SOFLO Current College And Alum Share College Journey Experiences With SOFLO Swimmers, Parents


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, July 2, 2020—-For 90 minutes, South Florida Aquatic Club former and current college swimmers shared their recruiting and college experiences with current club swimmers and parents.

A panel of ten covered a range of topics with SOFLO College Prep Advisor Natasha Moodie as moderator on the Zoom platform.

The panelists were Brittany Williford, Boston College post-grad; Kelley Heron, Michigan State rising junior; Heath Brames, University of Massachusetts rising junior; Mitch D’Arrigo, Florida post-grad and 2016 Italian Olympian; Miguel Cancel, Florida rising junior; Kathleen Golding, Florida rising sophomore; Marc Rojas, Indian River and Florida State alum; Abby Oyetunji, Howard University rising senior; Courtney Marx, Western Kentucky alum; and Hailey Jerew, Florida Gulf Coast rising sophomore.

Among panel topic highlights covered were:

1. The recruiting process.

Jerew: “It’s not only based on time, but the college coaches wanted to know more about me, not just about my swimming. I kept them up to date with my meets, but also what was going on in my life and at home.”

Marx: “My strength as a recruit was that I was a huge team player. I liked to work hard. I held myself accountable. I wasn’t afraid to fail. I knew swimming wasn’t the only thing colleges were looking for.”

Rojas: “I had a lot of grit. I really liked the grind of practice. I challenged myself and my teammates. Out of high school I wasn’t as fast as I knew I could be. I always looked forward to practice in college, getting better and having fun. Getting recruited was kind of like a job interview. And, of course, your college coach is going to ask your club coach about you.”

2. The decision making process:

Golding: “There were two main things I was looking at–academics and athletics. I wanted a school that emphasized academics. The location and size of the school were important. Have a list of things you want in a college but be open to ideas.”

Williford: “I was really looking for a strong school academically, one I could perform well in academics and had flexibility. I fell in love with the city and change of seasons.”

Oyetunji: “I didn’t plan on swimming in college and I thought I would stay in- state. I didn’t have an exact plan on what I wanted, I just wanted to go to college. Coach Chris put me in touch with Howard University and put it on my radar. I was 16 and a high school senior. I had to take a gap year which helped me think about colleges. I knew then I didn’t want to stay in state. It was good for me to have a change and not just because of swimming, which I also got to do.”

Brames: “I began my recruiting process my senior year. I knew I wanted to go out of the state. I made a list of 20-30 colleges and sent out a mass email. I took my first phone call in January from the University of Massachusetts. I took a recruiting trip and loved it there. I told the head coach ‘Hey, let’s do this.'”

D’Arrigo: “I came to the U.S. my senior year. I didn’t swim high school because I swam for Italy so I had no yard times. I wanted to go to UF but they wanted me to walk on. I committed to Virginia but they said I couldn’t go to junior worlds and then the head coach left. I ended up getting a scholarship to UF.”

Rojas: “It was my senior year of high school and I was freaking out. I felt I had so much potential but my times weren’t there. I had a few recruiting trips but they only offered book fees. Alia Atkinson suggested I go to Indian River. Two weeks before high school ended I committed. I didn’t have a scholarship but it wasn’t that much money. They were hard working kids like me and really fast. I did well my first year and contacted Florida State. They were interested and I fell in love with the place. Make sure you make sure the school is a right fit for you. My FSU teammates had a high drive and embraced the grind of practice. The school really spoke out to me.”

3. Advice you would give your younger self for recruiting trips:

Brames: “Don’t compare yourself too much to the other recruits or members of the team. I would get nervous and intimidated by their times. There shouldn’t be any reason to panic or get nervous.”

Rojas: “Do the best you can reaching out to coaches and different schools. Keep your options open. If you choose a school and you don’t like it, remember it’s not set in stone and it’s not the end of the world. It’s okay to make changes. Just be sure before the big decision.”

