Midtown: Sports

Local coaches use Olympics to educate, motivate students


For many, the Olympics season is a time of entertainment and national pride.

Yet for local athletes and coaches, it’s also a time of motivation and education.

Coaches, like swimming instructor Laura Gould, bring Olympians into lesson plans, observing techniques of the best athletes in the world and determining how students can embrace them.

“I’m looking for their form,” Gould says, “what makes them good, and how I can apply that to my own school.”

Gould, 44, owns Swim Lessons Raleigh and has been teaching children and adults how to swim for 12 years.

She started swimming when she was 2, and watching Olympic swimmers makes her nostalgic for her prime swimming years, even though she said the Olympics were out of her reach.

“There’s a part of me that would love to go back in time and swim that fast,” she says.

John Kristoff, owner and coach of Lifetime Archery in Raleigh, said the Olympics give him and his students an idea of what techniques go into making the highest-level competitors.

“It’s definitely a chance to see the best archers in the world,” he says. “You have a great appreciation for their skill.”

Kristoff said the Olympics – combined this year with movies featuring archery like “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers” and “Brave” – raises the interest level of the general public and keeps students inspired. And Ron Miller, coach at N.C. Fencing Development Program, said the U.S. women’s fencing team has won medals in recent years, encouraging first-time fencers.

“That does foster an excitement level of athletes of all ages,” Miller says. Plus, winning fencers inspire parents to enroll their children in the sport.

“Parents are looking for things that their child can be successful in.”

Miller stressed that any sport needs practice before competition, but, like Gould, will try to break down techniques he sees in Olympic fencers.

“There’s always new things to learn,” he says. “Being able to see that at the highest level … is good motivation.”

For Tom Broyles-Lewis, a cyclist who works at Cycling Spoken Here in Cary, new customers often come in excited from both the Olympics and the Tour de France. He said the best motivation is seeing a new cycler take the wheels.

“Watching a 6-year-old ride a bike is just as inspiring as seeing a 26-year-old win the gold,” he says.

Gould said she believes each of her swimmers, new or experienced, has great potential – even the potential to be a future Olympian.

“I look at each child, and I see the greatness in them,” she says.

“My goal is to have them see the greatness in themselves.”