of swimming each year, through local swim teams, like the Eau Claire YMCA, that emphasize fun and safety first. According to USA Swimming, there are now over 300,000 youth swimming competitively. It is common practice in the sport, for the little ones to be led by those, who just a few years ago, were taking their first strokes.
“I started giving back because I found an opportunity to share what I know about the sport and I know how giving back, like showing an example for the younger kids really makes a difference," says Emily Schmitt, a teenage coach for the Mini Marlins.
“I’ve definitely learned patience," adds Alex Delakis, "because it’s really a whole different experience working with little kids and you’re like that was me when I was a little kid.”
Even if they can’t quite remember the name of the number one swimmer in the world
“Michael Phillips?,” said Vieth.
The young ones are still excited to see their favorite strokes on TV because, hey, they swim those strokes too!
“Freestyle, because it’s the fastest stroke,” says Mini Marlin swimmer, Ava Paulmier.
“My favorite stroke is butterfly," adds teammate Noelle Glassbrenner, "I think because of the ways your arms are moving. I like the way that you move your arms back and forth like you’re a windmill or something.”
There is a sense of pride amongst the older athletes, who put in many hours of training, to see their sport take the main stage in front of the entire world.
“Super excited to see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte swim against each other obviously because it’s making swimming such a big sport because everybody hears about it," says Eau Claire YMCA swimmer, Sarah Manz, "But I’m also excited to watch the women's team compete because we have a really strong women's team this year.”
And with the use of underwater cameras, the kids said the Olympics is a great time to learn from the best as well.