Many athletes spend the summer at camps - honing techniques and learning from those more experienced in their sport.
The same can be said for coaches. St. Francis assistant swim coach Lori Leitzinger is just back from the elite Longhorn Swim Camp in Austin, Texas, where she found herself in the role of both teacher and student.
"When we got there, from the first day we knew it was a pretty big deal to be picked to work with the people we worked with," she said. "It was a huge honor and a great experience."
Leitzinger was selected as a coach at the five-week University of Texas camp under legendary swim coach Eddie Reese. The star-studded staff also included Olympic gold medalists Aaron Peirsol, Kirsty Coventry, Josh Davis, Ian Crocker, Neil Walker, Garrett Weber-Gale and Brendan Hansen.
Several of the Olympians were preparing for the World Trials, which took place last weekend, so Lori felt fortunate to have the chance to witness their training techniques.
"I was a little star-struck at first,'' she said, "but once you talk to them, you realize they are normal people who are just really, really good at what they do. But they were very friendly and helpful, whether you were talking about swimming or other aspects of life."
Leitzinger has had a very impressive career in the pool, as a record-setting athlete at both State College High School and Clarion University. She is a 16-time NCAA Division II All-American.
However, every swimmer dreams of the moment when they stand on the podium at the Olympic Games, gold medal around their neck, American flag being hoisted to the ceiling as the national anthem plays. To have the opportunity to coach side-by-side with athletes who have achieved that pinnacle of the sport is priceless.
"I learned so much every day, like stroke technique, and not just from the Olympians, but Eddie Reese, who had coached the Olympics,'' Leitzinger said. "I got a chance to talk with the coaches about how they deal with things like big meets, helping swimmers with their nerves, nutrition, dry land exercise and cross-conditioning."
The relationships Leitzinger forged at one of the world's most prestigious camps has given Leitzinger more than a few new friends. She came back to Loretto with a champion-caliber pool of contacts whose advice is only a cell phone call away. Just imagine the impression she'll make to potential future Red Flash swimmers.
"I learned more this summer than I think I ever have, and it will be cool when I'm recruiting to tell people who I've worked with," she said.
Leitzinger just completed a master's degree at St. Francis in education and leadership.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.