SOFLO’s Garrido Shares Ideas, Motivation And Inspiration With Silver Group

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 30, 2020—Roberto (Robby) Garrido has spent ten years growing up with South Florida Aquatic Club, his second family.

The lessons he learned from coaches, teammates and friends will last a lifetime, he said.

Now headed off to Rochester Institute of Technology where he will major in computer science this fall, Garrido spoke with SOFLO’s Silver Group recently on Zoom.

The 18-year-old shared some of his experiences he learned along the way with an emphasis on strong work ethic and consistency in swimming and academics.

“All my coaches and peers impacted my life,” Garrido said.

Garrido attended Everglades High School as a freshman and sophomore and College Academy at Broward College where he earned high school and Associate of Arts degrees.

“I also made it a priority to join the varsity swim team at Everglades,” Garrido said. “I knew it would benefit me in the long term. I learned early on to prioritize my school and training.

“What really helped me succeed was the organization and support around me. There were times I thought about quitting. I’m glad I didn’t. It showed me how much I could accomplish if I set my mind to it.”

Garrido shared four ideas that helped him along the way.

1. In order to stand out to a college, the most important is to focus on getting good grades and high GPA.

2. Take AP classes, have dual enrollment, take college courses which are free. I propose you challenge yourself.

3. Try to complete as many community service hours as you can during the summer. It will give you more free time when you’re in school.

4. Start taking the SAT and ACT as early as possible. Take these exams in tenth grade so you have multiple chances to take the tests to improve your scores.

“I wanted to get everything out of the way, it helped to be less stressful,” Garrido said. “I finished my core requirements by the end of my junior year. I knew if I started working at it early, I could have it all done my junior year. Being so young taking college courses all goes back to middle school when I was taking high school courses, it helped a lot. Being in a college environment helped prepare me for the future. All the work I did was worth it.

“My mom knows everything and she told me to believe in myself and what I can do,” Garrido said. “Moving forward when you go to high school, familiarize yourself with the system and courses that are open. It’s possible there may be something you want to do for a career.”

Garrido also used an inspiring saying that was printed on an old SOFLO t-shirt: “Push back the pain, find the glory.”

“I found it really motivational,” Garrido said. “I would ask myself ‘why am I waking up at 5 a.m. for practice’ before school. The more I focused on what I really wanted, it helped me push through and get to where I am now.

“It wasn’t easy and this is where the support came in. I talked to my siblings and surrounded myself by friends who also wanted to go to college. My mom helped, too. Don’t let anyone get in the way of what you want to accomplish.”

It was his mother who introduced Garrido to swimming at an early age.

“I dedicated myself to going to the pool. When I was 12 I got my first JO cut. I cried when I got out of the water and ran up to Coach Rose. I felt so accomplished.

“That feeling I had that first time I worked on each day to have that feeling again. And I did. I wanted to make it to regionals. My goal I wanted all four years and I did it. I never wanted to stop at one level. I realized I could go more. I wanted to be better than what I was yesterday.”

Garrido credits SOFLO with much of his success in and out of the water.

“As a member of SOFLO I was able to make new friends,” Garrido said. “They helped me to swim. SOFLO is a family. I found myself growing. It taught me the meaning of commitment, teamwork and respect. Some of those friends I know I will have the rest of my life.”

Garrido also credited former SOFLO coach Travis Lockie for encouraging him.

“Coach Travis helped me dream big, he changed my life,” Garrido said. “I had him in Silver and Gold. He just found a way to motivate me, to always do better and stay true to myself. He told me to have people around me all the time to support me. And he told me that I was always smiling and not to stop smiling.”

Garrido enjoyed giving his presentation and hoped it helped the swimmers prepare for their future.

“All you guys are very talented,” Garrido told them. “You may not have met me or seen me, but I believe in this future generation. In the end you will reap the benefits of what you’re doing right now. Keep working hard. It’s worth it in the end.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Leonardo Mateus Earns Silver Knight Award; Sophia Bedoya Nominated

By Sharon Robb

MIAMI, May 29, 2020—Despite the world being turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Florida Aquatic Club’s Leonardo Mateus earned one of the highest honors for outstanding high school seniors in South Florida.

Mateus was recognized for his achievements in athletics via Thursday’s livestream of the 62nd annual Silver Knights award ceremony. He was among 30 high school seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties honored.

Mateus, an Everglades High School alum who has been with SOFLO for 13 years, is headed to Ivy League school Yale University.

Mateus is the creator, director, and editor of the CollegePrep Project website, a one-stop shop for students applying for athletic scholarships.

