Welcome to GO WITH THE FLOW, our new athlete run Newsletter! We hope this can be a resource for every member of Gulf Swimming and that it is an enjoyable way to know about activities swimmers take part in. We are very proud of the articles we write, and each month, we will include recipes, current events, and interviews with coaches, swimmers, or officials.
Please tell us what you think in the comments below!
Articles in this issue:
- Meeting Giles Smith
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Diversity and Inclusion Camp
- Gulf Swimming Gets Out of the 80s
Meeting Giles Smith
By Jake Mitchell, Fernanda Machicao, & Annie Norris
Recently the Gulf Athlete Reps were given the awesome opportunity to meet with and interview Olympic Trials Finalist Giles Smith. “At 5′ 10, Smith has become a familiar name among the best in the NCAA, and boasts an Olympic Trials finals appearance. He was born to parents Harold and Marcia Smith in Baltimore, MD, on November 28, 1991. He attended McDonogh High School, where he was a 5-time All-American, 14-time Maryland state record holder, and the first high school swimmer from Baltimore to break the 21 second barrier in the 50 yard freestyle. He left high school as the national high school record holder in the 50 free and with five US Open cuts in yards. His 19.74, 44.29 and 1:37.79 in the 50, 100, and 200 yard freestyle as well as 48.30 and 1:49.60 in the 100 and 200 yard butterfly made him a highly coveted college recruit.”1
You get what you put into practice, and if you practice hard, you can make yourself into what you want to be.
As high schoolers, we were really interested in getting to know more about his swimming career in high school and why he chose the college he went to.
From right to left: Annie Norris, Sean Calvert, Annika Ruehlicke, Savannah Griffin, Jake Mitchell, Xonzy Gaddis, Giles Smith, Daniel Seabolt
“First I signed with The University of Tennessee in Knoxville and realized after my first year that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I was not swimming as fast as I was when I came in – I got last out of everyone at NCAA’s in the 50 free – and I didn’t even score a point for Tennessee. So, I transferred to the University of Arizona and got 2nd in the 100 fly at NCAA’s and even broke the American record with my team in the 200 medley relay. It was a really special moment to overcome the adversity because after leaving Knoxville, I had to go to community college for a year and grind on my own and it really opened up my eyes and was such a humbling experience.”
Smith’s advice to swimmers when choosing colleges? Pick the college that is best for you not based on swimming. Although swimming seems important right now, a college degree is important for your future as an adult. “You have a big things after swimming – it’s called life. Your degree is really important and take your studies seriously.” But, by being swimmers, the focus and responsibility learned through the sport will be a “huge advantage in the real world.”
“Staying positive and understanding that swimming is a journey” was an important point Smith made when explaining what he does to become successful. “Swimming is a sport where you’re not going to get really really good in a week. That’s not how the sport works”. Being consistent, showing up to practice everyday, and paying attention to the little things. “Guys that are winning the Olympic medals are the ones who do a bunch of little things” whether it be turns, hydration, or rest when they need it. How you take care of your body, sleep and recover are just as important as the training, if not more.
A successful swimmer like Giles Smith, has also been through some tough injuries, several, actually. At a meet against Stanford, he tore his pectoral muscle in the middle of a race and was out for six weeks unable to use his arms in practice. “I just got my fins and kicked with my arms at my side for two whole months” and it was a “really emotional time for me.” He did not swim a stroke of butterfly until the Pac-12’s where he dropped best times and actually won. The important part isn’t about the injury itself, it is how you overcome and deal with the injury. Smith had days where he was crying, but sometimes a little adrenaline and a positive mind made him do things that he didn’t think were possible. “If you want it, you can take it. Swimming is a sport where you can just really go and eat what you kill.”
It’s interesting to find out why such successful swimmers stay with the sport as long as they do, and for Giles, it “has nothing to do with swimming, it has everything to do with the people.” A lot of special people that he has met have become lifelong friends. Swimming gave him the opportunity to broaden his horizons, travel the world, and has helped him grow and shape his character. “If it weren’t for swimming I would have never had these opportunities because I grew up in inner city Baltimore and it was really rough sometimes”, and when he started swimming “it really wasn’t anything special”.
“Little Giles, ready for my 25 back, my first race ever. My cap all over my face and my goggles on sideways and then they say take your mark and I just -” At this point, we all laughed as he swung his arms and gasped for air, “- sprint down the pool, stop and look and everyone else is still down there. And then they were like, “it’s take your mark go”, so I run back down the pool and actually do it… and that’s how my swimming career began.” He further explained to us that even if you got off to a rocky start, you aren’t the fastest one, or you haven’t won a gold medal, it all doesn’t matter. “You get what you put into practice and if you practice hard you can make yourself into what you want to be.”
