By MELANIE VANDERVEER
Pocono Record Writer
October 12, 2008
At the age of 13, Josh Davis was told by his swim coach that he should change sports because he would never make it as a swimmer.
Davis can now laugh about that experience since he holds three Olympic gold medals and two silver in swimming. “The Josh Davis Swim Center is now at that very spot that I was told to quit,” Davis told the kids with a laugh.
On Saturday, Davis and fellow Olympic swimmer Rachel Komisarz gave local swimmers the chance of a lifetime by not only motivating them but also swimming and racing them in the pool at Pocono Mountain West High School. “Greatness lies within each and every one of you. Everyone has a gift and talent and a freedom to be great,” Davis told the crowd.
The negativity that Davis received by his swim coach when he was so young has stuck with him and has motivated him to make sure that other children do not have to go through that. “During the swim clinic, we will be sharing everything we know about swimming and nutrition as well as motivating the kids. It’s a mind, body, soul experience,” Davis said. “We tell our stories about racing in the Olympics and how we got there to inspire the kids. We are just regular people.”
The local swimmers that attended the clinic are members of the Pocono Family YMCA and ranged in age from 6 to about 15. The clinic, hosted by the YMCA Piranhas Swim Team, is a unique experience developed by Davis along with Mutual of Omaha to inspire and motivate the younger generation of swimmers.
“The kids get a lot out of this program, but so do I,” Komisarz said. “To see how excited the kids are is very motivating to me.” Davis added, “Winning a medal at the Olympic games is great, but seeing the kids’ eyes light up is really refreshing. If one child leaves this pool feeling inspired, it was totally worth it.”
The program started out with a motivational speech by Davis that told the kids, “Swimmers are extra cool people.” He then proceeded to explain the four reasons why it is great to be a swimmer. “We are tougher than the other sports, smarter than the other sports, much better looking and cleaner,” Davis explained to the room of laughing children.
Davis, father of five children, has a soft place in his heart for the next generation of gold medal swimmers.
“I started swimming late, I was 12 years old. It is great to be able to tell my story and show kids that it’s never too late to start.”
Komisarz also started out in swimming later than most. “I started out at age 17. I always tell parents to let the kids enjoy it and learn to love it without pushing,” Komisarz said.
Mike Wolbert started coaching the YMCA swim team in 1991. “I swam for this team when I was younger,” Wolbert said.
“This is the second year that I brought this program to the school, and it has really inspired many of the swimmers.”
Wolbert’s team runs year-round, and he hopes that this program will motivate more swimmers to strive for greatness.
The clinic was a combination of motivational speaking, in-pool activities and even a race that included both the Olympic swimmers and the children.
Colin Cruz, 14, was happy to be at the event. “I have been on the swim team for seven years now. I think this is a pretty cool program. I did one other Olympic clinic before but I think this one is going to be better because I can relate to Josh a lot,” Cruz said.
Fellow swim team member Emily Cabral, 11, added, “I hope to be able to drop some time in my backstrokes today with this clinic.”
The event was a success with more than 60 children there to get the motivation that all kids should receive in everything they do.
Swimming teaches time management, work ethics, honesty and discipline, and Davis and Komisarz want to make sure that the children realize how important these qualities are.
“Hard work does pay off,” Davis said.
At the end of the program, the children walked away with a goodie bag filled with shirts, DVDs and other surprises as well as the confidence needed to become a great swimmer and all-around great person.
“The core message is to dream big, set your goals and always do your best. That is what makes you a champion,” Davis said
About Josh Davis: In 1996, Davis made history by becoming the only man in any sport from any nation to win three gold medals at the Atlanta Olympic Games. He made his second Olympic appearance in the 2000 Games in Sydney. He was the elected captain of the USA Men’s Swim Team and took home two silver medals. He then went on to break the American record three times in the 200-meter freestyle. Father to five children and holding more than 70 clinics all across the country every year keeps Davis busy.
About Rachel Komisarz: Her first visit to the Olympics earned her a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay and a silver medal in the 400-meter medley relay at the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2006, she was a member of the first-place 400-meter medley relay team at the Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Games. She earned a silver medal on the 400-meter medley relay team at the 2007 World Championships.
About the Pocono Family YMCA Swim Team: The team that has been swimming since 1976 consists of swimmers ages 4-18 who compete in the YMCA and USA swimming meets throughout eastern Pennsylvania. The programs are available to swimmers of all abilities. For more information, (570) 421-2525 ext. 320 or visit www.pfyswim.org.