The USA Swimming Foundation held a fantasy camp Nov. 8-10 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The purpose of the camp was to give adult swimmers the opportunity to spend a weekend on the campus of the iconic U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they had the opportunity to live, eat and train like a National Team Athlete.
Fantasy Campers had the opportunity to:
- Train in the world-renowned Olympic Training Complex Aquatic Center—a state-of-the-art facility containing a 50m by 25m pool that is equipped with every conceivable training aid. The Aquatic Center is arguably the finest training facility in the world, and has been the training site for nearly every U.S. Olympic swimmer.
- Receive coaching/technique training from Fantasy Camp Head Coach David Marsh and U.S. National Team staff.
- Swim, eat and socialize with Fantasy Camp special hosts, Olympic gold medalists Rowdy Gaines, Mel Stewart and Janet Evans.
- Participate in a special technique clinic with Olympic gold medalist and current world record holder Ricky Berens, courtesy of BMW, a proud partner of USA Swimming.
- Learn how to fuel their goals by incorporating nutrition into your fitness regimen, from Olympic gold medalist and AthleticFoodie co-founder Garrett Weber-Gale.
- Receive individualized swim filming/analysis, and personalized coaching on swim technique.
- Dine in the Olympic Training Center Athlete Dining Hall—a world-leader in performance-based nutrition.
- Attend swimming seminars geared to the adult athlete, and led by swimming’s leading experts.
- Hear from past and present swimming heroes about what it’s really like to be behind the blocks at the Olympic Games.
- Tour the Olympic Training Center as a VIP guest, and look behind the scenes of one of the most elite training environments in the world.
- Receive luxury transfers to/from Colorado Springs or Denver International Airports, provided by BMW.
- Bring home a bag packed with swag you won’t find anywhere else, including an Arena Powerskin® R-EVO+ swimsuit, the latest innovation in the Arena racing range.
USA Swimming correspondent Bob Schaller was able to talk to some campers and the Olympic-caliber camp staff about the experience. Here’s the story:
By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Ann Marshfield (left, with Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale) loves swimming – everything about the lifestyle and the sport itself.
And as the Fitness Director at Quail Hollow Country Club in Concord, Ohio, she cares about the people in the sport.
The avid Masters swimmer was on the USMS.org Web site, and something caught her eye: an orange cone set alongside a story and video done by SwimMAC CEO/Director of Coaching David Marsh, who has also coached numerous Olympians and has guided Auburn University to a number of NCAA titles.
“The article gave information about (the USA Swimming Foundation’s) Fantasy camp and a short video from David inviting Master swimmers to come,” Ms. Marshfield said. “I read, I watched, I looked at my calendar, mentioned it to my husband and away I went!”
The camp had a bit of serendipity to it logistically: The start was Friday, Nov. 8 – Marshfield’s 55th birthday.
“I thought, that would be a GREAT way to celebrate ‘aging’ up, yet defy aging,” Ms. Marshfield explained.
The camp was well-planned, she said. From the time the people landed in Colorado and checked-in, the USA Swimming Foundation had welcomed them in the Silver Room at the Olympic Training Center and taken them on a VIP facility Tour. Before they could catch their breath from the personal tour, they were at the Aquatic Center, where a group of Olympians and Olympic legends took them from there.
“The great thing about the camp was the fact that we were like a family for two days,” said Olympian Rowdy Gaines, who said the experience was off the charts in terms of being enjoyable and inspirational. “Everyone hung out together and it was really an interactive experience for both the campers and the ‘coaches.’ "
The setup of the camp lived up to its name. Campers received one-on-one attention from Olympians and Olympic coaches, and being able to ask them questions during in-depth feedback on their stokes was a dream come true.
“With a swimmer-to-leader ratio of 4 to 1, the tips, drills and suggestions were definitely individualized,” Marshfield said. “Having these great athletes actually in the water demonstrating the drills and providing expert and immediate feedback was just fantastic. Talk about ‘hands on.’ I don't think it could have been any better than that.”
In addition to headliner Rowdy Gaines and several other recent/current Olympians, another made a great impression on Marshfield.
“I also had a 20-minute one-on-one with Mel Stewart on the pool deck where we talked about core strength, muscle development and how to train my body to be a better breaststroker,” Marshfield said.
A familiar face – 2008 and 2012 Olympian Ricky Berens – said Marshfield and the other swimmers made the worthwhile event a very meaningful experience.