As captain of Everglades’ swim team and member of SOFLO’s national team, Mateus learned how overwhelming the college application process can be. Through the CollegePrep Project, he greatly simplified the application process for fellow athletes.

Mateus was recognized as Most Dedicated Swimmer from 2016–2020. He was the recipient of the Dartmouth Book Award in 2019 and named a Cambridge Scholar with Merit in 2018. He also was inducted into the Science National Honor Society and tutored students in biology and chemistry.

SOFLO’s Sophia Bedoya, who has been with SOFLO for ten years and headed to New York University this fall, was nominated for a Silver Knight award for journalism.

The event recognizes outstanding students in fifteen categories.

The Silver Knight categories are art, athletics, business, digital and interactive media, drama, English and literature, general scholarship, journalism, mathematics, music and dance, science, social science, speech, vocational technical and world languages.

The prestigious award was created in 1959 by the former Miami Herald Publisher John S. Knight, and is hosted annually by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

“These students aren’t just among the brightest in their graduating class, but they made public service a priority, selflessly serving to help others in our community,’’ said Aminda Marqués González, executive editor, president and publisher of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, who hosted the event. “They are inspiring and we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to celebrate their incredible achievements.”

Each category awarded one winner and three honorable mentions from each county, coming from Miami-Dade’s 481 nominees and Broward’s 220 nominees. The 701 students represent 68 Miami-Dade schools and 35 Broward schools, both public and private.

The Silver Knight award includes a $2,000 scholarship from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a Silver Knight statue, an AAdvantage 25,000-mile travel certificate and an American Airlines Silver Knight medallion. The 90 senior honorable mentions received a $500 scholarship and an engraved plaque.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

FSU-Bound Swimmers Diaz, Banks Make It Fun For Dippers, AKS Swimmers

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 28, 2020–SOFLO’s David Diaz and Gabby Banks took turns talking about swimming for fun and importance of education with the help of moderator and SOFLO coach Andrea Golding during a Zoom presentation this past week.

Diaz and Banks are among nine high school seniors sharing their advice and experiences to younger SOFLO swimmers before they head off to college in the fall.

Diaz opened the presentation by asking swimmers what they did for fun. Archery, fishing and computer games were a few of their answers.

“You want to have fun with swimming, too,” Diaz said. “You don’t want to do something that you don’t want to do or forced to do.”

One way to make workouts fun is to challenge another swimmer in the next lane during a set, Diaz suggested.

“Racing each other is the greatest thing you can do to push yourself. It helps you get to the next level and it’s a friendly rivalry you develop. I got a lot of entertainment trying to race my friends.”

Diaz, Banks and Golding agreed the sport becomes a lot easier if you have fun with it. That you need it to be fun or you wouldn’t be good at it.

“Fun is so vital in the sport,” Diaz said. “At practice you may not be feeling it, but having a teammate support you makes the sport more fun and the competition with a friend is entertaining.

“Right now you should be enjoying the fun in swimming,” Diaz said. “Keep trying and don’t give up. Have fun with your teammates and support each other.”

Banks, who represents Jamaica internationally, stressed the importance of education.

“It’s important to stay in school and focus on your studies,” Banks said. “No matter how good you get in swimming, it is very important. Swimming is second to your education, that’s what’s going to help you in your career.”

Banks said it’s important to manage your time wisely. Set goals and keep up with schoolwork.

“You need to be so disciplined about going to practice, organizing your time and doing homework. You have to create a mental mindset. When in school you need to focus on your schoolwork and at swim practice you need to focus on swimming.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Senior Nick Chaimowitz Talks With Asteroids & Meteorites About Staying Positive And Consistent

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 26, 2020–Nick Chaimowitz is one of several South Florida Aquatic Club seniors giving back.

Chaimowitz and other seniors realize the importance of paving the way for their younger teammates with advice on various topics and sharing their experiences before heading off to college in the fall.

On Tuesday, Chaimowitz, 18, a Pembroke Pines Charter graduate, kicked off a series of SOFLO Senior Zoom presentations this week. His topic was “Staying Positive and Consistency.”

In front of a fun group of swimmers ages 7-11, Chaimowitz emphasized the importance of staying positive no matter what.

“If you stay positive in swimming, you are going to have a positive outcome,” Chaimowitz said. “If you have a negative outlook in life or swimming, it will turn out badly.

“You need to have a positive mindset at meets,” he said. “If you are striving for a certain time be confident. Don’t knock yourself down if you don’t get it. In practice, be positive whether you are trying to accomplish a goal or cheering on your teammates. And most importantly, stay positive in school. Being positive is the best way to live a healthy life.”