A memory that has stood out to Smith over his swimming career was after he had just got back from the World Cup, which consists of three high end taper meets in different cities. He was trying to prepare for another meet, although extremely tired after 40 plus hours on a plane, he swam at Minnesota the worst he had ever felt. “I couldn’t even swim a 50 without gasping.” Then two days later he swam a difficult race in prelims, but made it to finals where 23 time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was seeded right next to him. Somehow, someway, he being up beating him, in the 10 butterfly. “The reason why I tell you guys stuff like that is because it’s all about what’s in your head…when you are racing you just have to have a clear head” and be in control of what you can do, and stay focused. “It’s crazy what you become when you do what you really dream of.” Success doesn’t really teach you anything, it’s the failures that really teach you”. Although Smith was disappointed with his swims at Olympic trials, he emphasized how you have to have the mentality that “that doesn’t define you. If you have a bad race, it doesn’t mean that you have a lower self worth, or a lower view of yourself”.
Smith regarded his win of Pan American gold as his biggest achievement. When remembering the special accomplishment he focused on how he shared the blissful moment with his family. “My family has done so much to put me in the spot where I am. My dad worked two jobs to pay for suits and for me to swim. It’s really special to share these moments with people that really care about you.” He smiled while talking about the respect and gratitude he has towards his parents.
To high school swimmers like us, Giles Smith also had some valuable advice. When asked by one of our Athlete Reps about his motivation through tough weeks he responded by saying, “think of it in terms of your goals. The biggest thing I can tell you is to write your goals down…whatever it is, just write it down and stick it on your fridge so you can see it everyday because if you see something, you can believe it, and if you can believe it, you can do it.” Giles is an avid believer in the power of practice. He considers it the key to reaching one’s true potential in any sport. “Practice is the rehearsal for the meet.” He said that you have to be “comfortable laying it out on the line and failing at practice. When it gets really hard at a meet the last 5 – 10 meters when your arms feel like they are going to fall off, and your legs feel like they are going to shut down you don’t want to, you know, ‘die.’” Your endurance and ability to race “goes back to the habits you have in practice. Practice is the most important thing in swimming. It’s a very difficult sport, but it’s a very rewarding sport.”
Likewise, Giles had some stories and advice for the young and up-and-coming swimmers. As a young boy he was by no means the fastest kid in the pool. In fact during his early years as a swimmer he was told by his coach that he was “never going to win a race,” leaving a young Giles crushed and seeking his dad’s guidance. It was because of that incident that he admitted his father told him one of the most memorable pieces of advice he ever heard. His dad said, “Boy, I love you. And you’re going to be alright. And one day you’re going to be one of the best swimmers in the world and maybe one day, if you work hard enough, you can make the Olympics.” Giles told us, “that was the first time somebody ever told me ‘you can do anything.’ And that was the light switch going from never wanting to race to being number one in the country at 12, not because of talent, but because I wanted to work.” Giles Smith only wants to continue to inspire others and “be in a position where I can really impact a lot of lives.” His greatest piece of advice to the new and young swimmers is that “swimming should be fun. It should be about learning the strokes, learning how to be a good teammate, how to work hard, and grow up.” At the end of the day that was the most valuable piece of the sport to Giles: finding the fun and then allowing his love for the sport, along with his work ethic, help him pursue his dreams.
Homemade Granola Bars
By Zach Cantrell (Recipe Courtesy of Alton Brown and the Food Network)
As student athletes, we are all aware that getting hungry isn’t fun, especially during class or a workout. When there’s not enough time between practices, or between classes for a full meal, these granola bars are a quick snack that can satisfy that hunger, and provide nutrients to get you through to your next meal.
8 ounces of old-fashioned rolled oats, about 2 cups
1.5 ounces of raw sunflower seeds, about ½ cup
3 ounces of sliced almonds, about 1 cup
1.5 ounces of wheat germ, about ½ cup
6 ounces of honey, about ½ cup
1 ¾ ounces dark brown sugar, about ¼ cup packed
1 ounce of unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
6.5 ounces of chopped, dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries, or blueberries
Butter a 9×9 glass baking dish and set aside, and then preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place this pan in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stir occasionally. While that’s toasting, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Once the oats mixture is done toasting, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine. Turn the mixture out into the prepared 9×9 dish and place in the oven for 25 minutes. After that, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Throw two or three granola bars into a Ziploc bag and keep them in your backpack or swim bag for a quick and easy snack.
