By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Eighteen-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, met with participants in the Boys & Girls Club im8 swim program and youth center kids March 2.
Phelps came out to see the program in action with the swim instructors teaching the im safe module to 14 kids. Phelps also took the time to teach a few new tricks to help with their swimming techniques. He then went to the RP Lee Youth Center for a question and answer session.
“The most important thing for me is to have each and every one of you be water safe and kids all over the world be water safe, there are way too many kids drowning,” said Phelps. “Just learning how to swim is so important and the more kids I can help is what I want to contribute back to my sport.”
The im program is named after Phelps’ signature event, the Individual Medley, and it also abbreviates “I am.” The program began in 2009 while collaborating with Kidshealth.org but wasn’t picked up by the Boys & Girls Club until 2010. The program is designed to motivate healthy lifestyles for kids by offering water-safety courses, recreational pool activities, swim training and health and wellness education.
Phelps’ main focus for the visit was to stress the importance of setting goals and working hard for them.
“When I was 11 years old my coach told me I could make the Olympic team if I wanted to work hard. He sat me down and started talking about setting goals and how important they are,” said Phelps. “The goals I set were to break a world record, win an Olympic gold medal and become a professional athlete.”
At 15 years old Phelps reached two of his goals; he broke a world record and signed his first contract to become a professional athlete.
“My hope is the youth will see through Phelps’ visits the importance of setting goals, working on their education and being healthy,” said Dorothy Choate, 21st Force Support Squadron deputy director. “Learning lifetime leisure activities and being safe around water are all good things that will lead to productive young adults.”
There have been more than 100 participants in the im program during the two years it has been at Team Pete. The program also offers grants to send instructors to Baltimore, Md., for im instructor training.
“My favorite moment was at the end of the (questions and answer) at the youth center when a young girl, probably kindergarten age, came up to Phelps, hugged him and had a huge smile on her face,” said Choate. “That huge smile was probably the most memorable moment because right there you know that you had an impact.”
For more information on the youth sports program contact Victoria Reid at 556-5236.