Prep and collegiate coaches often complain about flaws in an athlete’s technique or style that creates difficulties in competition at the next level.
Some common clichés even hold the idea — as everyone knows — old habits die hard, and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
First-year coach Brian Fogarty and the Oakdale Gators youth swim program have made a step toward mending any potential problems in their own program with a sound coaching system developed by U.S.A. Swimming.
“This is the same program that developed Summer Sanders and Michael Phelps,” Fogarty said. “Rather than just swimming laps, this system focuses on the technique and teaches everything from foot turns to putting on goggles.”
The new tutelage is the main aspect of a few big changes with the Gators, following stroke for stroke with a strong year-round Oakdale Aquatics organization that has been hugely beneficial to young local swimmers.
Year-round coach Russ Van Cleave and his son Andrew Van Cleave laid the groundwork for the U.S.A. Swim system last year, providing the perfect moment for Oakdale grad and Gators product, Fogarty, to take the reins.
“It’s a great mixture because you have the history of Gators, and now with it is the correct way to coach that Russ has introduced,” Fogarty said. “It is really good timing for the program in general, and it’s exciting to see some of the changes that have taken place.”
And the mentoring doesn’t stop with Fogarty or the Van Cleaves. Oakdale High swimmers Ronny Thompson, Arielle Cook, Stevie Cordoza, Robert Winders, Shelby Panter and Hank Walters also coach the program, and play a huge role in the development of young swimmers.
It’s an all-star cast that leaves Fogarty with plenty of help in his rookie season.
“All of these coaches have been on the prep team at one point, and they are doing a fantastic job as a staff,” he said.
The Gators have had a busy summer so far, with home and away meets, and they will keep up the busy pace this month.
The Gators will face three teams in Ripon on July 10, before the Mid Valley Swim League Championships in Turlock on July 17.
From there, Gators swimmers can choose to join the extended swim fall league for a glance at some of the benefits of U.S.A. Swim and stiff year-round competition.
“There is just a lot going on and a lot to look forward to,” Fogarty said. “The swim program is at a great point right now.”