Diversity and Inclusion Camp
By Xonzy Gaddis
10 years ago (pictured above) I was a swimmer @usaswimming’s 1st diversity select camp at the Olympic Training Center coached by the Legendary Jim Ellis whom the movie Pride was based on. I had no idea at the time but that camp began to show me that my career isn’t just about medals, trophies or national championships but more importantly the lives you inspire to make things different for the next generation by encouraging more kids from multicultural and diverse backgrounds to swim and be successful. Thank you @gulf_swimming for having me as a guest and speaker at this years Diversity Inclusion Camp I’m excited to see as my racing career is nearing an end to see how far we have come since I was a 6 year old swimming in inner city Baltimore but we still have WAY more work to do in terms of making the sport of swimming more accessible to kids from every race, background and culture. #swimming #givingback #diversity
On April 1, Gulf Swimming held its second annual Diversity and Inclusion Camp at the Harris County Aquatics Program facility. Over thirty athletes from several teams in the Gulf were chosen to attend this session to connect with other swimmers, perfect their swimming and dryland technique, along with the help of the coaches and Pan-American gold medalist Giles Smith. The main goal of this camp was to teach the swimmers about dealing with adversity and how to overcome it.
The camp began with a five to ten minute icebreaker bingo. The first three swimmers to score any type of bingo, or receive the most initials on their card, would receive a prize. Each swimmer rushed around excited to go for the prize and learn the names of people that they may have noticed at meets or wanted to get know. At the end of all this excitement, to everyone’s surprise, no one scored a bingo, but as promised, three swimmers were able to pick a candy bar for getting the most squares filled.
After this little activity, the swimmers went up to the stands where their parents waited to hear Giles Smith’s knowledge on adversity and his life as a swimmer. Smith spoke on how he first entered the sport of swimming at around the age of eight and how his parents were his backbone the whole way through. He also spoke about some of his more embarrassing moments stirring some laughter from the group. The point Giles was getting across to these swimmers was that swimming was not just physical, but mostly mental. His strong mindset to ‘keep grinding’ was what kept him going throughout his whole swimming career, all the way through the ups and downs of it. After parents were given the chance to ask questions, it was time to hit the water.
Smith did a great job of explaining the technical aspects of each stroke. Each swimmer was awed by his skill and efficiency and did their absolute best to mirror him. In the end, every swimmer was able to pick up a new drill or make their way towards perfection on each stroke.
The swimmers lunched with each other as well, speaking with Giles about his accomplishments, take pictures with him, and get a hold of his medals! During lunch, the group also spoke more on adversity and how it was seen in our swimming community and how to deal with it. Every swimmer had something to say on this topic and it was all equally powerful.
Lastly, the swimmers moved to the weight room to learn about the science and ways of land drills with Coach Johnnie Means, the head coach at the facility. He explained the mechanics behind lifting weights and how the body could react to them. Each swimmer left with a deeper insight into weight training.
The camp finally came to an end at three o’clock and the swimmers were dismissed, but everyone had made new friends and said their goodbyes to each other. Whether it was a hug, taking a pictures with each other, or trading Snapchats, new beginnings to lasting friendships were created.
Gulf Swimming Gets Out of the 80s
By Annie Norris
Gulf Swimming has been around for a while. We have grown to have a population of at least 10,000 swimmers, yet most probably have no idea what our logo looks like. For most companies, a logo is it’s defining feature. Thankfully, the Gulf is defined by having good swimmers.
For the past 30 years, we have had a circular, red, white, and blue logo that few have glanced at on the gulf swimming website. Along with all of the new changes the Board of Directors had been making, they also decided to update the grainy logo by holding a contest to see who could submit the best design. The submission process had parents and swimmers showing off their creative side as they drew their designs and submitted them before the deadline. Choosing the final five was difficult as the nominating committee considered colors, impact, and cost of printing the design on merchandise. At the final phase, coaches and swimmers on the board voted for their favorite logo which showed our original colors, state, and the shadow of a swimmer.
“Wait. How come we haven’t seen the logo when the board voted months ago?”
Even though the Patterson family got rewarded for their submission, the rest of the gulf won’t implement the design for a few more months as they get all of the standards figured out.
Many might feel that our new logo will not make much of a difference, but soon, every official will have the new design on their t-shirts, swimmers at gulf champs will be rewarded ribbons with our gulf logo in gold, and maybe one day, swimmers will will be sticking the design on their cars and wearing it on their caps.
In the meantime, you can admire our new logo with pride down below. Congratulations to the Patterson family at Cy-Fair Swim Club!