Marx: “Use your your resources. Don’t get overwhelmed with emails and questionnaires. There are a lot of steps and it’s a big process.”

Golding: “Recruiting trips are exhausting. Be prepared to be exhausted. You do a lot in a short amount of time. Keep that in mind. Bring a notebook to write down what you’re thinking and ask questions.”

Heron: “Recruiting trips can be a little awkward. You are talking to people you have never met before. What stressed me out was meeting with advisors. I recommend having questions ready that you want to ask.”

4. College application tips:

Cancel: “Focus on making sure you get your applications in before the deadline. I committed early so I only had to fill out the coalition app.”

Oyetunji: “Get them done early. You don’t know how many schools you want to apply to and the deadlines come up faster than you think. Plus, make sure your essays are really strong.”

Williford: “Your guidance counselor will help with recommendations. What will set you apart will be your essay on what makes you unique and how much of an asset you will be to them down the road.”

5. Best thing about being in college:

Brames: “All the freedom you have and being a lot more independent. You will have three to five hours of classes a day. But it’s also a double-edged sword. There is no one there to wake you up for 8 a.m. class.”

D’Arrigo: “Doing your own thing. You are free for the first time in your life. Being part of a team is fun and different. In Italy I was swimming for myself. In college, everything you are doing is for the team.”

Jerew: “When you’re a college athlete you can register for courses before the general population can to make sure you get the schedule you want to fit around practice and meets. Your books are taken care of, pre-packaged that you can pick up in the library. You also get the recognition of being an athlete.”

Heron: “There are a lot of pros to being a college athlete. Free tutoring for any class, an entire building only available to athletes to study and get tutoring. You have an advisor for each course you are taking and free tickets to football and basketball games.”

Rojas: “You are basically a celebrity in your school. It’s the first time you are in the outside world. You learn how to grow as an individual. You’re on the path of being an adult. Mom and Dad are not there holding your hand. There is no safe space out in the real world. You are going to have your ups and downs. I learned so much about myself and came out a completely different person. In college you have tutors and rehab facility if you are injured. You also learn how to be your own chef. You can’t have ramen and mac and cheese every day.”

Marx: “There are so many resources. There are tutors. The library is usually open 24 hours a day on campus. There are psychiatrists and mental health experts for students and athletes.”

D’Arrigo: “You are treated differently, you realize how much they care about you. The professors and coaches want you to do well. In Italy, it was either study or swim. You are lucky here in college that you can do both.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO’s Leonardo Mateus One Of Seven Nicholas Dworet Memorial Fund Scholarship Winners


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 29, 2020—South Florida Aquatic Club’s Leonardo Mateus added another honor to his already impressive resume.

Mateus, 18, headed to Yale this fall, was one of seven senior high school swimmers awarded a $1,000 college scholarship named in honor of Nicholas Dworet.

The former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School swim captain and honors student was one of 17 killed Feb. 14, 2018 in a mass shooting on the Douglas campus. He was preparing at TS Aquatics Swim Club to swim in college after earning a scholarship to the University of Indianapolis and had aspirations to represent Sweden in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Two of the recipients were members of the Douglas swim team, three were awarded to members of the TS Aquatics Swim Club and two were given to Broward County high school swimmers, which was a new scholarship for 2020.

The money will be used towards their continued education according to the Swim4 Nick fund’s Board of Directors. The recipients were:

MSD Scholarships:
Kenan Kocoglu (New Jersey Institute of Technology)
Penelope Jacobson (Brandeis University)

TS Aquatics Scholarships:
Luis Bucaro (University of Indianapolis)
Delaney Biro (Florida International University)
Emme Ham (Barton College)

Broward County Scholarships:
Leonardo Mateus (Yale University)
Chloe Carignan (Birmingham-Southern College)

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Roberto (Robby) Garrido


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 27, 2020—The sky is the limit for Roberto Garrido.