Chaimowitz also shared his ideas about goal-setting.

“Set easy goals that you can achieve quickly so you can be happy and build up your confidence,” he said. “Set a goal and prepare for it. If you see that you did it, you should feel accomplished with yourself. You could set goals, accomplish them and build on those goals to a higher goal.”

Using Swim Swam’s website as a source, Chaimowitz talked about consistency.

“It’s about taking the power back by setting motivational times. You are going to have those days where you don’t want to train and don’t feel like doing anything. But you still should put in the best effort you can.

“Avoid going for all or nothing,” Chaimowitz said. “If you set your goals too high and push for it you are wasting all this time. I’m not saying don’t go for it, but you need to be realistic. Build on smaller goals.

“When you fall, get back up quickly. Victories are just like defeats. They set a tone and momentum which is hard to describe. It’s okay if you lose to a rival, tell yourself you will get him in the next race.”

Chaimowitz said strive for consistency when setting goals.

“Don’t be afraid to strive for greatness. Obviously, do it in small parts. It’s too enormous for you guys to set a huge goal. Try to build on it and eventually you guys will accomplish it.

“I set a small goal since the quarantine. I wanted to work out every day, even Sunday, my usual day off. After my workout I feel great about myself and I feel successful. If you hold yourself accountable to your goals, you will be successful.”

SOFLO coaches Rose Lockie, Luis Soler and Andrea Golding had fun interacting with Chaimowitz and swimmers.

Soler echoed Chaimowitz advice about setting too lofty goals.

“If you have this goal that is unattainable and fail, you may just not want to do the sport anymore and that’s not what it’s all about,” Soler said. “Having these smaller goals builds into an ultimate goal. If you do get that goal, it’s a bonus.”

Chaimowitz encouraged the young swimmers to focus on core work including push-ups, sit-ups and crunches and emphasized eating healthy.

“You can’t work out and be healthy without eating right,” Chaimowitz said. “I know that first hand.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 22, 2020—For eleven years, Rafael Rodriguez had the drive, dedication and passion it took to be a swimmer at South Florida Aquatic Club.

Rodriguez, 18, a recent Pembroke Pines Charter graduate, is headed to Purdue to study engineering and continue his competitive swimming career.

Rodriguez forged friendships and memories at SOFLO that will last a lifetime.

“I think what I will remember the most is all the relays I swam with my friends in Bronze and JOs,” Rodriguez said. “I won a lot of relays with a group of friends who are still my friends. Going on road trips like nationals was really fun. I really liked all the travel meets with the team.”

Rodriguez was a member of Florida Gold Coast record-breaking relay teams in 11-12. He went on to do well at JOs, Seniors, Summer and Winter Juniors, Zones, Futures, Open Water and high school meets. He is ranked among the Top 25 swimmers in the state in several events. He earned a $1,100 Senior Commitment & Loyalty Scholarship from the Comets Swim Team Booster Club, Inc. ($100 per year as a SOFLO student-athlete).

“It’s been super fun,” Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t have asked for any better sport to do.”

Before he discovered his love for swimming, he competed in soccer, basketball and baseball.

“But for whatever reason I got into swimming lessons and really enjoyed it,” Rodriguez said. After taking lessons with Coach Luis, Rodriguez quit all his other sports at age 7 to focus on swimming.

“I think it was I really liked the water,” Rodriguez said. “It’s one of the hardest sports to keep up with. I’m really competitive and it was the hardest thing I could do, so I stuck with it.”

Rodriguez knew he had potential when he broke his first FGC record in the 1,000. “That’s when I started to push myself harder physically and mentally,” he said.

Rodriguez credits SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson for playing a key role in his success.

“I think I will miss Coach Chris yelling at me the most,” Rodriguez said with a smile. “It was a loving yell. I had some rough patches at some meets. I swam really, really bad at Summer Juniors. There were times I would get in my head to quit and move on, but Coach would always fix my mind. He wouldn’t let me quit. He knows how to push my buttons the right way. He made me become a better swimmer and better person. I will always appreciate that.”

Rodriguez has been staying fit with SOFLO’s Zoom workouts. He’s been keeping his mind sharp by not focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, choosing instead to stay distracted with doing dryland and playing basketball and video games. He also is planning to talk with SOFLO’s younger swimmers to help motivate them once they return to the pool. “I’ve just been doing a lot of stuff to keep busy,” he said.

