Avery Barnett dreams of swimming in the Olympics.
To help reach that dream he attended the Brent Hayden Swim Camps over the weekend at the Penticton Community Centre. It’s the second time Barnett has attended the camp, as Hayden and wife Nadina Zerifeh were asked by the club to come.
“I really wanted to improve how I was doing my strokes for distances,” said Barnett, one of 17 swimmers in the camp. “I found that because I’m a larger guy (6-foot-4), that with my shorter stroking it wasn’t helping me out as much versus having a longer stroke. They have helped me with that.”
After the work he had done in last year’s camp, Barnett noticed a difference in his performances.
“I’m very trusting they know what to do,” said Barnett. “He’s a great role model. I just really want to see where this will take me in life.”
Barnett’s friend Xelian Louw also wanted to see what he could learn, entering it for the first time.
“I’m going to remember these things for a long time,” said Louw, who focused on working on his techniques. “I don’t think it’s going to be hard with him telling me.”
“A lot of them get so inspired by Brent and his story,” said Zerifeh of her husband, who won bronze at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. “As a kid he failed swimming lessons twice. It kind of inspires them in a different way. They want to be here.”
“It’s really amazing. It teaches you how to do strokes,” said Madison Seeley, who worked on her freestyle swim, as well as flip turns and starts. “He helps you get faster and improve your stroke. It’s just fun to know how you can get better.”
Of the 17 swimmers, six returned for a second time and Hayden saw how much better they are.
“You can definitely tell how they respond a lot quicker,” he said. “What we taught them last year, as soon as you start reminding them, it kind of comes out of the depths of their memory. They are physically able to adapt to the direction that we’re able to given them.”
After spending time with swimmers in the water and providing tips, Hayden told the group when they get home to write down things that are in their mind so they don’t forget. There was a lot of information to absorb. He also emphasized the importance of them pushing themselves.
“We can definitely make them faster swimmers by the way they swim,” said Hayden.
Stroke counts were performed and there was a decrease in every swimmer.
“They are taking fewer strokes per length. They are going to have more gas in the tank,” said Hayden, who won a gold, three silver medals and a bronze in world championship competition, to go with eight medals in the Commonwealth Games, including two gold. “They are going to be moving through the water a lot more efficiently. Each stroke is going to be more effective.”
Hayden said you don’t know how every athlete will learn. He said being able to explain things and show it visually are two important ways. Zarifeh said it is important they learn how to do techniques properly in the camp and execute them in practice properly.
“You can’t go into a race and expect to do it when it isn’t done right in a practice,” she said. “It’s reaction time. It’s when you’re racing, every little bit counts.”
What both of them saw in the swimmers was a desire to learn.
“They responded amazingly,” said Hayden.