The 18-year-old has enjoyed his ten years with South Florida Aquatic Club making friends, accomplishing goals with the help of his coaches and gaining confidence, but now it’s time to move on to a new chapter in his life this fall at Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology.

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. He swam for the high school team all four years.

“Everyone has their own experience of high school, I found it really beautiful,” Garrido said. “It was a way of finding yourself and what you want to do with your life. It gives you purpose in looking towards the future.”

His mother, Rocio, played an integral role in his education and college visits.

“One weekend she flew us to New York,” Garrido said. “I didn’t realize we were going. The first day we went to Rochester Institute of Technology and I really liked it. We also went to the University of Rochester. Both were great schools. I was able to see so much on the visits. I am happy with my choice.

“My parents are the world to me,” he said. “The love and care they have for me and my siblings make us want to be good people and not be afraid of anything.”

In addition to his family, swimming has played a big role in Garrido’s life.

Garrido started taking swim lessons at SOFLO when he was 7. Sophia Bedoya and Derek Tom would tell him how much fun it was swimming at SOFLO. He worked his way up with the Dippers, Meteorites, Asteroids, Bronze, Silver and Gold, which is currently swimming with.

Every step was a challenge for Garrido but the likeable student-athlete loves a good challenge.

“When I first joined Silver, Coach Travis was my coach at the time,” Garrido remembered. “I wasn’t outgoing. I didn’t talk to many of the Silver Kids. I felt I had to prove myself. I was behind most of the swimmers but it made me focus at practice to get better. The other kids were going faster than I was. All my friends aged up and I felt lost.”

It was during that time Coach Travis Lockie brought out the best in Garrido, challenging him every stroke of the way.

“It was a phase of my life where Coach Travis took me in and gave me a shot,” Garrido said. “I’m not sure he thought I could do it so I guess I proved him wrong. He pushed me so I could get faster. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I could have made it.”

Garrido got his first Junior Olympics cut at age 12 in the 200 backstroke.

“It definitely meant a lot to me,” Garrido said. “I was close in all my events before I got it. It was so tough to make it. I didn’t do it in the freestyle and I was so crushed and frustrated. I really tried. I got the cut when I least expected it.”

Garrido remembers being so happy that he jumped out of the pool and hugged Coach Rose and started crying.

“I don’t know what was going through my mind after I got it,” Garrido said. “In my head I knew it was possible. I don’t remember the first 100. I do remember the last 50 when I picked it up and gave it everything I had. It was definitely one of my most memorable moments.”

There have been other memorable moments. Garrido qualified for all four high school regional meets in both individual and relay events.

Before moving into the Silver Group, Garrido admits he didn’t enjoy running. He played soccer when he was younger but always stopped after halftime, he said. Then he started running with Coach Travis on Sunday cardio runs.

“He would encourage me and a couple of the other swimmers,” Garrido said. “I felt accomplished when I kept up with some of the faster swimmers. It gave me confidence.”

Rochester Institute of Technology students are scheduled to move in Aug. 12-15. Garrido admits it will be bittersweet leaving SOFLO.

“I am going to miss the swimmers,” he said. “I know a lot of swimmers in Gold who are a year or two younger. I won’t get to see them grow, improve and swim faster. I won’t get to congratulate them. I’ll have to wait until the holidays when I come home.

“I’m going to miss all the coaches, too. The things that they do for us is crazy. The first time we got back in the pool [because of COVID-19] they were so excited for us. It just shows they want us to improve, get better and go places. Coach Rose taught me a lot, not just being an athlete but overall in life. I have nothing but admiration for her and Coach Travis.”

Garrido is getting into shape for the fall when he hopes to make the varsity team for the Division III school. “That’s the goal. That’s why I am going to every practice, it’s making me work harder. I am feeling more confident going into the fall. Let’s see where it takes me. That would be awesome if I could make the team.”

Garrido plans to major in computer science. He knows it will be a balancing act between his studies and swimming.

“I will give it a shot,” Garrido said. “I don’t have a set schedule for my courses yet so we’ll see how everything fits in. Swimming definitely changed my life in so many ways, I would like to keep going.