Rodriguez is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He hopes to make an impact his freshman season, but college campuses are still in a state of flux whether they will open in the fall.

“I think my college coach is figuring out what is going to happen and what’s going on in the world right now,” Rodriguez said. “I really like the school and I talked to the coach a couple times and we really connected.”

Former SOFLO teammate and Canadian national Lance Lesage, who still has one year left at St. Thomas Aquinas, verbally committed to Purdue and will join Rodriguez in the fall of 2021. “It’s nice to know someone will be there that you have known for a really long time,” Rodriguez said.

While he was able to graduate last week from Pembroke Pines Charter (observing six feet of distancing, of course), where he has attended since kindergarten, he was “bummed” that he missed Grad Bash at Orlando theme parks with his schoolmates.

It will be bittersweet for Rodriguez when he leaves for college in August and says good bye to SOFLO teammates and coaches.

“I am going to miss everybody,” Rodriguez said. “I hope to come back and train during school breaks. I am super happy with what I have been able to accomplish so far and I hope to do more in college.

“My goals are to get a college degree and I want to make NCAAs and final there,” Rodriguez said. “I want to help the team do well. Whatever Coach wants me to swim I will be fine with.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Deadlines Nearing For Nicholas Dworet Fund, Florida Gold Coast Scholarships; East Carolina Drops Program

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 21, 2020—High school seniors still have time to apply for two scholarships.

The Nicholas Dworet Fund Scholarship and Florida Gold Coast Soaring Eagle Scholarship, each worth $1,000, are available.

The Nicholas Dworet Fund Scholarship is for Broward County swimmers and divers only who competed for a Broward team in 2019-2020.

The scholarship is named in honor of the former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School swim captain and honors student, one of 17 killed Feb. 14, 2018 in a mass shooting on the Douglas campus. He was preparing to swim in college after earning a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis and had aspirations to represent Sweden in the Tokyo Olympics.

Deadline to apply is May 30th. Those interested can go to must be accepted to a college and planning to attend in fall of graduating year. Applicants do not need to be swimming or diving for a college to win the scholarship. An application can be found at

The Florida Gold Coast Soaring Eagle Scholarship also honors Dworet. All Florida Gold Coast swimmers intending to swim in college are eligible to apply. The scholarship encourages and supports a FGC athlete’s drive and determination similar to Dworet’s.

The deadline is May 31 to apply. The application can be found on the FGC website.


Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic is the elimination of swimming and diving program at East Carolina University.

Officials announced Thursday that the men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s tennis programs will be cut as part of the school’s budget restructuring efforts because of COVID-19. The cutbacks affects 68 student-athletes and nine coaches from the four programs. The cuts are estimated to save $4.9 million.

The college will honor all scholarships of the affected student-athletes who want to continue their studies at East Carolina. If athletes decide to transfer to another swimming program, they will be immediately eligible to compete under NCAA guidelines that state they can compete when their college discontinues the sport.

The men’s swim team was defending American Athletic Conference champion and had won four conference titles in the last six years.

“Today’s decision came after a deliberate review and in-depth analysis of the athletics department’s budgets and programs,” said Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson in a prepared statement.

“The current athletics budget was not sustainable pre-COVID-19 and the university was working closely with athletics to decrease the annual deficit over the next year. With the pandemic, the deficit began to grow significantly where the impact was immediate and will affect future revenue and expenses for years to come. Ultimately, the reduction of sports aligns ECU with our American Athletic Conference peers and provides a road map to a more sustainable future for the university and athletics.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO Olympian Natasha Moodie Shares Her Struggles, Accomplishments As Student-Athlete

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 13, 2020—Resilience is not letting setbacks destroy you, learning from them and trying again. It’s one of life’s great skills which Natasha Moodie has mastered since she was a little girl.

The Jamaican Olympian, University of Michigan and Miramar High School alum and former South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer shared her trials and tribulations with SOFLO swimmers, parents and coaches recently on Zoom.

Moodie, 29, is SOFLO’s full-time college advisor. Her life’s story is remarkable. She never rejoiced in easy victories because there were no easy victories for the injury-plagued swimmer. She recovered from failure and learned something about herself along the way. She is tough. And, that’s how confidence is built. She is confident in anything she takes on.

For nearly an hour she shared her own stumbles and showed swimmers that mistakes are totally normal and helps them take their own in stride. She also proves that being a good role model doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.

The theme of her motivational talk was “determine your success by committing to the development of your character.”

Moodie started elementary school in Kingston, Jamaica at 4 and was one of only three 6-and-under swimmers at the center.

