SIU youth summer camp goes swimmingly

By Brandi Courtois, Staff Writer

Southern Illinois University hosted its annual swim camp to help young swimmers improve their techniques last week.Southern Illinois University hosted its annual swim camp to help young swimmers improve their techniques last week.

The camp, which is sponsored by Nike, was taught in the SIU Student Recreation Center’s Olympic-sized pool by SIU Swim Coach Rick Walker.

Rick Walker, who coaches both SIU swim teams, has earned numerous Coach of the Year Honors and coached the Egyptian 2012 Olympic swim team.


Rick Walker has been instructing this swim camp at SIU for 31 years. He said he hopes that kids will gain more from a holistic approach.

“Performances are better when you feel good about what you’re doing, have fun, make friendships, and overcome failure,” Rick Walker said.

Rick Walker said the camp is meant to help refine stroke techniques for competitive swimming, improve sportsmanship and remind campers that swimming is fun.

The camp featured a lot of in-water instruction focusing on the physical aspects of swimming and some classroom lessons focusing on the mental aspects of the sport.

Rick Walker said during the classroom portion a discussion was started about how the campers could motivate themselves and others, how they could set goals, and how to be mentally prepared to deal with failures.

Kelsie Walker, the camp’s head counselor, said for part of the water instruction swimmers were split into lanes based on their abilities. She said this helped the coaches and counselors get to know the athletes individually so they could make better critiques.

“There will be more failures than successes,” Rick Walker said.


Rick Walker said his hope was to give campers the kind of attention they might not get at a larger camp.

“Quite a few swimmers come at an early age and many years down the road they have done remarkable things in their swimming careers,” Rick Walker said.

Kelsie Walker said her most important duties are helping Rick Walker and making sure the kids are safe.

Kelsie Walker said counselors act as more than teachers for the campers. She said they are their “guardians” and that their goal is “to keep them safe, healthy and happy.”

Chris Cole, 21, a swim captain for the SIU swim team, has worked with campers for three years.

Cole said when Coach Walker is going over techniques he reflects on his own techniques and sometimes realizes he forgot some of the basics.

“I used to do swim camps and this brings me back to a more pure time,” Cole said.

Kelsie Walker said she thinks about what the counselors go over with the kids at camp and it helps her improve her own strokes as well.

“If you can teach it, you can do it,” Kelsie Walker said.

Cole said counselors act as examples both inside and outside of the pool. He said it was great to see the positive effect the camp had on returning campers.

Rick Walker said that in the evening, after campers finish swimming for the day, the groups participate in activities like horseback riding and bowling.  

Coach Walker said these were the things campers would remember; their experiences.

“Swim camp is fun, which is why they got into this sport,” Rick Walker said. “When you’re having fun your performances have a better chance.”

Kelsie Walker said she wants to help kids through their development and hopes the kids realize how fun the sport is and think of swimming as a positive factor in their lives.

“I walk away feeling happy,” Kelsie Walker said, “They’re fun to work with.”

The camp, which began on June 17, ends on June 21.

Staff writer Brandi Courtois can be reached at [email protected].

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