“Fantasy Camp was an incredible experience for me,” Berens said. “I have never been around a more passionate group of swimmers who have wanted to learn so much about the sport of swimming and how to become a better swimmer.”
Gaines is known for his ambassador and broadcast skills some three decades removed from his golden Olympic era, but Marshfield said Gaines, who looks lean and fit on TV, is all that, and more, in person.
“The stroke analysis from Rowdy Gaines was unbelievable,” she said. “That's what he does for a living, and here he was analyzing my strokes just like I've heard him do it on TV.”
While it was a Fantasy Camp for the swimmers, it also was a special time for the Olympians who guided them through the special experience.
“The camp was a true fantasy for someone who has a passion for swimming,” Marshfield said. “Anything you can think of was covered by the some of the biggest names in swimming history.”
Having Marsh, who is one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport at any level, on hand also made it meaningful. The campers felt like true Olympians. It was a feeling Marshfield had a hard time putting into words, not unlike an Olympian trying to describe what it’s like to stand on the podium after winning a medal.
“In a word – AWESOME,” Marshfield said of her experience. “The weekend was designed to give a flavor for what it's like to live and train at the US Olympic Training center under the watchful eyes and expert assistance of truly great Olympic swimmers and the best Olympic coach - David Marsh. For three very busy days U.S. Master Swimmers waded in water that the "gods" of our sport have swum in. How totally crazy and cool is that? Who wouldn't want to experience that? Talk about total access to these great athletes. I need to pinch myself to convince me it wasn't a dream. It was all very, very real. Of course looking at all the pictures that were taken helps.”
Like any great swimmer trying to improve, Marshfield blended her feedback from the Olympic legends and Olympic coaches with her program back home.
“I have four coached practices a week, and have asked my coach to help me,” Marshfield said. “I asked her to look at the video of my strokes taken at camp, which she did. She picked out the exact same flaws – they must be glaring – that Rowdy did when he analyzed my strokes with me, and we decided which ones to work on every day in practice.
“I explained to her some of the drills – there were so many – that were geared toward freestyle and breaststroke, and I use them in the sets that have drills. My Saturday workout is always about drills and stroke refinement so these drills are invaluable.”
Berens agreed that the feedback was something everyone took seriously, and took great pride in, especially once they saw the commitment the swimmers had to making the most of the experience and access to the Olympic swimmers and coaches.
“It was a great opportunity for the campers to ask questions with some of the best and smartest swimmers in the world who share the same passion for the sport,” Berens said.
Another famous Olympian made quite an impression as well – Janet Evans. Marshfield said having the freestyle legend’s ear along with “Gold Medal” Mel Stewart was literally more than she could have ever hoped for.
“The icing on the cake: swimming at world record pace based on gender not age – okay, there was some assistance from the pulley system but flying through the water at 23.73 seconds was such a rush!” Marshfield said.
She also wanted to make sure the camp leaders knew how much the swimmers appreciated their expertise, attention and friendship.
“(They were) extremely helpful, devoted and genuine – their willingness to answer any question about swimming, dry land, nutrition or anything else that was asked,” Marshfield said. “They were able to break down a stroke and explain it, demonstrate it and then assist me in execution. Spending a weekend with these wonderful people enabled me to see them as ‘normal’ people just like me, but they are very, very good at swimming.”
The USA Swimming Foundation put together the incredibly successful event, and swimmers walked away with a great appreciation than ever for the organization, and an even stronger appreciate for its mission.
“I spend a lot of time in and around pools beyond masters swimming,” Marshfield said. “In my position as Fitness Director I also oversee the operations of a seasonal 25 meter swimming pool. I'm also a certified lifeguard and a certified pool operator. The core mission of the Foundation to teach every child to swim is near and dear to me. My swim instructors are my most valuable summer employees. Watching them do their job and hearing their stories of the progress the children make over the course of the lessons assures me I'm providing something very tangible and worthwhile. This past summer in the Cleveland area, in just one week alone there were three fatal drownings: a 9-year-old, a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old. Three precious lives lost and a summer ruined for the surviving family members. So, my love of swimming and desire to be a master swimmer has afforded me the opportunity to become involved in an organization that I truly believe can make a huge impact on children of all ages teaching them a life saving skill - swimming. And who knows? Maybe in my own Quail Hollow Country Club pool we will ‘Build a Champion.’ Wouldn't that be sweet?”