“We made it from one end of the 50-meter pool,” said Moodie, who by age 6 was swimming year-round for a club. At 12, her family moved to New Jersey where she joined an age group team. In 2005, she moved to Miramar and joined the Comets/SOFLO club.

“It was very tough for me at first,” Moodie said. “Having Chris (CEO and head coach Chris Anderson) as a coach really changed my life. He consistently pushed me. There was not really a limit on our goals. Coach did not put a cap on me on what I could achieve.”

Early on Moodie injured her shoulder. “I had no endurance, I was slowest in practice,” she said. “It was the first time I was truly challenged. I made a commitment to swimming and to what I was doing. I really wanted to be better and meet Chris’ expectations.”

Moodie said that meant giving 100 percent at every practice, getting to the pool at 4:45 in the morning, going to school and then returning for afternoon practice.

“Every meet I gave my best even though I had to swim the 400 IM and 200 fly,” Moodie said. “I had to be humble enough to accept correction to improve as an athlete.”

At the high school state meet, she won the 50-yard freestyle and had the pool deck buzzing.

“Most people didn’t even know my high school had a swim team,” Moodie said. “No one knew who I was. I was beating people who were suppose to win.”

At that meet Moodie made her U.S. Open cut and it all snowballed from there. “I had no idea what the U.S. Open was and here Chris is asking me if I wanted to go and I said ‘sure, yeah.” The next two years I went to juniors and seniors. If Chris said jump, I jumped.”

Moodie only missed two days of practice for prom and graduation. She competed in several U.S. Opens, senior nationals, made the Jamaican national team, 2006 World Championships in Australia, 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, 2008 Seoul Olympics and 2009 World Championships. She retired from the Jamaican national team in 2010.

Moodie was 15 her senior year of high school when she was being recruited by colleges. “At that time recruiting was different,” Moodie said.

At only 16, Moodie started her collegiate career at Michigan on a full scholarship. She is the youngest SOFLO swimmer to earn a Division I scholarship. She made several college visits but it was Michigan she had her heart set on.

“I went to Michigan on a recruiting trip and it was the most boring trip,” she said. “It was 20 degrees and I was shaking the whole weekend. But I needed a place with minimal distractions to be successful in college and that environment didn’t have distractions.”

It wasn’t easy when she arrived on-campus. She called her first semester “an absolute disaster.” She was reprimanded for being late her first day of practice. After the first two weeks, she injured her left arm and couldn’t swim in practice. She had the least endurance and was the weakest in dryland which she said her teammates thought she wasn’t working hard.

“I was injured and terrible in practice,” Moodie said. “My teammates didn’t think I was putting in the effort. They didn’t know my character yet.”

In addition to being constantly injured, she did not do well on her final exams and failed her first semester with an F average, making her ineligible to compete her second semester.

“It was devastating and really hard for me,” she said. “I disappointed myself, my family and my teammates. After that first semester I got tutors, made weekly appointments with my professors, met with my academic advisor and joined study groups. I had to humble myself and take those steps to meet my goals.”

Moodie said she took time to reflect on how badly “did I want that degree from Michigan.”

Moodie nearly failed another semester her junior year but met with a tutor every day and professors three times a week.

“I did whatever it took to get there,” Moodie said. “I couldn’t spend time comparing myself to others. I had to stay true to myself and character.”

Even though she had only her electives left her senior year she never got overconfident. Just because she was doing better, she never let up. She was also named team captain.

“It wasn’t my GPA or amount of team points I scored, it was my character,” Moodie said. “Even when I was failing I maintained my integrity. I didn’t cheat or cut corners. I made the necessary changes to make it through and become better. I started at the bottom and now I am here.”

Injuries continued to plague her body that senior year. She was the only swimmer on the team not to earn an academic award or any individual swimming honors. And, she fell short of her goal of winning the Big 10 Championships by .02.

“It did not change my character or goals, I always put in 100 percent,” Moodie said. “I never missed a pratice and never let go of my goals.”

Moodie walked away with her college diploma finishing with a 2.6 GPA or C average. She went on to grad school at Johns Hopkins University.

“My coach said my professor reached out to him and said how much he enjoyed having me as a student,” Moodie said. “I barely graduated but they saw my dedication and character. Despite my difficulties I stayed true to myself and developing my character. It was my character that set me apart from my peers. It’s not about my grades or accomplishments, it was my dedication to get things done.”

Moodie stressed achievements are not the only measure of success.

“We are taught to push past our limits,” Moodie said. “You have an opportunity to show what you are made of. To be able to push yourself past your perceived boundaries are privileges. You get a chance to prove what you are made of for yourself, not your coaches or parents or teammates.

