Olympian shares expertise with local swimmers By Shannon Robinson
Forty local swimmers had an opportunity to learn from one of the best when Brent Hayden spent a weekend in Pincher Creek last month. Swim moms Kim Jorgensen and Sherri Gleave learned that Brent was offering swim camps and organized the workshop. They felt youth in the Pincher Creek Dolphins and Crowsnest Pass Piranhas swim clubs would benefit from his expertise. Kim and Sherri were prepared to take a financial loss if they didn’t reach their registration goal, simply to be sure the opportunity could be offered. In the end, they are each out of pocket only $20 after 23 signed up for the one-day 11-and-under session, and 17 for the two-day bootcamp for those 12 and over. Brent’s career peaked with a bronze-medal win in the 100-metre freestyle event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. He shares his story of learning from adversity with a tale that begins with him failing swimming lessons not once, but twice. He stresses that no one is born a champion. The motivational aspect of his coaching is as important as the physical. He shares personal anecdotes of setting goals, missing them and mustering up the gumption to try again. The swimmers listened intently and appeared to take the lessons to heart as Brent and his wife, Nadina Zarifeh, led them through the weekend. The couple share a teaching philosophy, specializing in stroke dynamic efficiency. Their focus is on ensuring the swimmers are getting maximum efficiency in the water in the shortest amount of time. “It’s truly a unique learning experience,” Brent said. “The kids completely change their strokes.” He noted similarities to other swimmers in small pools who tend to lift their heads because they don’t want to run into one another. “They need to keep their eyes on the bottom of the pool,” he said, adding “there is a chain reaction of the stroke falling apart when the head lifts.” Classroom time included discussion of goal setting, nutrition and mental preparation. Brent said the culmination of his failures is what set him up for his bronze-medal performance and the stories he shared were meant to inspire the young swimmers to stay determined and learn from their mistakes. Each swimmer had the chance to hold Brent’s medal — what better reinforcement could there be? Brent and Nadina were pleased with the coachability of the swimmers attending the sessions and said they responded well to the changes. “Swimming is a sport where you’re not manipulating any objects — it’s just your body moving through the water,” he said. “The awareness of what the body is doing can be difficult to change, but they made changes more easily than what we’ve seen from other groups.” Kullen Molaro is taking the lessons seriously. He said he had never kicked and had never been corrected before. Now he is swimming with his brain as well as his body and planning to continue practising. “It’s not as much about racing hard as it is about racing smart,” Brent said. “The biggest part is how you move through the water.” Swimmers counted their strokes before drills and again afterward. Brent said all were using significantly fewer strokes by the end. Kullen saw a reduction from 36 to 15. Notes from the session and muscle memory will help the swimmers when they can begin training again in May. While Kim wishes more had taken advantage of the workshop, plans are already in the works for next year and she is confident there will be a waiting list now that people know what Brent’s camps are about. She feels there would also be benefit to a coaches session as there are always new tools to implement and more efficient ways to do things. Brent’s talents extend beyond the pool. As well as offering coaching and motivational speaking, he is an avid photographer. Brent and Nadina will launch a new line of performance apparel — Astra Athletica — this summer that supports Canadian athletes through a unique commission program. You can learn more by visiting www.brenthayden.com.