“Who wants to play a game?” Tyler Clary asked the young swimmers assembled at the edge of the pool inside The College of Idaho’s Albertson Aquatic Center. He smiled at the excited chorus of yeses – a great way to start a clinic to improve their swimming techniques.
Clary, a renowned swimmer best known for winning an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London games in the 200-meter backstroke, visited the C of I on Thursday to host a pair of clinics for both youth and experienced swimmers through the Fitter & Faster Swim Tour.
“I’ve always really enjoyed working with the kids,” Clary said. “It’s cool seeing that I might be able to help someone get faster at the same age I was when I really started looking up to the athletes that would host these kinds of swim camps. It’s great to see how excited they get.”
A native of California currently living in North Carolina, Clary said he had been through Idaho a handful of times and had been impressed, but Thursday was his first time at the Albertson Aquatic Center.
“For a school of this size, I’m really impressed by the facility,” Clary said. “I’ve been in enough pools to know when something is working. I think there’s a lot of care in this program.”
In addition to his Olympic gold medal, Clary has 15 medals from international competitions, including the Pan Pacific Championships, the Pan American Games and the FINA World Championships. Although Clary still regularly hosts swimming clinics, he retired from active competition in 2016. He is now pursuing another passion—becoming a professional racecar driver.
“I’ve always been the type of person with multiple irons in the fire,” Clary said. “Comparing the two, it all boils down to being an athlete and figuring out your shortcomings. I like to be able to make myself just a little bit better in a million different ways.”
Much of the advice Clary delivered to the approximately 50 students aimed at making small improvements in multiple areas. For each clinic, Clary worked with students on drills to help increase their power and reduce their drag in the water, helping them achieve a faster freestyle, backstroke and kick tempo.
Through it all, Clary kept a cheerful tone and helpful outlook, often offering high-fives to the students and complimenting them on their techniques. During a question and answer session following the clinic, Clary told the students to continue having fun and work to improve themselves, even if swimming isn’t something they intend to do forever.
“It’s important to have fun,” Clary said. “Swimming is a great sport, but there are so many other great things in life out there to experience. Whatever you do, it comes down to what you’re intrinsically motivated to do and enjoy.”
Susanne Van Buren, the owner of Boise-based Lifestyle Swimming Instruction who helped organize the clinic, said her students were all thrilled to have someone of Clary’s caliber spend time working with them. She said she would be eager to return to C of I for future clinics.
“The College of Idaho was great to work with in getting everything organized,” Van Buren said. “[Swim coach] Jim Everett and the rest of the staff have been incredibly accommodating for us. All the kids were so excited to come out today and have this chance to learn.”
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.