“I am majoring in computer science because I want to make a difference,” Garrido said. “I am looking at how the world is right now. It is basically all technology. There are ways to improve society in terms of applications you can create and use technology in multiple ways. I want to be a part of it. If I dedicate my time to working hard like I did at SOFLO, I will be able to learn and create something from nothing.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

Moodie Motivates, Informs SOFLO High School Seniors, Juniors About College


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 17, 2020—South Florida Aquatic Club College Prep Advisor Natasha Moodie recently shared her expertise on getting recruited by college coaches during high school.

The Miramar High School and University of Michigan alum took SOFLO swimmers entering their junior and senior years through the process of preparing for college including the interview process with coaches, filling out paper work and applying for scholarships and financial aid.

“This is a very exciting time,” Moodie said during her well-organized and informative Zoom presentation. “And, congratulations on completing the school year with all the challenges.”

On Monday, the recruiting season for rising high school juniors in the class of 2022 officially started.

Unlike past years when student-athletes started receiving calls from coaches on July 1, NCAA decided coaches can now start communicating through texts, emails and phone calls beginning June 15th after an athlete’s sophomore year.

The NCAA also adopted new rules allowing official on-campus visits to begin on August 1 (instead of Sept. 1), after the athlete’s sophomore year of high school. Before that swimmers weren’t allowed to take official visits until after the first day of classes of their senior year.

Moodie outlined information from a six-page recruiting guide she put together with the help of SOFLO CEO and coach Chris Anderson. Some swimmers have already researched colleges and have a Top 10 list, Moodie said. Others are just starting to think about the college process. Either way, the guide is a great resource.

Moodie talked about a swimmer’s brand that will capture a college coach’s attention.

“This whole recruiting process is where you are getting to know the school and the coach, and the coach and team are getting to know you,” Moodie said. “It is a getting-to-know-you process. It’s a series of conversations. For a coach to get to know who you are, you need to know what to say and present the best version of you.”

Moodie said it’s important to share your swimming, school and personal goals about next season and the future, and to be specific. Talk about your consistencies, strengths and areas you want to improve. Being prepared for the coach’s questions will set you apart from others, she said.

Moodie reminded swimmers that every school and coach operates differently and have a different number of staff members. She suggested they research completely about the schools, teams and coaches with Google searches.

Moodie also includes a list of question coaches may ask swimmers during phone conversations. She also added it’s important to follow up communication with college coaches with a thank you note to illustrate a level of maturity that will set you apart from other recruits.

“I know I said a lot but it’s important to get input from your high school and club coaches, friends, teachers, mentors and have a practice conversation and ask them what they think you bring to the table, what are your strengths and what do they think you will add to a college team,” Moodie said. “It’s really nice to get that kind of input from someone.”

For questions please contact Moodie at collegeprep@swim4soflo.com. Also check out SOFLO’s College Prep resource folder at: bit.ly/soflocollegeprep.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

Governor Plans To Re-open Schools In Florida This Fall; Broward, Miami-Dade Decisions To Come


By Sharon Robb

MELBOURNE, June 12, 2020—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced plans to re-open schools for the fall of 2020.

Part of the plan features improving the reading skills of the state’s youngest students who fell behind because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis announced a $64 million plan that will include month-long summer programs for kindergarten to fifth-grade students identified as poor readers.

Money will also be distributed to districts for supplemental teaching materials for kindergarten to third grade classes and train 2,000 reading coaches statewide.

The governor also said he would be using $223 million in Federal money through the CARES Act to fund the return of students to classrooms.

While distance-learning programs are good, there is no replacement for face-to-face learning between students and teachers, DeSantis said.

“At the end of the day distance learning is distance learning and there’s just no substitute for those hands-on instructions,” De Santis said.

Florida schools, closed since mid-March, are being encouraged to gradually re-open in the fall. DeSantis said different districts will have different plans and ways to re-open. The state released a 119-page report offering guidelines, not requirements.

