Long-time USA Swimming corporate partner ConocoPhillips has sponsored our sport for more than 35 years. Today, ConocoPhillips focuses on “Passing on what matters to the ones who matter most,” and in that spirit usaswimming.org is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
Giving back in various ways and to different recipients is a big theme for the swim teams at the University of Michigan.
Team members are involved with the local children’s hospital and other activities, but they are continuously looking for new opportunities to do something for others.
With this in mind, Wolverine freestyler Hassaan Abdel Khalik came up with the idea to reach out to inner-city children in Detroit to host a swim clinic at the Michigan pool this past July.
“I knew that we were neighbors to one of the most underprivileged communities in the country,” Abdel Khalik said. “That’s when I got the idea for a swim clinic for the children.”
Despite originating the idea, Abdel Khalik, who hails from Canada and is back there now on an Olympic waver preparing for Canada’s Olympic Trials next year, was returning to his home country as the planning started.
Michigan Head Coach Mike Bottom and teammates Dan Madwed and Dane Vanderkaay took over the coordination and organization for a one-day clinic to teach those who didn’t know how to swim and those who did how to swim better.
Abdel Khalik and Bottom contacted USA Swimming for help to get in touch with the coaches in the Detroit area to set things up.
From there, he recruited his Michigan teammates and told them where and when the event was, and the entire team participated along with a couple members from the Club Wolverine Elite Team.
“We taught them some basics of all the strokes such as body position and trying to stay connected in the water,” said Vanderkaay, a senior on the team this year. “We set up stations for each stroke and each station lasted about a half hour.
“All together, the clinic lasted over two hours, then we stuck around for a race around the pool that the lifeguards do to stay in shape and then we took some pictures.”
The kids at the event ranged in age from five to 17, which made it challenging to find something that everyone could participate in.
With around 50 in attendance, the Wolverines concentrated on teaching technique. Each child was given ample time in small groups to work with a Michigan swimmer on each of the four strokes.
“A lot of the kids were young and had little experience in the water but most of them had been or were currently on a swim team,” Vanderkaay said. “They all seemed to really enjoy the water, and luckily it was a hot day out so the water was pretty enticing.
“They seemed really eager to learn and listen to what we had to say. The coaches and lifeguards that knew them were very helpful, too, in getting their attention when we were getting the different stations together.”
The high turnout by both the team members and the children has already sparked talk of holding another clinic next year.
Abdel Khalik said that he has already gotten the go-ahead from his teammates for next year, so planning and organizing it may just be a formality despite all of the training and preparation for Olympic Trials next summer.
The overriding message received by the Michigan swimmers was that they have so much and, henceforth, so much to give to others.
“We are so privileged,” Madwed said. “A lot of these kids might not have that many opportunities. If we made even one difference, and just one of those kids ever came and swam for Michigan at some point in the future, then that would be fantastic. You just want to give them a chance.”