USA Swimming News

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

USA Swimming and Harper For Kids Bring Smiles From the Pool to the Classroom

USA Swimming and Harper For Kids Bring Smiles From the Pool to the Classroom

The pressures faced by America’s youth to be winners, have high test scores, be ‘perfect’ and many other expectations got Tim and Peanut Harper thinking about what they could do to make a difference in kids’ lives. In 2008 the duo founded Harper for Kids, a non-profit organization based on the principles created by legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and his pyramid of success. 

“The mission of Harper for Kids is to teach youth essential character traits that can help them achieve their personal best in life,” said Peanut. “We felt it was really important to continue Coach Wooden’s teachings and introduce his philosophy of success and pyramid of success to as many children, parents and educators as possible.” 

What started as a partnership with a single school in 2010 has grown to more than 70 kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools since then. One of the ways Tim and Peanut are able to help relay their messages of success to the kids is through visits from role models, like athletes from USA Swimming.

“All of the USA Swimming athletes are not only champion athletes but champion people,” she said. “It’s really important for the students to see these positive role models and to aspire to be a role model too. The teachers and students are always so impressed with how down to earth, kind and humble the athletes are and what a great lesson that is in itself for their students.”

More than 30 current and former U.S. National Team members have visited Harper for Kids, including Natalie Coughlin, Nathan Adrian, Kathleen Baker and more. 

“They [Natalie and Nathan] were so inspiring, kind and down-to-earth and that’s when we knew we wanted to try and reach out to USA Swimming and ask if there was any opportunity to have more of their athletes for our presentations to share their life lessons with the students,” Peanut said. “All have truly been incredible role models for the students and exemplify every one of the character traits represented on Coach Wooden’s pyramid of success.”

More recently, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Andrew Wilson took time to speak to a classroom for Harper for Kids.

“It was a great experience, I always enjoy sharing the lessons I’ve learned through swimming with the next generation,” said Wilson. “I emphasized that success is not exclusively about results; it’s also about the way you handle yourself and work towards a goal.” 

“Success means something different to everyone and it’s important that the students come up with their own definition of success,” Peanut added. “We hope that by constantly hearing the athletes share how they define success, that the students will see their definitions are all very positive, and most echo Coach Wooden’s message of just giving your best effort and trying your best. The students’ questions give the athletes an opportunity to share valuable life lessons that have helped them be successful, how they deal with pressure, challenges and disappointments, how they learn from failure and advice on how to be good role models.”

For Wilson, he hopes that his messages have an impact on kids long into the future. 

“I think that kids this age always value what you have to say; in some ways they just like the break from school, but that’s also usually positive because they’re engaged with what you’re saying. If you can change their mindset at that age, it can help greatly with all aspects of life in the future,” he said.

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