Picture this: our value of the day was pride and we started off the morning by showing the incredible 2008 Beijing Olympic 4×100 Freestyle Relay.
When we started the video, it was clear that most of our campers didn’t know the story of the under-dog, down-and-out Team USA who everyone said had no chance against Team France that year. But as the race got under way you could feel the excitement growing and by the end of the race campers were on their feet chanting “USA! USA!” The pride in the room was palpable when just minutes before only our swimmers had seen this inspiring race.
It’s not every day that you get to meet a professional Jewish athlete and it’s even rarer to spend time learning from a Jewish Olympian! Later that morning, we were honored to welcome Jason Lezak, 4-time Olympic gold-medalist and the anchor on 2008 Team USA, to camp.
Not only did Jason share his story of growth and perseverance, he jumped in the pool and coached our Swim Major athletes on using their shoulders and hips and how to maintain a strong streamline to cut through the water.
Jason’s message to our campers was honest and connected deeply to our core values of growth, pride and teamwork. Jason shared that while his dream was to swim in the Olympics, for the first part of his swimming career he wasn’t willing to put in the time and effort. Eventually, when he finally understood the importance of teamwork and accountability, he became the fastest swimmer in the world. However, he wasn’t an instant medalist – he experienced many moments of doubt and struggled with mental toughness before he was finally able to achieve his dream.
This resonated so clearly with our campers and coaches. Here at camp we have a saying, “Dance with your lizard.” Dancing with your lizard means that when the going gets tough or you find yourself in a situation where you are pushed out of your comfort zone that you can’t run away from it, you have to dance with it … the only way we can improve is by taking risks and pushing beyond what we think we’re capable of doing. Jason is living proof of the power of perseverance and work ethic – an amazing role model for our community.