WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
August 17, 2013
Jason Allen listened intently as Olympian Clark Burckle shared his knowledge of the sport during the inaugural Florida Gold Coast Swimposium.
The energetic 11-year-old was among more than 100 age group swimmers, officials and coaches participating in the day-long Swimposium at Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Before the afternoon session got under way, Burckle spent time with Allen working on his start. “I think I made a friend for life,” Burckle said with a smile.
“I like to have fun with the kids so that they can see that I am enjoying swimming still at this point. I want to inspire them to keep swimming and let them realize that it is a good sport.”
The free Swimposium, sponsored by USA Swimming, was not only well-organized and informative but fun and entertaining. One of the highlights was when officials got to interact with 13-and-older swimmers for a starter practice session during fun relays.
“I think this is beneficial,” Burckle said. “When you get to do a clinic with an elite level athlete, you get to see a lot of their secrets, what makes them tick and what made them faster. You can have the opportunity to ask questions about obscure things maybe their coach doesn’t know the answer to or might not have the time to talk to every individual swimmer.
“This gives them a little bit more of a personal experience and it’s just fun. They get to come out, they don’t have to do an entire practice. Hopefully, it inspires them.”
Burckle, 25, a finalist in the 200-meter breaststroke at last year’s Olympic Games in London, worked with two large groups of age group swimmers who came from as far away as Martin County and North Palm Beach in split sessions for ages 12-and-under and 13-and-over poolside at the Michael Lohberg Pool of Champions.
Burckle was impressed with the swimmers during both sessions.
“They all listened really well,” Burckle said. “They were excited the whole time. They loved doing the relays. They listened to all my little tricks, my quirky little things that sometimes people don’t understand, but they really did a good job with that. They all just seemed like they loved swimming. That, coupled with the atmosphere here is pretty hard to beat.
“I have done quite a few clinics and this is definitely up there at the top. It definitely helps that I am an Olympian and they listen. But part of it for me is even before I was an Olympian, I always really loved swimming. I remember the people who helped me growing up and I consider them mentors. I wasn’t always an amazing swimmer so I can relate to more of the regular kids.”
Burckle returned to South Florida for the first time since 2009. He attended University of Florida for three years and finished at Arizona in 2010. He plans on entering the Stanford School of Business this fall.
“Swimming took me a long way,” Burckle said. “I know I didn’t win an Olympic medal but I had a great career and I am so happy with it. I am glad I have more of a story that people can relate to because so many times you get these Olympians who have been to four Games and won all these gold medals. It’s not realistic for every kid to think especially with how competitive things have gotten in youth sports.
“The team atmosphere is one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of,” Burckle said. “I’ve done well with swimming but now it’s time to focus on my studies. Remember, it’s student-athlete not athlete-student.”
Burckle said for now, he is hanging up his suit after swimming in last week’s masters nationals, and plans to focus on his studies.
“I accomplished my main goal and I am moving on with my life,” he said.
However, Burckle said he hopes to continue giving clinics and working with kids. He added he will continue to train to stay in shape and doing masters meets.
“I really enjoy this,” Burckle said. “I would love if they would keep offering me opportunities to do this. I really wanted to do this one. I love South Florida. Swimming in South Florida is one of the most fun things there is.”
The symposium also featured Pat Lunsford with informative officials’ sessions and Randy Julian with a coaches and club board members session.
“I am really pleased with how it went,” said Florida Gold Coast secretary Lori Bosco. “Our first session we had 46 athletes and our second session 25 athletes. We had 45 officials that wanted to take the various clinics and 11 coaches or club members who wanted to do the club leadership.
“It’s a start and it’s just going to grow,” Bosco said. “I am very encouraged. We would like to do it every two years to try and get more people to come out and get more education. We can just build on what we did today and maybe offer more in the future. You never stop learning.”
Bosco thanked Coral Springs for donating its facility for the Swimposium and USA Swimming for sponsoring the event.
FGC officials hope to hold a USA Swimming Swimposium every two years in South Florida.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org