“We’ve been able to provide a road map to announce the return of our schools to on-campus instruction, and to bring long-term improvements to the instructional continuity, using the federal funds provided through the CARES Act to make significant investments in our education system achievement gaps.”

School officials said the new normal that students and parents will see in August is going to be different from the past few months.

Corcoran added data shows that children have “an extremely low risk” of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

“What we do know is not having that world-class education with a teacher in front of a child, there’s real significant harm you can’t recover from,” Corcoran said.

There are three possible plans being discussed for the fall. They are:

1. A traditional return to schools for parents that have the ability and believe the conditions are satisfactory.

2. Distance learning for parents who believe that their best interests are served with children at home.

3. A hybrid model has half the students coming to school two days a week and the other half coming the other two days. The off-day would be virtual learning and cleaning day for schools.

The report also suggests converting libraries and cafeterias into classrooms, eating lunch in class, sanitizing campuses, promoting hand washing and encouraging the use of masks by students and employees.

Broward will discuss its plans for re-opening at a School Board hearing on Tuesday. The Miami school district will announce its plans for re-opening on June 24th. It will include input and surveys from parents and teachers.

Despite the increase in COVID-19 cases around the state, DeSantis says schools can reopen “because the cases are not indicative of any clinical consequences. For example, our hospitalizations are flat. ICU use is half of what it was in April for this.”

The state plans to re-open schools this fall with each county school board setting its own schedule and plan for protecting their employees.

“Getting back on our feet in the school year is going to be really, really important for the well-being of our kids, but I also think it is important for a lot of parents who have had to juggle an awful lot,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the state will work with districts to make sure they have sufficient sanitation supplies and personal protective equipment for their teachers and employees.

“We want schools fully open in the fall because there is no better way to teach our kids,” Corcoran said.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO Back In Business, Swimmers Return To Newly-Refurbished Pool, Smiles All Around


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 9, 2020—After what seemed like an eternity indoors, South Florida Aquatic Club is back in the water.

Observing social distancing and every COVID-19 safeguard guideline set by local, city, county and state officials, the largest club in the Florida Gold Coast is back at 65 percent training.

SOFLO, the first team in Broward County to return, started off slowly three weeks ago with the older swimmers including Olympian Alia Atkinson first to get in with social distancing observed in and out of the pool including the parking and drop-off area.

The Bronze, Silver and Senior Developmental groups are now training three days a week. The Masters are training five days a week, Monday through Friday early mornings.

“We’re having fun,” said CEO and head coach Chris Anderson, whose staff kept the team workouts going with various zoom training sessions, educational workshops and guest lecturers including Olympic coach Gregg Troy.

SOFLO, awarded the USA Swimming Club Excellence Silver Medal for the first time in club history this year, is one of 63 year-round USA Swimming clubs with a total of more than 5,000 members in its clubs. Some local clubs were forced out of business because of financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SOFLO was forced to shut down its swimming on March 14th. SOFLO was set to host the March 20-22 FGC Senior Championships, one of the club’s biggest annual revenue makers.

SOFLO was also unable to compete in the FGC Junior Olympics, FGC-Florida Swimming All-Star Championship, Shark Developmental Meet, TYR Elite Age Group Invitational in Sarasota, TYR Pro Series in Richmond, TYR/SOFLO Developmental Meet, Jon Olsen Invite, TYR Pro Series in Indianapolis, Atlanta Invite and Summer Invite at Gulliver Prep.

SOFLO and the Comets Booster Club was also forced to postpone its 20th annual Awards Banquet on May 2.

The swimmers were counting the days to see the renovations, refurbishing and new equipment for Academic Village Pool, their home training pool.

The Olympic-size pool features state-of-the art equipment and design.

“We totally revamped the entire infrastructure of the actual pool,” Anderson said. “It’s twice as efficient as the old pool.”

