Coach brings 'infectious passion' to Columbia Swim Club

Sunday, June 27, 2010 | 5:00 a.m. CDT
Phil Garverick, head coach of the Columbia Swim Club, instructs his swimmers at practice. "It's very fun working with Coach Phil," assistant coach Lauren Cooper said. "He's a lot of entertainment, and the kids are great."

 COLUMBIA — Phil Garverick is crazy about swimming, a sport he has been passionate about for 26 years.

From working with the Columbia Swim Club to volunteering as an assistant coach at MU, the Columbia native says he just can’t get enough of the sport.


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“Swimming gives you every aspect,” Garverick says. “It’s either you against the clock or yourself, but it’s also a team sport as well.”

Competing as a team is exactly what Garverick has brought to the Columbia Swim Club. After starting out as an assistant and working his way up to the position of head coach, he has lead and managed CSC for 11 years.

Garverick is certainly in familiar territory with CSC. He followed in his sisters’ footsteps and began swimming with CSC at age 8. Garverick said he didn’t actually become serious about swimming until he was in high school, where he swam at Hickman for four years. He then walked on at MU and swam for two years.

It was then that Garverick decided swimming was a top priority in his life, and he began giving swimming lessons and worked up to where he is today.

Since becoming head coach of CSC in 1999, the club has quadrupled in size. Because of Garverick’s team building strategy, the group's membership now fluctuates between 130 and 180.

“I’ve really grown up with the club and the other coaches,” he said. “The passion is just infectious. We’re committed to building a team, and the community, culture and families just build on themselves.”

That commitment lasts year-round for Garverick and the rest of the team. CSC trains and competes throughout the year, only taking off a couple weeks in the spring and in August.

During the summers, Garverick’s swimmers are in the pool every morning six days a week at the Oakland Family Aquatic Center, with double practices and weight lifting twice a week.

“Over the course of a week, the kids swim 45,000 meters, which is about 30 miles,” he said.

This daily training is when swimming becomes a life-teaching sport, according to Garverick.

“It’s all about kids pushing themselves. Sometimes they fail, but they keep pushing to reach their goals,” he said. “Most kids don’t do the amount of work that we do daily. It prepares you for the real world, but it’s still fun.”

CSC age group coach Sarah Smith says the philosophy of the team is to “be the best you can be.”

“We strive for excellence in swimming and providing the tools to be the best people we can be,” Smith said. “Phil is very focused to help kids achieve their goals in and out of the pool.”

Not only does CSC offer life lessons to its participants, but it also provides a fun aspect. Garverick says some of his swimmers come to compete, while some join simply for the lessons.

“That’s the biggest misconception about CSC. We range in different things to offer, from a group that’s focused and serious to a group that’s just for learning and fun,” Garverick said. “It’s really about what you want to get out of it and then you’ll learn to fall in love with the sport.”

CSC competes in full-weekend meets every two to three weeks, with the exception of a few months out of the year. Under Garverick’s leadership, CSC has been able to host prominent meets, such as the Missouri Grand Prix. There have also been a handful of swimmers who have qualified for Olympic Trials and World Championship Trials, the Nationals and Junior Nationals.

CSC will compete next from July 9 to 11 at the Titan Firecracker Classic in Quincy, Ill. This is the team’s first real outdoor meet, according to Garverick.

“It’s just going to be a different experience,” he said. “The parents will be right there with them, and it’s also the last meet with our team all together before championships.”

In addition to practices and meets, CSC hosts several fundraisers throughout the year in order to raise money for scholarships to help pay for dues, travel trips for the senior team as well as equipment.

Throughout Garverick’s time with CSC, he says he has many favorite memories, but it’s the individual stories that really add up.

“Other than the kids’ parents, I’m around them a lot, about 18-20 hours a week,” Garverick said. “I take my role pretty seriously, so when the kids come back after doing other things, it makes me pretty proud.”

Smith, who has worked with Garverick for the past 10 years, says Garverick is an incredible and inspiring coach to work with.

“Phil makes practice so fun and inspiring. He definitely makes me be the best coach I can be,” she said. “You just don’t get the opportunity to work with someone like that very often.”

Garverick says he always sees his future in swimming, and especially in Columbia.

“Being here, I just fell in love with the kids, parents and families, so I don’t want to let them down,” he said. “There’s still so much to accomplish here, and it’s such an exciting time for swimming in the community.”

He hopes that things stay the same in the sport, and brings opportunities to others just as it did to him.

“Swimming is what I’m passionate about, and I love spreading it to other people,” Garverick says. “It’s what drives me every day, and I just have a good time doing it.”

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