Grover Evans is a remarkable swimmer. He was the first black American swimmer ever to participate in an Olympic competition and has set many national swimming records. His three key ideals, HOPE, FAITH, and BELIEF, have led him to excel in many areas.
As a survivor of a 1977 car accident resulting in a spinal cord injury, Grover became a member of the 1994 USA Disabled Swim Team for the Paralympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. What else is there for him to accomplish? First, he would probably say, "A medal in the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia." Secondly he would say, "Continued improvement in both swimming techniques and times."
Until a year ago, Grover was like many other athletes with disabilities--training on his own, doing his best without the assistance of a coach. Then he met the author, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro, Arkansas) with a specialization in aquatics and a keen interest in adapted physical education. While participating in an intramural swim meet he asked, "Hey coach, what do you think of my stroke?" Having been a competitive swimmer for 10 years, coach for the 1991 Arkansas Special Olympics International Team, and an aquatics instructor for more than 20 years, the joking response was, "I have beginning swimmers that can swim better than that!" Thus began the challenge as he asked, "Do you want to coach me?" From that moment, Grover and the author developed a close relationship that would take them both to Barcelona and new swimming records.
How does one train a swimmer with a physical disability? How much work can a person with a spinal cord injury endure? Can further physiological damage to the athlete be caused? All these questions, and more, are frequently pondered by anyone undertaking the challenge of working with an individual with a physical disability. Perhaps the best way to approach the situation is through trial and error; find out what the individual can do and go from there. If there is a problem, back up and try again until success is achieved. That is exactly how Grover and his new coach approached each workout. Grover could swim, but his mechanics were incorrect. So through trial and error, the best stroke technique was found and adapted to Grover's disability.
As with any athlete, training involves several components. Ordinarily, putting in the distance, as well as working stroke mechanics, appear to be the most important aspects of a swim training program. However, when working with a swimmer who has a physical disability, great variations result from limitations imposed by the disability--the program must be modified as each situation is unique. There are common concerns with regard to working with an individual with a physical disability. Most people with disabilities are aware of their limitations and needs, and are responsive to working out strategies to accentuate the strengths, as well as accommodate limitations and needs. The following suggestions are provided to...
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