“I urge you to commit to developing yourself and giving your very best at every practice. Be able to humble yourself to accept corrections. These are valuable lessons to you for the rest of your life.

“If you fully commit to yourself and future self regardless of what your accomplishments say on paper, give everything to accomplishing that goal and character, at the end of the day you can say you are successful.

“I made sure that my 2.6 GPA told my story of resilience, it wasn’t a story of failure,” Moodie said. “It was a sign I didn’t give up. I was able to exercise humility and was willing to work hard and face not being the best. My life was filled with defining moments and you will have those moments that will define you, too.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Olympic Coach Gregg Troy Inspires South Florida Aquatic Club Swimmers, Coaches

By Sharon Robb

GAINESVILLE, May 7, 2020—If anyone knows how to accomplish goals, take on challenges and overcome adversity, it’s Olympic coach Gregg Troy.

Troy has worked with some of the greatest swimmers in the world and has pretty much seen and heard everything a swimmer has gone through at the age group, high school, college and international level.

His resume speaks for itself. He was head coach of University of Florida men’s swimming and diving teams from 1999 to 2018, and head coach of the women’s team from 1998 to 2018. Before joining the Gators in 1998, he was head coach at Bolles for 20 years.

Under his guidance, UF athletes won 43 individual national championships, 177 SEC titles and earned 1,145 All-America honors. He also coached 47 Gator Olympians, who had 78 appearances at the last five Olympic Games. Those athletes won 23 medals, including 11 gold.

Troy served as head coach of Team USA at the 2012 London Olympic Games and Team Thailand in 1992, with his other two Olympic stints as assistant coach (1996, 2008).

He now works with individual swimmers for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as high performance coach for the Gator Swim Club. And, of course, waiting patiently to get back on the pool deck with his swimmers.

Recently, Troy spent more than an hour talking with SOFLO swimmers and coaches on the Zoom platform. He covered a multitude of topics from staying in touch with people and reading Richard Bach’s inspiring Jonathan Livingston Seagull to doing various core workouts during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Troy talked about several of his swimmers including Ryan Lochte, Caleb Dressel, Gustavo Borges, Trina Jackson and Elizabeth Beisel and the common thread they shared in swimming.

“They had a tremendous ability to accept challenges through dedication and consistency,” Troy said. He pointed out that Lochte’s first national time standard was in the 1,650 freestyle.

“He made challenges for himself by racing other guys in practice,” Troy said. “He was always trying to look for ways to get better. He was finding ways of making practice exciting and would fall behind teammates five to seven seconds only to catch them. When he got really good the second part of his career, he was always great at the end of his races because of those challenges he gave himself.

“The really great athletes I worked with always liked challenges. ‘What do I need to be better?’ athletes would ask. Those challenges are an important part of what you are doing and right now is a gigantic challenge.

“Were they perfect or great every day at practice? No. But they found ways to make practice fun and stayed focused on what they were doing.

“The really good swimmers had a tremendous sense of resiliency. They took their ups and downs during their journey from age group to college and on. Every one of them had challenges.”

Whether it was distance or sprints, his swimmers shared a common bond.

“It didn’t matter what they worked on in practice, they would challenge themselves,” Troy said. “I told age groupers I work with, all these ingredients–sprinting, breath control, turns, strokes–those are all challenges.

“Everyone has the same ingredients. There are no miracles. The best swimmers in the world have bad swims and best coaches in world have bad swim meets. Every thing you do at practice is important, some things more than others, you choose what’s important.”

Troy talked about how swimmers can choose to communicate with their coach.

“All the great ones would communicate with me,” Troy said. “The more honest they became, the more we got out of practices. It wasn’t quite the same when they were younger. But the older ones gave me the ability to take practice and refine it more and tailor it to them. The time to go and talk to your coach is at the conclusion of a practice or better than that, make an appointment and sit down with your coach. ”

Troy emphasized the three key people in a swimmer’s life.

“Who is the most important person or most invested person in your life? Troy asked. “Some will say their coach or parents but the most important person is you. You are the one most invested in what you do at practice or anything extra you do.

“The next most invested are your parents. They love you immensely. They want the best for you. They don’t know nearly as much as your coach but they love you.

“The third most invested is your coach. Why would anyone want to fight with their coach is a mystery to me. Your coach wants you to do well. It’s his job. It makes no sense to argue with your coach.”

Troy had some suggestions for swimmers while they are in quarantine.