Among the renovations: the entire pool liner was replaced; there are 23 racing target lanes; non-slip wall targets on each lane; the yard course and long course are easily distinguishable with the color blue for the yard course and black for the long course; ten state-of-the-art starting blocks that feature the backstroke starting ledge; 2,100 square feet of shade for coaches and in-the-water athletes; and functioning pool deck with state-of-the- art drainage.

Smiles all around.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

Mateus, Rodriguez Pave The Way For SOFLO Swimmers


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 7, 2020—Leonardo Mateus and Rafael Rodriguez took turns talking about academic excellence and extra curricular activities in high school during a recent zoom presentation for SOFLO’s Bronze Group and AK Sharks Group.

The swimmers were a perfect age (11, 12, 13) to learn how to handle high school classes and plan for the future in college. Rodriguez is headed to Purdue and Mateus is off to Yale this fall.

After it was determined that both Mateus and Rodriguez are Coach Rose’s favorites (pause for laughter), the talented student-athletes got down to business sharing what they learned when they got to high school and what worked and what didn’t while highlighting important tasks to get ready for college.

“Knowledge is power,” said Mateus, who outlined several key points and illustrated how swimming helps in the classroom.

1. Discipline comes from training.

2. Leadership is built from teamwork. Think about the relays you do. “I’ve seen you get organized for relays, that is teamwork,” Mateus said.

3. Proactivity comes from persistence. Be proactive. Give your best from the beginning.

“You will do well in what you enjoy in high school,” Rodriguez said. “Whether it’s the sciences, math, challege yourself by taking AICE/AP and IB courses.”

AICE or Advanced International Certificate of Education offers the value of broad and balanced study in four groups (math and sciences, language, arts and humanities and interdisciplinary.

AP or Advanced Placement Program offers college-level curriculum and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities may grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high schools on the exams.

IB or International Baccalaureate is often compared with the AP program. The IB program allows students to take college-level courses while in high school.

Rodriguez said “the most important thing is don’t choose classes because your friends are taking them. Choose something that you actually enjoy and that will translate into you doing better. When choosing classes focus on yourself.”

Mateus discussed GPA (grade point average, a measure of individual ability), class ranking (academic ability compared to everyone else), and how grading works in quarters and semesters, unweighted (4.0) and weighted (6.0), depending on honors classes.

“It’s important your first year in high school that you don’t slack off,” Mateus said. “It’s easy to bring your GPA down if you do slack off and once it is down it’s hard to get your average back up. Focus on the things you can do easily that first year and wait a year maybe to take the harder classes.”

Mateus also talked about PSAT, SAT and ACT tests and suggested taking each exam once to see how you do and take it more than once to feel more comfortable while taking it.

There are resources and online educational tools such as Khan Academy, Naviance and YouTube to use to study for classes and standardized tests.

Rodriguez and Mateus also emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities such as swimming.

“Swimming is your most important extra curricular, it looks amazing on your resume,” Rodriguez said.

“Community service is difficult because of the number of service hours you have to do, but important to integrate on your resume. It expands your horizons. It’s unpaid work and looks good on your resume. Jobs, internships and paid work also looks good on your resume and shows that you have experience.”

Clubs and organizations, memberships in honor societies and leadership positions in clubs are also important, they said.

“You don’t have to do all these things to be successful,” Mateus said. “It just helps to combine academics and activities.

“Find the learning connection,” Mateus said. “It teaches you discipline, leadership and productivity and that’s what you take away from swimming. You learn to balance academics and swimming.

“You learn all about making time with time management skills. You break time into sections dedicated to swimming, service, clubs and getting straight A’s.”

Added Rodriguez, “If you’re not good at managing your time it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s important to find the perfect balance of what you are capable of handling.

“Make sure you have time for yourself, too. It shouldn’t be all about swimming, classes, work and clubs. Hang out with your friends. It’s important, it helps you mentally.”

The pair suggested to ask teachers and coaches to write recommendation letters. It helps colleges form an image of you through those letters, they said.