“No. 1, the most important is to get a routine,” Troy said. “Some are better than others but it keeps you from getting bored. The absolute tool of swimming fast is the mind. Mentally practice skills, visualization, where’s our next journey, your first meet back, go to old meets, re-rehearse those and be a better student of the sport. The mind is the most important tool.

“Ride a bike hard for 15 minutes, forcing your heart rate up is really good. Any exercise, dryland, stretching. Take them and make them your own.

“Reading is important. Read about the sport. Keep a log book. The importance of keeping a log book is that it’s a map of where you are going on this journey, where you’ve been and set up where you are going.

“Set two goals for yourself for the week. Your coaches will help with that. Two goals that will make you a better person that also relate to being a better athlete. I have found that what college coaches are looking for is changing more and more in today’s world–good attitude, coach’s recommendation and good grades. They are still looking for swim ability but they want that person who is the best to work with, that’s fun to be around. Those are the real priorities.”

Troy said when he was recruiting college prospects, he would watch to see who showed up early or on time to practice and who was there until the end of practice. On home visits, he would observe how recruits treated their parents. He would look for the most intrinsic values that made for better teammates.

The final subject Troy touched upon were hitting plateaus in swimming. He pointed out that even the great ones like Michael Phelps hit a plateau. From 2004 in Athens until January 2007, Phelps did not swim a best time in any of his best events.

“Then he had a tremendous meet at World Championships in Australia and everything took off again,” Troy said.

“The first thing you realize is that swimming is one of the hardest sports, it’s very unforgiving. The plateaus are part of the sport. You have got to find ways to get off that plateau which takes us back to challenging yourself in practice, what you do, how you do it, watch your nutrition. This is why it is important to keep a log book.

“It’s so important to do things right when you were instructed the first time. As you get older and faster the law of physics work against you. As you get faster, the mistakes you make will hold you back. That’s why people reach plateaus. They got so good doing the wrong things that as they got older they refused to make the necessary changes. It takes time, but stay after making that change.

“It goes back to talking to your coach,” Troy said. “There are very few things your coach tells you that you can not improve.

“When we come out of this (COVID-19), go back to practice and be so excited. Don’t be really good for two or three weeks and then become normal again. You don’t want to be normal. You want to challenge yourself. ”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson Shares Her Journey With SOFLO, FGC Swimmers On Zoom

By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, May 4, 2020–In front of a captive audience of nearly 300 Florida Gold Coast swimmers including several South Florida Aquatic Club teammates, Alia Atkinson shared her trials and tribulations in swimming.

The four-time Jamaican Olympian and world short course record holder made a special appearance recently on the Zoom platform for the Florida Gold Coast.

Atkinson, 31, is focusing on her fifth appearance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, an historic feat for a Jamaican swimmer. She made her first Olympic team at age 15 under the watchful eye of SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson who has coached her for most of her career.

Atkinson spoke for 30 minutes and then opened it up for a question-and-answer session with Jennifer Gibson of Swim Fort Lauderdale as moderator. She talked about her early years as an age group swimmer and college career at Texas A&M. She started swimming at age 4. She said she liked the feel of the water and “hearing that swish.”

“I know you guys are busy doing something even though you are home and not training with your team,” Atkinson said, referring to the quarantine.

Atkinson stressed the importance of learning something from every swim.

“No matter whether you win or lose, you can find something to learn from that swim,” she said. “I have a lot of failures, and I am still learning. I turned those failures into a learning experience.

“The road is going to be rough but your journey is your journey. You can find little things to get better with every race.

“Swimming is very fickle, you have to be patient. Your body will get stronger. It’s really about being patient and persevering.”

Atkinson admits she came to a crossroads after just missing a medal in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. She was eighth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“From 23rd to fourth put that fire back,” Atkinson said. “I realized I wasn’t finished now. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I now realize I need to swim for another reason.”

Atkinson also touched about signing with her first major sponsor, Speedo, her first world record and competing on the pro circuit around the world.

While swimmers are at home, she suggested they use YouTube as a source to check out elite swimmers and their strokes.

“I have started to understand more about other strokes,” she said. “Break down your strokes and fine tune. Use YouTube as a reference, watch the swimmers and their strokes and then compare your strokes to theirs.”

Atkinson talked about the mental aspects of swimming and how it can be a roller coaster.

“I believe in positive reinforcement,” she said. “Do the little things to change your outlook to positive.

“Have small goals during quarantine,” she told swimmers. “Help yourself so you get excited, help yourself physically and mentally. For me, I focus on the small things, things I can control.”

The Olympics being moved to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic threw everyone for a loop including Atkinson but she is adjusting.

“You cannot change your circumstances, but you can change your mindset,” Atkinson said. “It’s about how mentally tough can you get no matter what the world throws at you.

“I am looking forward to 2021,” Atkinson said. “I’m not sure what the future holds. You guys are all in the same boat as me. Just stay connected to your teammates and coaches.

“Start working on things that you lacked before, be a little ahead of the curve. Even though circumstances may hinder your mental state, there is always a chance to get back up and get tougher. Make your weakness into your strength. This is a great time to do it.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Broward County Public Schools Announce Virtual Graduation Ceremonies For Class of 2020

By Sharon Robb

FORT LAUDERDALE, May 2, 2020–Broward County Public Schools has announced the virtual commencement schedule for the Class of 2020 high school graduations that will feature several South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers.

The virtual commencement ceremonies, which will be live streamed on TV and online, are being held virtually to prevent the spreading of coronavirus.

The various ceremonies are scheduled from June 15-28. Each graduation will be broadcast live on BECON-TV and streamed live on YouTube so family and friends, local and across the country, will be able to join in celebrating this milestone achievement of their seniors.

The school district said that additional plans for recognizing the seniors are forthcoming and graduates and parents will receive information about caps and gowns from their respective schools.

All ceremonies will provide the traditional pomp and circumstance, including speeches by student representatives, School Board members, District and school administrators, roll call of graduates and other school graduation traditions.

The decision for virtual graduation ceremonies came after meetings between administrators, teachers and student leaders to provide input and consider graduation options.

BCPS Superintendent Robert W. Runcie said in his letter to the Class of 2020, “With the education and training you have received, you are well prepared to be successful on whatever path you take. Our goal is to use technology to make your graduation personal and memorable.”

The Class of 2020 virtual graduation schedule is:

Atlantic Technical, Sunday, June 21, 1 p.m.
Blanche Ely, Sunday, June 28, 4 p.m.
Boyd Anderson, Thursday, June 18, 4 p.m.
Bright Horizons Center, Thursday, June 18, 10 a.m.
Broward Virtual School, Thursday, June 18, 1 p.m.
Coconut Creek, Monday, June 15, 4 p.m.
College Academy, Tuesday, June 23, 1 p.m.
Cooper City, Tuesday, June 16, 4 p.m.
Coral Glades, Thursday, June 18, 7 p.m.
Coral Springs, Monday, June 22, 7 p.m.
Cross Creek Center, Monday, June 15, 10 a.m.
Cypress Bay, Saturday, June 20, 7 p.m.
Dave Thomas Education Center, Tuesday, June 16, 1 p.m.
Deerfield Beach, Saturday, June 27, 4 p.m.
Dillard, Sunday, June 21, 4 p.m.
Everglades, Friday, June 19, 4 p.m.
Flanagan, Saturday, June 27, 7 p.m.
Fort Lauderdale, Monday, June 22, 4 p.m.
Hallandale, Monday, June 15, 1 p.m.
H.D. Perry Education Center, Thursday, June 25, 7 p.m.
Hollywood Hills, Saturday, June 20, 4 p.m.
Lauderhill, Saturday, June 20, 10 a.m.
McArthur, Wednesday, June 24, 4 p.m.
McFatter Technical College, Saturday, June 20, 1 p.m.
Miramar, Tuesday, June 16, 7 p.m.
Monarch, Tuesday, June 23, 7 p.m.
Northeast, Wednesday, June 17, 4 p.m.
Nova, Friday, June 26, 4 p.m.
Piper, Wednesday, June 17, 7 p.m.
Plantation, Tuesday, June 23, 4 p.m.
Pompano Beach, Friday, June 19, 1 p.m.
Quest Center, Tuesday, June 16, 10 a.m.
Seagull School Center, Monday, June 22, 10 a.m.
Sheridan Technical, Monday, June 22, 1 p.m.
South Broward, Sunday, June 28, 7 p.m.
South Plantation, Friday, June 19, 7 p.m.
Stoneman Douglas, Monday, June 15, 7 p.m.
Stranahan, Wednesday, June 17, 1 p.m.
Taravella, Wednesday, June 24, 7 p.m.
West Broward, Friday, June 26, 7 p.m.
Western, Sunday, June 21, 7 p.m.
Whiddon Rogers Education Center, Thursday, June 25, 4 p.m.
Whispering Pines, Wednesday, June 17, 10 a.m.
Wingate Oaks Center, Friday, June 19, 10 a.m.

Sharon Robb can be reached at