“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it,” Rodriguez said.

The final topic outlined information about applying for scholarships.

1. Money is important for your future education.

2. Applying for scholarships is easy. It is a quick and easy source of money to pay for tuition and expenses.

3. There are scholarships available at the local, regional, collegiate and national level.

“It’s important to write down everything you have to do,” Mateus said. Whether it’s homework, practice or meetings, it’s easy to forget if you don’t have an agenda.”

Rodriguez added, “you don’t have to be a straight A student to have opportunities for college. You just have to work hard.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

SOFLO SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Nick Chaimowitz


By Sharon Robb

PEMBROKE PINES, June 3, 2020–Nick Chaimowitz always liked to swim, but it wasn’t until he joined South Florida Aquatic Club two years ago that he realized how much he loved it.

“I have always liked the sport, but coming to SOFLO took it to a new level,” he said. “It always just resonated with me in a different way like no other sport has.”

Chaimowitz, 18, a Pembroke Pines Charter graduate who is headed to Broward College this fall, switched swim clubs before his junior year at Charter.

“A lot of my friends from school were on SOFLO,” Chaimowitz said. “A lot of it goes to team dynamics. I had friends I could train with, keeping me positive when I was feeling down. I would cheer them on at practice and meets. It was a good environment and the coaching was great.”

Chaimowitz learned to swim at an early age.

“My mom put me in the sport when I was 5,” Chaimowitz said. “She threw me in the pool and hoped I would swim. I loved it. It’s in my blood. Everyone in my family swims except for my Dad.”

Chaimowitz gave up 5-on-5 soccer and taekwondo to focus on swimming. However, there was a time Chaimowitz lost his focus and wondered whether he was going to keep swimming.

“I was in middle school when I didn’t want to swim anymore,” Chaimowitz said. “It was hard for me. It was the same thing every day. But I stayed positive and talked to my mom. She said she could see me swimming for the rest of my life. That cemented into my head.”

Chaimowitz, whose favorite event is the individual medley, has several fond memories of SOFLO.

“But there is one thing that does stick out,” he said. “At practice I was told to swim the 400 IM. I died terribly. I said great. It gave me a new perspective of what practice was going to be like at SOFLO. I knew I would raise my level.”

With every meet Chaimowitz saw himself improve and had several milestones while at SOFLO.

“When I first broke the minute in the 100 freestyle at an Area 2 meet I was so excited and pumped up,” Chaimowitz said. “It really helped my self-confidence and gave me a lot of energy to put in more of an effort than I ever had before in training.”

While Broward College does not have a collegiate swimming program, he would like to continue competitive swimming at SOFLO as well as recreationally. He plans to major in physical therapy and exercise science and also has an interest in flying since his uncle is a pilot.

“At this point I cannot imagine life without swimming, I get to socialize with my friends,” Chaimowitz said. “When I’m stressed or upset at something or myself, I go back to the pool and swim laps. It puts me at peace and relieves my problems and stress. For me, it will be a lifelong sport.”

Chaimowitz handled the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown well. In addition to his SOFLO Zoom workouts, he finished school two weeks ago after “an excessive amount of homework.” He socialized with neighbors and friends at a safe distance. He played football, kickball and basketball.

Chaimowitz and his senior class were also part of a special graduation ceremony Charter school officials arranged with social distancing.

“They did something special,” Chaimowitz said. “We would drive through the bus loop and wait in a line six feet apart. When your name was called we went up to the fountain for pictures in our cap and gown. Then we did our school tradition taking our uniform shirts and throwing them up in a tree. It was great. Channel 6 was there. The school taped it so our parents could watch it since they weren’t allowed to attend.”

As far as the future, Chaimowitz said “my goal right now is to get through college and get my degree.” And now, he is just happy to be back in the pool working on getting his Futures cut in the 200 freestyle.

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

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 sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com

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 sha11cats@aol.com
http://www.swim4soflo.com